Folding up shop.

Wednesday, May 17th, 2000

My wife, as usual, made the cogent comment: “if a newspaper sells enough advertising, it doesn’t matter how good or bad it is, right?”Right. Exactly. Because after all, the first amendment has always uncomfortably shared a bed with the capitalist ethic in this country. You raise money to publish, or you perish. There are a couple of other newspapers in town, one weekly, one daily that stay fat and happy because of the success of large advertising staffs. Congratulations to them. But do their ad-filled pages mean that the people of Atlanta seek them out for the best that journalism can be?
Before you answer that, sit back a second and consider a few other questions. Is Atlanta a place like Austin, Seattle, or Boston, where weekly papers can thrive with a mix of controversy and commerce? Do we live in a place where we clamor for more sources of information? Or are we complacent enough to passively take whatever is placed in front of our eyes and ears?
When a paper folds, when a bookstore closes, when an eclectically-programmed radio station goes off the air, we all lose.
This week you lose more than a home for the chronicles of the growth of Hollis’s baby and the deterioration of Chris’s liver. You lose a place to hear voices—yours, your neighbors, ours, those of people you disagree with. It’s up to you to fill the gap with something more than Friends reruns and Lottery Coverage You Can Count On.
Read—or write—a book. Talk back to your newspaper. Grab a camera and put your own ideas on videotape.
I’m listening.

No matter where you go,

Tuesday, March 14th, 2000

I’ve got a long letter in the works right now to the consumer affairs department of Continental Airlines following a massive screwup that started with me booking a ticket on their website—or so I thought. It’s the kind of mess that probably should have me calling in Clark Howard or some other consumer reporter, but at this point I’m trying to deal with it myself.
I mention it to you only because it involves the latest trend when old-line companies want to move fast to develop an on-line internet presence. If they can’t figure out how to do it fast, they outsource—hiring an outside expert company to process the transaction or provide the help or implement the search engine or whatever—all in the name of the hiring company.
We are indeed in an age that you can’t assume you’re dealing with employees of company x when you do business with company x—especially when services are involved. Get cable installed, and likely as not, the installer is not a Media One employee, they’re a subcontractor. Same deal with DSL service from Mindspring. Call and talk to the subscription department of a magazine (and many newspapers), and chances are that person doesn’t have any real connection to that publication—they’re off in Marion, Ohio or someplace else and they’re working from a script—telling you what they’ve been told to say. This is the crux of my problem with outsourcing. The people you’re dealing with often don’t have any expertise outside the narrow window of what they’ve been asked to do—and if you really need help with a transaction, it tends to involve departments and dependencies way outside their scripted, limited
When I booked the ticket on Continental, I was actually booking a ticket from cooltravelassistant.com, which as far as I’ve been able to determine, actually is a operation run by the folks at expedia.com, which used to be part of Microsoft, but they’ve spun it off, and by the way, they’re based here. And every time I talked with someone at that operation, they answered the phone “Continental Airlines”—but when I asked who were they—really—I got different answers each time I asked. And then the Continental people, who said “well, we can’t help you because these folks are not really us at all, so you’ll have to go through them to make the changes.”
But I digress. And rant. And worry.
But yeah, it is a concern when I see new companies cropping up all the time like liveperson.com, which offers to give your site a real human your customers can chat with, live—but those real humans are, like the other service droids, trapped within scripts as well, playing the part of being part of the organization you think you’re doing business with. Yes sir, I am indeed the voice of AT&T!
And when CBSAtlanta..er..WGNX puts together a site that is basically hosted by CBS in New York with some local content, or when some of the pages at 11alive.com are actually from NBC’s corporate sites, the questions of who is responsible for what content—who stands behind what goes out under their logo—become increasingly relevant.
I guess I don’t care who you outsource stuff to—as long as you—the main company, the mothership—are willing to take full responsiblility for the actions of those others. You don’t get away with “well, actually that’s some other company.” You pretend—in certain contexts—they’re your company, you stand up for their mistakes, too.
Phew. Where’s Clark’s number?

Lost within the JourCon Newstapes.

