accessAtlanta

City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

WGCL VP Steve Schwaid explains NCAA/Athens hostage dilemma last Friday

WGCL-TV was in a bind last Friday evening. Alleged Athens cop killer Jamie Hood was holed up with hostages. He didn’t want to be arrested unless it was on live TV, worried he might be shot otherwise.

14333003_BG1

The police asked the local media to run video live during the 11 p.m. news, presuming Hood would surrender at that time. That was not a problem for the other news stations. But WGCL-TV, the CBS affiliate, was airing the Kentucky/Ohio State NCAA game at 11 p.m.

Steve Schwaid, who oversees the station and is VP of digital content for Meredith (WGCL-TV’s owners), blogged about the entire situation.

For all we knew he was watching the game with the hostages. There is no way I wanted to live with the fact that if we didn’t carry his surrender, he might not come out or more importantly, hurt or kill a hostage. Do I worry about a person’s life or a basketball game? Honestly, an easy decision.

WGCL decided to do a split screen of the hostage situation and the game. Game commentary was turned off and anchor Stephany Fisher provided audio commentary. NCAA fans emailed and called to complain. He was supposed to surrender at 11:01 p.m. but as the minutes ticked by, Schwaid considered bringing game audio back. Fortunately, a shirtless Hood finally did surrender at around 11:15 p.m. so WGCL was able to get back to the game relatively quickly after that.

Schwaid’s final take on this:

I never want it to be on the conscience of my news organization that we risked someone’s life or could have the cause for someone’s death because we through it more important to show a few baskets than help the police with a hostage surrender. Could we have brought the game audio up sooner? Sure. But when you’re making instant decisions sometimes you don’t do it all perfectly.

But honestly, we all do try. And at the end of the day a person’s life, your life is much more important than hearing the announcers at a basketball game.

Schwaid, in an interview today, said he was watching the game Friday night when this all came down and had to make some off-the-cuff decisions. “I was getting inundated with emails,” he said. “The assignment desk was overwhelmed with calls.” He said it was an easy decision to do the split screen given the circumstances. Hood could have killed hostages if the TV stations had not complied. And basketball fans still got to see the game, albeit on only part of the screen for a few minutes and without game audio.

“It’s hard to serve two masters,” he said. “You just do the best that you can.”

Doug Richards, on his Live Apartment Fire blog, also provides a fascinating take on how WXIA-TV ended up being the “pool” camera guy for the four stations airing the live video of Hood surrendering.

Join my Facebook fan page and Twitter.

By Rodney Ho, rho@ajc.com, AJCRadioTV blog

25 comments Add your comment

Rickster

March 30th, 2011
10:46 am

Anyone who complained about not getting to see the basketball games has their priorities so out of whack.

James

March 30th, 2011
10:58 am

These are the same morons who complain about programs being interrupted by tornado warnings. I’m sorry, I meant idiots.

cowboys67

March 30th, 2011
11:52 am

First of all I am very happy that the hostages were released safely however I totally disagree if I wanted 2watch the hostages released I would turn 2it people saying this would have felt totally different if it was the super bowl and the falcons or dogs in natl championship game were driving for the winning td it is totally different from a tornado where many lives would have been in danger.

Chip Chipperson

March 30th, 2011
12:20 pm

Rickster and James sound like 30-40 somethings that still live in their momma’s basement and post on American Idol boards. Basketball was much more important than this thug getting arrested.

Ron

March 30th, 2011
12:28 pm

“Chip” and the cowboy don’t seem to get it – the Jamie guy wanted to see it on television himself before he came out. It wasn’t about the random public wanting to see the guy arrested. This guy wasn’t going to come out unless he saw it was going to be shown live. So basically every station NEEDED to cover it in case he was watching their particular station.
Luckily the guy in charge was smarter than these two and made the right call.

Wheat Thin

March 30th, 2011
12:33 pm

Television is a “majority” venture.
The “majority” care about NCAA basketball on a Friday night in March.
If you have this event on your station, you do not interrupt for the arrest of a criminal in Athens.
Save the moralistic journalistic dilemma for those with pointy heads who do not participate in their office NCAA pools. T

Stan33

March 30th, 2011
12:49 pm

So if this guy had asked for a helicopter and a suitcase of unmarked bills worth 10 Million $ he would have gotten that too? Riiiiiiight. So why is it that if his surrender is broadcast is carried live on tv, that is ok? What if he executed a hostage in the back of the head while being broadcast? What would these television stations have to say then? There is absolutely no way the television media should have catered to this cop killer in the first place.

Mike

March 30th, 2011
1:19 pm

That’s great how they managed to show the game and the hostage situation at the same time on Friday.

Saturday though, I could have lived without being informed it was raining in the Columbus/Macon markets for ohh…the entire day.

ABC, FOX, and NBC already cut all normal programs to tell us it was raining miles away from Atlanta. Just a guess but if I lived in the areas that were in the path, I might be watching one of the stations that’s devoted all coverage to the weather as opposed to CBS’s tiny map and scroll while the actual game was reduced.

