Archive for February, 2010

Two-race Saturday

February 28, 2010

My Saturday began with an early morning race and ended with a late evening run. This group of volunteer high school students  is displaying the latest fashion in cold weather gear:  blanket robes.  They needed them.  It was 30 degrees for the 8 a.m. start of the Run For The Son 5K and 10K. It was at the Burnt Hickory Baptist Church in Powder Springs, Georgia. It’s typical that the early leaders in these local races are the younger runners.   Often, the teenagers hold the fast pace until the end.  But many have not built a base to sustain the speed with which they run the first mile.  That’s when the older but sometimes wiser runner will overtake them.  That’s what happened in the 5K.

61-year-old Bill Moore

61-year-old Bill Moore, a retired English teacher,  opened a lead with a little more than a half mile to go.  Bill finished 3 seconds ahead of his nearest pursuer, a teenager.  The evening race was in Carrollton.  I’ll post it tomorrow.

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No intended good deed goes unpunished

February 27, 2010

It was 18 years ago that federal and state agents descended on a well-respected pharmacist in Ball Ground near Canton, Georgia.  Authorities believed that Don Keenum was dispensing drugs without a prescription.  Here’s my report from 1992.My long-time friend,  WLJA co-owner Byron Dobbs, tells me that they never prosecuted Don Keenum, but he did surrender his pharmacist license.   Byron remembers that authorities concluded that the Ball Ground pharmacist was not dispensing drugs without a prescription for profit….he simply was doing it as a good deed to ease the pain for people who needed immediate help.   It was against the law, but Keenum intended it as a good deed.  Byron reports that Keenum long ago sold the pharmacy…that he now lives alone in his Cherokee county home.

Homeless and Undercover

February 26, 2010

During our “trail-blazing”  investigative TV journalism, we had to be innovative…often taking risks to uncover the truth.    We did not have  producers or other off-air employees to go undercover.  So before a newly-hired reporter hit the streets and appeared on WSB-Television, we would sometimes ask him to agree to what could be a dangerous undercover assignment.    We had no women in those early days.     There had been unproved claims that the Atlanta police were arresting homeless people in downtown parks…mistreating them during the arrest and later when they were behind bars.    We had a new reporter coming to us from a smaller market.   We’ll call him, “Robert”.     Robert agreed to play the part of a homeless man.     He grew his beard for a few days.   He didn’t bathe.   He wore ragged clothes and sat on a park bench with an “Old Grandad” looking brown bag.    It also contained a wireless mike.    One of our photographers was hidden in a nearby van.    It wasn’t long before an officer arrested Robert for loitering.   He roughed him up a little as Robert tossed his mike containing brown bag into a nearby trash can.   We later retrieved it.    Robert gave a pre-arranged false name when they booked him into the jail.   My recollection is that he spent 2 days in jail documenting how he and other prisoners were treated.  Our attorney bailed Robert out.   He cleaned up and began writing a 5-part series which introduced him as our newest reporter, but no longer undercover.  A judge dismissed the charges against him.     Robert’s series resulted in reforms among Atlanta police and at the city jail.   Robert later left journalism and became an attorney.

Bribery and knockout drops

February 25, 2010

In the mid to late 60s, I began to be more involved in management  and other newsroom duties….less and less time as an investigative reporter.   So we hired a young man who showed promise as an investigator.    He did well until someone put knockout drops in his drink.     Our man developed a case against an Atlanta Police captain suspected of accepting bribes.   We captured on film what appeared to be an exchange of money and offered our evidence to the Fulton county District Attorney.    We relied on the D.A.s promise that if he decided to prosecute that we would get a 24- hour lead on breaking the story.  While the D.A. was conducting his own investigation, the police captain apparently learned of our man’s involvement.  In attempt to blunt our investigator’s testimony, the police captain got one of his confidential informants to set our man up.   Without telling the News Director or any of us in management, our guy agreed to meet the captain’s informant in a bar.    The informant had promised information on “more corruption” in the police department.   What we know happened next is that our investigator awakened in a motel room with a prostitute by his side, and members of the captain’s vice squad coming through the door.    The story of the arrest of WSB-Television’s investigator was in the next day’s newspaper.    Our man believed the informant put knockout drops in his drink.  We bailed him out, but his reputation and  diminished effectiveness as an investigator caused us to ask for his resignation.   He left to become an investigator with an insurance company.   The police captain went to prison.