Monday, March 6th, 2000

A recent Wired brought us the success story of Times Digital, the soon-to-be-independent arm of The New York Times. Under the command of Martin Niesenholtz, they were able to bring the oldest and most venerable of old media—the great gray lady of New York—into our new age. The Times site is everything a newspaper of the future should be—comprehensive, intelligently organized, easy to use, innovative, up-to-date, and, oh, yeah, profitable.So when I think about all the energy that’s been expended down on Marietta Street in the name of creating a presence for the AJC and their sister broadcasting operations, I applaud their efforts and ponder their failure.
I think a big part of what’s behind this digital mess is the underlying fear of all traditional publishers: the new media will gut the old. If we put all our good stuff out on the web, people won’t buy the dead-tree version. If we build it too well, too many people will come.
Interestingly, the Times succeeds at this in spite of erecting a gateway between the world at large and the wealth of its content. They make you register, but it’s perfunctory, non-intrusive: can we have your name and e-mail and zipcode once in exchange for a cookie? Thanks, go on in. Once inside, it’s a unified, sensible, deep site. They’ve got some basic demographic information, and a very desirable audience to sell to advertisers. And they do it by placing ads beside articles you really want to read.
The Cox Interactive folk took a different approach. They created “AccessAtlanta”, an entity that is confusingly an umbrella for the AJC, and WSB TV and Radio (and their other radio stations)—and yet independent of all of them; vaguely commercial and untrustworthy, and despite some apparent depth of content once you start exploring, the place feelslike it’s an inch deep—a creation of the sales department. AccessAtlanta comes off like the online equivalent of those unwanted roto ad inserts that clog the arteries of the Sunday paper.
So they plop this wannabe portal—in between us and the real content providers—the paper and the stations. But once you struggle to the ajc.com page, you’ll find it links to some stuff that’s “really” from the paper and then these entities called ‘News@tlanta’ and ‘Biz@tlanta’ and the ‘X-site’ and then there’s ‘Today’s Paper’ and ‘Today’s Read’ (which isn’tthe same as ‘Today’s Paper’) and—excuse me, I just want to find the damn front page!
All this fast-shuffle seems to do is keep us from getting at the information we want. No, I’m not saying that they’re not offering full-length articles from the paper—the multipart piece on Atlantans driving way, way too fast (there’s breaking news!) was dumped into the site one day at a time, in sync with the printed AJC, more or less. Jim Auchmutey’s multipart history of Peachtree Street got this treatment, too. But there seems to be some of the paper here, and some there, as if a virtual dog knocked it off our coffee table and scattered the sections willy-nilly before we had a change to get to them all. How do we know which stories will be in Biz@tlanta and which will be in the Business section of ‘Today’s Paper’? How much overlap is there? Do we need to read both to get the whole picture? There is no reliable place—that I’ve found, at least—to give us that information.
Wanna search? The ‘Today’s Paper’ part offers something called the Stacks Archive, (a page in dark green and blue) which lets you search the paper from 1985 to present—but you have to pay to read the full-text of an article. If you start from ajc.com though, you have to click on different-looking button labeled “Look it up” and then you’re…uh…kinda at the Stacks Archive, but with different colors and typography, a different gateway to the same search.
Try that search from an AccessAtlanta page, however, and you’re off in a whole different realm—they’re offering you a search of their “Best Atlanta Sites” which contains none of the newspaper content at all. If the AJC wrote an article about one of these places, there’s no link or connection to it. But hey, they’ve got chat rooms!
Then…go to the classifieds. These show up on a page called atlantaclassifieds.com, but appear under the banner of AccessAtlanta, followed by another logo for ajcclasifieds.com and a third, sub-logo that says “a product of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution” and a fourth tiny dude that says “powered by Thomson Interactive Media.”
So who’s on first, again?
You see why I keep getting lost? I’ve got to keep that dog away from the coffee table, or I may never make it out of this site.

One mugging, courtesy of Fox.

