For the past 18 months, dedicated followers of Atlanta TV news broadcasting have gotten an insider’s take of the business thanks to former WAGA-TV broadcast journalist Doug Richards.
The often funny, always insightful blog is dubbed Live Apartment Fire. The name is a reference to a frequent breaking news story that would often supersede whatever is going on, simply because it makes a good visual.
Richards had left the business to start his own production company and he blogged in hopes of generating buzz and some business. But these are tough times and when WXIA-TV offered him a part-time gig as a reporter again, he decided to take it. He starts back August 10, set to work three days a week.
He was genuinely surprised WXIA’s news director Ellen Crooke even called him. “I really hadn’t expected any news director to be particularly interested in my services after reading my blog,” he said.
Although he was a bit burned out with the business when he left WAGA in 2007, he said he’s looking forward to going back to TV. “There were a lot of things that drove me crazy about the TV business,” he said, “but I still have a lot of affection for it.”
Crooke arrived less than a year ago to WXIA from Buffalo.
Richards isn’t sure if Crooke’s more solutions-oriented approach will boost WXIA’s ratings. (The station is a distant third among four stations.). But he likes her and based on what he’s heard from WXIA’s staff, “she has brought a lot of personal energy to that newsroom. And the troops are behind her.”
Richards said his production company will continue. And the blog will survive, too. But as an employee of WXIA, he won’t be able to honestly slag his competitors or his own WXIA colleagues. He’ll have to show more discretion. He hopes to get some help from others such as CB Hackworth.
He said his blog has been gaining popularity in recent months. “It was never a money maker,” he said. “It was always a hobby. Having a successful hobby is kind of cute. It’s like following the Braves. They win, you clap your hands and find something meaningful to do.”
Will I cover an apartment fire, ever? Quite probably. I’m OK with it. I hope you’re watching when it happens.
I left a phone message with Crooke and will update this if I get a hold of her. (She seems to be on vacation.)
At a recent Atlanta Press Club event, Crooke explained why she told a journalism class a few months back that the local TV news business “stinks.”