On top of a utility pole

February 24, 2010

In the 1960s, our investigations took us into several unusual situations.    On our noon news, we reported the Dow-Jones Industrial Average.   We noticed that after the numbers were telecast, we were getting several phone calls into our newsroom asking for the numbers.   We soon learned why people were calling.   Illegal numbers dealers were using the Dow-Jones numbers at noon to determine their winners.   This was decades before the legal Georgia Lottery.       Our investigation uncovered several numbers dealers operating on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta.    The Georgia Bueau of Investigation became involved because we suspected the Atlanta police were ignoring the numbers games.    So GBI work- clothes- clad GBI agents built a platform  at the top of a utility pole near the suspected largest dealer.   They enclosed the platform with a tent like structure.  One of our photographer-investigators was on the platform with a camera.    There with him was GBI agent Bob Hightower.   A Georgia Power supervisor noticed the platform and confirmed with his office that they didn’t have any work going on there.    The supervisor climbed the pole.    He opened one of the flaps to be greeted by Hightower’s pistol pointed directly at his head.  Our photographer-investigator told me that he saw the supervisor’s face turn white.   Hightower identified himself as a GBI agent and with a few choice words told the supervisor not to interfere with the investigation.  The supervisor was quickly back on the ground and gone.

Tom Brokaw was my photographer

February 23, 2010

The year was 1965.     I was the first television investigative reporter in the southeast, one of only 3 or 4 in the nation.   Many law enforcement officers trusted me with confidential information because they knew I would not share it with anyone except my boss, Ray Moore.    I shot, wrote and edited all of my stories so there was little chance of a leak that might warn the bad guys that I was on their case.   So I was reluctant when Ray Moore asked me to take Tom Brokaw with me on a raid of an illegal cock fighting operation in north Georgia.  Tom had been with us for a couple of months and worked mainly inside the station as an anchor.   Georgia Bureau of Investigation Chief Barney Ragsdale was skittish about bringing another person into the loop.    I told Tom of my and Ragsdale”s misgivings.    Tom assured me that he knew how to keep a confidence.  I believed him…so we set out together with the officers.    I worked with a heavy auricon camera with magnetic stripe sound.    I mounted it on a shoulder brace which digs into your shoulder and abdomen.   After the raid and the bad guys were in custody, I was ready to shoot a “standup” with me in front of the camera.  Normally I would remove the camera from the shoulder brace and set it on a tripod.    But Tom volunteered to wear the shoulder brace and shoot my standup.      I, in turn, shot one of Tom.   Each of us filed stories that were used on our various newscast.   A few months later, Tom moved on to  NBC.   Tom had spent about a year with WSB.   Little did I know at the time what an on-air talent had been my photographer or where his talents would take him.

They call it the “Frog Hop”

February 22, 2010

Rows and rows of miniature frogs are the awards for the Frog Hop 5K Sunday near Athens, Georgia.  There’s a lake in Sandy Creek Park where the race is run.  I’m guessing that frogs are known to frequent the lake and the banks surrounding it.

Stroke survivor Will Chamberlin

Stroke survivor Will Chamberlin was there demonstrating how quickly he’s recovering.   The improvement in his speech is remarkable.  You can hear the difference every week.

I was among the hundreds of people at the Frog Hop to run-walk the roads through the park.   I didn’t see a single frog ….except for the awards.

I did have a little hop in my step at the finish.

Tootin’ my own horn

February 21, 2010

My wife, Gisela, and I were among those gathered Saturday for the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (Southeast)induction of  Gold and Silver Circle honorees.   We’re at the “Grand Hyatt Buckhead” in Atlanta.

Gold and Silver Circle Honorees

Six of these men are Silver Circle inductees with at least 25 years in television either in front of the camera or behind the scenes.  NATAS honored me as the only Gold Circle inductee with 50 plus years in the business.

WSB Group

Several of my colleagues from WSB led the applause.  In the front:  Ray Moore (sitting),(next row left to right)  v.p. and General Manager Bill Hoffman, Monica Pearson, Me, News Director Marian Pittman, former WSB Photographer Scott Wardell.  (Back row:  Chuck Dowdle, and John Pruitt.  Here’s a segment of the celebration.  My son, Scott, was shooting the pictures. Scott was the one running across the floor back to the video camera as I was beginning to speak.

Grammatical peeves

February 20, 2010

In a Dear Abby column from 1992, she invited her readers to send her their pet grammatical peeves.   At the top of the list was all those  “you knows” and a close second was beginning every sentence with “basically”.    Abby had a long list in 92.   In 2010, mine is short.   My biggest peeve is the use of the preposition “between”.    A preposition requires that the objective case follow it.  For example, how many times have you heard announcers on the radio or television say, “between you and I”?     “I” is the subjective case.    “Me” is objective.   Therefore, it should be “between you and me”.       I could go on and on as Dear Abbey did, but persuading just one announcer to follow this rule of grammar would be a victory.

Snow storms past

February 19, 2010

If we learn from history, we know we’re not likely done with with snow and ice this winter.    For example,  1992 was a year we had snow in March.   Here’s a look back at 92.    CAN IT BE ONLY A WEEKEND AGO THAT WE WERE SEEING THIS IN METRO ATLANTA!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

2010