Sunday, February 27th, 2000

Did you hear? Fox 5′s Russ Spencer got mugged the other day. In fact, he flew out to Los Angeles to join a dozen or so other Fox anchors—all of whom were attacked by muggers—as a stunt for the Fox series America’s Most Wanted.
Spencer, fully miked and accompanied by a camera crew, was roughed up by a gun-toting guy in a parking lot. It was, we were told, an important educational experience that we could all learn from. Uh…right. What did he learn from it? "Pay attention to the guy with the gun," Spencer says. What did we learn from it? That there’s no limits to how low Fox will go for ratings. But I guess that isn’t exactly a bulletin, after their most recent audience-grabbing stunt blew up in the Fox-faces.
Oh, you know: that marrying a multimillionaire show. A concept that got so out of hand that right-wing Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch’s own New York Post ran a column from a conservative staffer who said he was worried that the Fox network may not be upholding good conservative values these days in an effort to boost ratings. These days? I’m FedExing him 920 episodes of Married With Children, with a post-it note stuck to the top: "Good conservative values? You’re soaking in it!"
The truth is that Murdoch has never had any compunctions about pandering to sex or exhibiting general salaciousness when it comes to selling newspapers or hustling TV audiences. His English tabloids have had bare-breasted Brit babes just inside the cover for years.
When Fox discovered that a series of specials with names like America’s Deadliest Police Chases ,World’s Most Terrifying Crashes and When Animals Attack! were cheap to produce and pulled huge audiences, well, they went with that flow, and didn’t spend too much time agonizing over moral questions.
So when complaints about the programs’ violent nature hit too close to home, they did what the network seems to do best—they backpedaled, and said they wouldn’t be doing that kind of stuff anymore. And they went to (this amazes me) the very same producers who gave them the car crash stuff and said "we need more sweeps specials from you—but uh…this time make them completely nonviolent."
I guess you have to say the producers of Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire were just doing what they were charged to do—they came up with a compelling concept that would glue people’s faces to the screen—in spite of themselves. Compelling indeed—some 16 million people watched the show—including one out of every four young women. Viewers—we—talked about the show for a big chunk of this month, and ABC made ratings hay by sending Diane Sawyer and friends out to get the story behind the story. One word to sum the whole experience up, Darva? "Oops," she told Diane.
And when the furor over Multimillionaire flared, Fox said they were shocked, shocked and they’ve canceled plans to do anything like that again. I can picture Fox execs on the phone to those same producers: "Alright, no violence, and no poorly-researched instant bridegrooms, but beyond that, the sky’s the limit—get back out there and get us some numbers!"
Air it first, apologize later, and then go back to the drawing board and try something else. The Fox pattern.
But you’ve got to wonder when that same pattern makes its way into the newsrooms of the Fox owned-and-operated stations—like Channel 5. What happened inside Spencer’s head when his news director said "Pack your bags, Russ, you’re going to LA!" Visions of exclusive interviews with Hollywood celebs or campaigning politicians were no doubt shattered when he got the rest of it: "Something violent is going to happen to you, on camera. We can’t tell you any specifics at this point."
At one point (back in the ancient past), journalists were trained to have a loud alarm go off in their heads when they’re presented with an "opportunity" like this. Credibility alert! Psuedo-news warning! Danger, danger!
Maybe Russ has something in his contract that says "you are required to go along with any idiotic thing we come up with for sweeps." We’ll never know for sure. But I’d like to know whether those alarms went off inside his skull, even faintly. You know…the same alarms that were supposed to go off for the Multimillionaire producers. The alarms that should be clanging nonstop inside Rupert Murdoch’s head. And in ours, when we tune in.

Bye, Rebecca.