Is it more like Christmas or a sexual experience for the weather guys get to take over and tell everyone where it’s raining for several hous?

WAR EAGLE

March 30th, 2011
1:56 pm

They should have had snipers around and shot this guy. He is no better than Nichols or Hammond. Plus, shooting him costs $1 for the bullet instead of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a month to house this clown in jail. Bring back Hanging!

Traffic Headache

March 30th, 2011
8:10 pm

WGCL can’t win for trying. They own up to a thug’s demands so he’ll surrender and the people who freak out about their NCAA brackets have a royal cow. Who’s living in whose basements here? WGCL did what they needed to do in order to satisfy both needs. Get over it.

hypocrites

March 30th, 2011
9:20 pm

Oh you guys would be crying in your white zinfandel if they had done this during that crapfest called “American Idol”

Eric

March 30th, 2011
10:51 pm

I remember Friday, August 13, 2004… In this case, 11Alive briefly muting the audio during a portion of the Opening Ceremonies telecast of the 2004 Athens Olympics to issue an Amber Alert/Levi’s Call… I believe 2, 5, and 46 presented the Amber Alert/Levi’s Call as breaking news during their 10PM and 11PM newscasts.

Last Friday… WGCL doing a split screen of the NCAA March Madness game and the Athens cop killer surrendering. 2, 5, and 11 had their 11PM newscasts on the air.

I don’t believe these 2 matters were the first… and most likely won’t be the last either.

My thoughts about the Atlanta TV news stations:

Channel 2 – I see their news presentation as sort of bland… and more of the same.

FOX 5 – Their presentation is okay. Some worry that FOX may be wanting all of its O&O stations to become biased like FOX News Channel.

11Alive – Their presentation is also okay. I’m not all that interested in their weather forecast presentation… WIZ-o-meter needs to go, ASAP. Wish Gannett would roll-out newer graphics for all its O&O stations… and give 11’s news set a complete head-to-toe makeover as well.

CBS Atlanta – Their presentation is good. WGCL is pretty much the Rodney Dangerfield of local TV news… “no respect.” Some believe WGCL did better as “Georgia’s News at 10″… Instead, WAGA dumped CBS for FOX… resulting in WGCL (then WGNX) picking up CBS.

Eric

March 30th, 2011
10:55 pm

I meant to say… “I don’t believe these 2 matters weren’t the first.” I apologize.

the real truth

March 31st, 2011
8:43 am

APOLOGY ACCEPTED

Duane

March 31st, 2011
9:01 am

It would have been interesting had this scumbag decided to be like James Cagney and go out in a blaze of glory on live television.

Next time.....?

March 31st, 2011
11:17 am

The GBI set a dangerous precendent by doing “thugs live”.
Tough call.

myra

March 31st, 2011
11:18 am

Enter your comments here

myra

March 31st, 2011
11:21 am

Ch.46 did just fine

Rick

March 31st, 2011
11:52 am

Ch. 11 said they were not showing it live at all until he was out and in custody. I mean they showed it but it was on some sort of delay in case they wanted to cut away. I don’t know if the others did that delay too. But I guess ch. 46 could have kept the sound of the game along with that split screen. Who cares what their anchors were saying, they didn’t bring up any sound at all from Athens it was just a picture that needed no explaination from people who weren’t even at the scene.

Tim

March 31st, 2011
3:08 pm

Steve Scwaid is full of it……

This was all about ratings. He didn’t want WGCL to be left out with reporting the rescue. I seriously doubt that he was concerned about Jamie Hood shooting the hostages. Besides, wouldn’t Hood be watching the local Athens CBS affiliate anyway? Steve Scwaid simply used this as an opportunity to promote WGCL. They always do this.

Anytime there is a major sporting event, WGCL finds a reason to interrupt the broadcast. It could be a light rain drizzle in Valdosta, and the WGCL meterorologist will interrupt the game. They are simply promoting the news cast.

Tim

March 31st, 2011
3:13 pm

And why did they have to do a split screen? They could have made the game 75% of the screen, and then shown the surrender on the other 25%. Again, WGCL has done this type of thing before. Even when there is rain with no lightning, they pre-empt the ball game.

Tim

March 31st, 2011
3:27 pm

And why do they have to leave the weather map at the bottom of the screen during the game when it’s raining? A lot of times the rain is 100 miles away, and they keep the map with the state of Georgia on the screen showing the rain in northeast Georgia near Tennessee. For what? I remember one year when the Grammy Awards was on, WGCL went to the 11:00 news before the host barely finished saying “Goodnight”.

PTC DAWG

April 1st, 2011
1:22 pm

Hostages, yeah right..more like protectors.

I fault the Media for carrying this at all. This clown would be better off DEAD today.

PTC DAWG

April 1st, 2011
1:23 pm

Stan 33, +1,000,000.

James

April 1st, 2011
2:08 pm

I was pretty upset that the game was interrupted. This guy just wanted to be on TV with the people he was partying with. And again with the rain warnings interrupting also. Move all live sporting events to cable if these local clowns are going to keep interrupting.