Monday, February 21st, 2000

It just doesn’t seem that long ago when I was reading in Patrick’s column a heartfelt goodbye to Rebecca Poynor Burns. The one-time Atlanta Press managing editor—and Media Rare columnist—was off to Atlanta magazine, leaving her weekly column in the hands of, well…me, some guy who hadn’t done this kind of thing in many, many years.
(Why? Some say it’s because I’m her brother-in-law. Some say it’s because I let her use the name of my old column—Media Rare—in the first place. Some say it was because she wanted to stick Patrick and friends with someone who can’t meet deadlines. Take your pick.)
Rebecca went off to Atlanta magazine and basically did what she did here—the work of three people. She edited, brainstormed, lassoed freelancers and cajoled art directors, and in her remaining free time, wrote some great pieces for the monthly.
And now, we get to say goodbye to her again, as she and her family (and three cats) head up the road to Indianapolis, where, surprise, the Emmis Communications people (Atlanta‘s owners) have their corporate offices and a magazine called Indianapolis Monthly. Rebecca is their new editor, settling in at the top of the masthead. If you read Atlanta, you’ll miss her work. If you’re a Hoosier, you’re in luck. And if you’re looking for a loft in Inman Park, there’s one more on the market.
I kinda feel sorry for Rebecca. Never again will she experience the pleasure (and pride) that our whole town feels when a new Maxie Price commercial debuts ("Look! This time he has a pig named Spot!")—they’ll be dancing in Monroe and Loganville, but not Indianapolis.
She won’t mark the seasons as we do, with the ceremonial changing of Monica Kaufman’s hair. She’ll miss the daily dose of warmth and gosh-darn-it-all goodness that Neal Boortz brings to our mornings, and we all know an afternoon without the mellow basso profundo of Clark Howard is, well, like orange juice without ketchup. (And heck, I’m sure Boortz will be syndicated up there before too long—Indiana’s a paradise for Libertarians.)
The ongoing evolution of Paul Ossman’s fashion sense won’t make it above the Mason-Dixon line, and Ken Cook’s sweaters will be but a distant memory as she layers her family for the subzero Indiana winters.
I know she’ll feel a certain lack when her transplanted television no longer beams out an endless parade of reporters standing watch outside a darkened City Hall East whenever a story with the word "police" in it breaks, and I can only hope that the stations up north have at least a Super Double Ultra Doppler 9000 on par with the fine overpromoted meteorological equipment we lucky Atlantans have at nearly all of our news stations. She’s going to miss out on those Things You’ll See Only on Two, and those Fox 5 Exclusives, and that stuff Eleven Wants You to Know.
And of course, she’ll have to make do without the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. The papers up north cover nothing like the dew, and I’m sure they don’t allot the generous space the AJC does each day to the thoughtful, well-formed civic discourse that is the essence of The Vent. Would other papers have the courage to move actual news out of the way for these ramblings? I think not. And Rebecca will no doubt want to have a copy or two of the AJC sent her way periodically to remind her if nothing else of the importance of fact-checking and copyediting.
She’ll have to make do in a town devoid of publications with "Loafing" in their titles—where will she turn to find out who’s been arrested for throwing an empty vodka bottle at a police officer on Ponce at 4 am? Well, maybe it’s on the web.
And speaking of the web—maybe it will be the tool to help ease her family’s transition. Atlanta’s media websites, live cams, and the alt.atlanta newsgroup delivers a lot of what Atlanta’s about to audiences everywhere…even Indianapolis, I think. And the best news of all: now that Atlanta Press has its web act together, she’s never more than a click away from a weekly dose of Hollis.
So I think they’ll do just fine.

Smile.

Friday, February 11th, 2000

To me, it seems like the ultimate shortcut in advertising—don’t have anything really important to say or show? Put a picture of a smiling person or, hey, even better, four or five smiling people on your ad, or on your website. They’re just…smiling! They’re exuding…uh, confidence! Satisfaction! Good dental hygiene!
Delta Air Lines redesigned their website recently, and along with the dubious trend of making the type on web pages smaller and harder to read ("look how much we can get on our home page now!"), they’ve added these header graphics that show smiling folks, presumably pleased that they’re either providing or using the services provided by Delta. The smiling woman on their home page (who looks to me like NBC’s Ann Curry) is supposed to be either a passenger or a non-uniformed employee, I can’t tell which. On the first version of the redesigned site (Delta had a public "preview" over the past couple of weeks) the smilers there didn’t have a 767 aircraft superimposed behind them—I think that was added when Delta realized that they were selling air travel after all.
I think websites which use this gambit are also trying to communicate "see, the site is easy to use! Look at that smiling!" And dotcoms that have not much more than vapor to sell usually bring out the generic smilers to basically fill space. You can even buy CD-ROMs full of generic clip art people by the hundreds. Most are, of course, smiling.
Well, it all made me think—and got me clicking on a quick jaunt around some Atlanta companies’ websites.
Coca-Cola: they’ve got an animated series of pictures of smiling people (and polar bears) enjoying their product—but none, interestingly, smiling directly at the camera. By the way, does anyone actually think "Coca-Cola—Enjoy!" is a new ad slogan? Did people get paid for that?
Home Depot: No smiling people (although a photo of someone serious working on a construction project appeared.) The site actually seemed to have useful stuff, categorized in a sensible manner.
Georgia Power: Silhouetted people working on a pole, and again, substantive information. A menu that says "How we can help you…At home, In Business, In Your Community." Not bad, and smile-free.
Equifax’s site leaves no ambiguity on what they’re about—and it’s not smiling. "Changing the face of global commerce," they boast, and the imagery is all financial—money and more money.
Scana—the gas people. They do have a smiling mom holding a kid, who is oddly cropped below the nose. I bet he/she’s smiling, though. Their competitors Georgia Natural Gas Services have a terrifying picture of the Gas Guy smiling and shoving a box of Valentines’ candy—for you, here, take it!
BellSouth seems to have moved past a period where they didn’t know what message to put out, and present a montage of images that connote technology and communications. No smiling, no people.
UPS’s site is also all business. In fact, it’s serious enough I almost wanted a smiling UPS driver to brighten up the place.
Cox Communications (the parent company of WSB) has a smiling white family watching television, of course. In fact, they’re more than smiling—they’re ecstatic to be able to watch this TV. Mmmm…TV good. Brain…turning…to…jello.
Of the broadcast stations in town, WGNX and WSB have smiling anchors right up front, while WAGA offers a smiling whoever-that-guy-is from Malcolm in the Middle and WXIA just offers a big mess.
And finally, I thought a quick click to Kodak might be in order—yep, there’s a grinning dad and son—but I guess that’s one venue where smiling isn’t cheesy.

X-treme annoyance.

Sunday, February 6th, 2000

I swear, it was an accident—the television just happened to be on Sunday afternoon when ABC’s coverage of their self-created Winter X Games splattered slush onto my television screen. Usually, my instincts have been better—I’ve been able to see this kind of self-created event coming and tune the other way.
But I had my hands full yanking out cables and installing my DVD player, so I left it on a while.
The X Games. Created by ESPN (which is to say Disney.) Promoted. Sponsored. Commercial. Say it with me.
Oh, yeah, sure it looks like a couple of hours of x-er rebellion, where the cool snowboarders have taken control of a big network’s cameras. We’re treated to edgy music, wild camera angles, and announcers who make 99X’s Axel sound like Alistair Cooke. We’re shown competitors and commentators who are, like, staggeringly inarticulate. In fact, it’s, like, awesome how inarticulate these folks are. I saw this one, like, dude, on there who was talking, like, you know, about…ah, forget it.
Yeah, I know. These games aren’t about words. There’s no real story here to tell, except for the athletes quest for their own world recognition and (they freely admit in interviews) those big bucks that come from endorsement deals. And even more than your typical pro athlete, these folks are willing to risk their literal necks doing it.
And pay no attention to the grownups in suits behind the scenes. For them, it’s all about the brand they’re building, nurturing. It’s about making big money off of the attention of young people with way too much disposable income. If you’re a Disney stockholder, this is certainly good news, but if you’re a kid who thinks "geez, these guys are doing this all for me," well, it’s more like they’re doing it all to reach out and touch you…right where you keep your wallet.
And this past weekend’s Winter X Games are bringing ESPN, ESPN2 and the co-owned mothership, ABC big handfuls of those desirable demos. Kids. Extreme kids. Extremely bored kids.
And those selfsame audiences are convinced these games are important. A smug press release from the X Games site says it all: "According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive, ESPN’s X Games is the second most appealing sporting event to kids aged 6 to 17." Ah, read on. Someone named Artie Bulgrin, ESPN vice president, research and sales development said "Over the past five years, the X Games have evolved into more than just the preeminent extreme sports event; but in the minds of kids and teens, the X Games are perceived to be as important as any major sporting event." Yow.
Once again, I’m tempted to hold Ted Turner responsible for this, if a bit indirectly. Back in the early days of cable, when TBS couldn’t get the rights to real sports programs, he encouraged his producers to come up with events that they would, by definition, have exclusive rights to. The Goodwill Games were born in this environment. Heck, Georgia Championship Wrestling epitomizes this concept. But ABC and its siblings have had many years of this make-it-up-than-cover-it approach to sports.
Ah, you have to hand it to the Disney’s marketeers. They’ve locked on to a trend—extreme sports—and made it what every corporation covets these days, a compelling, familiar, well-known brand that may have more power one day than the network that spawned it. As one ESPN marketing weasel said. "The X Games has become a stronger brand. It’s a year-round extravaganza which integrates several growing ESPN platforms."
Translation: You’re going to see this X-stuff all over the place, more often throughout the year, with a heck of a lot more cross-promotion and every other trick in the marketing book thrown at it.
And that means, by the way: say hello to EXPN.
No, that’s not a typo. And it’s not quite a new cable network—yet. It’s just Disney/ABC/ESPN’s attempt to create a powerful new brand name on the shoulders of their previous efforts. Check out the oh-so-flashy expn.com website. Touch and feel the touchyfeely logo. Groove on the holy trinity of "STR/H2O/SNO"—that would be Street, Water, and Snow—three cubbyholes into which all extreme sports apparently fit, neatly.

And get set for a future where the idea of covering an already-existing sporting event will seem quaint, artificial, and a thing of the past.

Iced coverage, on the rocks.

Sunday, January 23rd, 2000

The next time Atlanta gets some freezing rain and ice, I wish the city’s news directors would treat it as a four-way stop.
Around 3 am early Sunday morning, a series of cracking sounds led me downstairs to turn the TV—and my web browser—on, just to see how bad things were outside. What I could see through the haze on our upstairs windows was the beginnings of ice forming on the utility wires, and some slick-looking streets. Would my trusty television clue me in? Well, WSB offered me Xena and Baywatch Hawaii, WXIA had a Saturday Night Live rerun from 1978 (I guess that was a particularly cold and nasty winter), and FOX 5 had an X-Files repeat—ah!—with a weather crawl that basically said "Ice Storm Warning, be careful." CBS 46 had some informercial that seemed exceedingly bright—things were either screwed up at the tape machine or at their transmitter. WXIA’s signal dropped and came back up a couple of times. Great.
As morning light came, television coverage of the "crisis" was as up to speed as it would get. Bottom line: the two stations who normally do pointless Sunday morning news (that would be WSB and WXIA) had production crews in place and went and stayed live with it throughout the morning. The two public stations were off the air; WUPA 69 chose to broadcast color bars all morning.
Channels 11 and 2 called in a few extra reporters and outposted them to do the usual: talk to people who’ve had car accidents and dropped tree limbs on their houses. Every five minutes, weatherpersons Monica Woods (WXIA) and David Chandley (WSB) showed us the big picture (the one I was able to see at 3 am on the web)—Atlanta was right at the freezing point, things north of town were icy, things south of town weren’t, and in between, your mileage may vary. Chandley’s tragic flaw: maps emblazoned with huge words in bright pink and green—his favorite colors? Woods, meanwhile, was still trying to figure how to pronounce the names of some small Georgia towns.
FOX 5—which stuck with regular programming until 11 am, eventually brought us a sweatered Ken Cook with intermittent updates. After 11, Cook anchored their coverage for a while from the weather map—mostly a collection of phone interviews with emergency officials and a couple of live shots from third-string reporters who asked homeowners "how are you going to get that tree off your house?" Gee, I don’t know, maybe lift it with my superhuman strength?
WSB’s weekend traffic reporter Mark Arum (who referred to anchor Warren Savage as "Mr. Savage"—what southern courtliness!) delivered a completely confusing map that showed little circling arrows going around all the freeway signs (signifying baffled signs?) WXIA’s traffic reporter Frank Pritchard—on the phone—provided some real information about tree blockages—and concentrated on roads northeast of town,.
WSB is the only station who shamelessly displayed a "StormWatch 2000" logo throughout their coverage—the other stations were either unprepared or have wised up that viewers just don’t care about blatant branding of a crisis. WXIA—okay, 11 Alive—took a slightly different approach, using the storm as a chance to give shamelessly promote their people. We were treated to a pointless live shot with Al Deal in DeKalb County repeating nearly-word-for-word what in-studio anchor Keith Whitney had just said ("Overpasses may be slicker…") and then Bill Liss, reporting via cell phone from what probably was his bed, told us if we need more information on airline delays, call the main Delta Air Lines number. Gee, thanks, Bill, my phone book isn’t at my bedside.. These egomaniacs grabbed face time away from actual reporters like Denis O’Hayer—consistently one of the city’s best reporters, who did a good job telling us what everyone else wasn’t saying.
By 11:30 am, dressed-for-a-dinner-party Paul Ossmann had taken over the anchor chores at WXIA, pointlessly taking phone calls from uninformed viewers. Tana Brackin (and later, Cory Thompson) showed up at the FOX 5 anchor desk, and the cameras at CBS Atlanta were finally warmed up, bringing us prime anchor Calvin Hughes paired with Helen Neill. They joined the branding parade late: welcome to "Ice Storm 2000." Unfortunately for them, the rain at this point had pretty much…stopped.
Meanwhile, WSB’s live coverage seemed to more completely reflect the metro as a whole. Deidra Dukes showed us a downed tree embedded in an apartment building in Southeast Atlanta. Denise Dunbar brought us the story of a house trailer that burned to the ground overnight in a poorer neighborhood in northwest Atlanta, and up in Cartecay (in Gilmer County) with a fogged-over lens, Richard Elliott reported on folks who had some much more serious weather to deal with.
?And I still shake my head when I heard WXIA repeatedly suggest that, in a situation that has hundreds of thousands of homes without power, that viewers check their website for school and church closings and other details. Makes me want to yank the power lines to their newsroom: how’s your website now, guys?