I love TV sweeps months, especially February, because that’s when TV stations put a big emphasis on investigative reporting, which usually comes with a big dose of sensationalism. Sometimes it works, and having a reporter work on one story for several weeks results in good journalism.
Short-staffed stations even require anchors to get out from behind their desks and actually go and interview people about issues. You won’t see many anchors outside the studio in March, but in February you’ll see it: WAVE’s Scott Reynolds up at the Indiana State Capitol, or WHAS’ Rachel Platt talking up JCPS principals and parents about teacher evaluations.
The best I’ve seen around here at doing these special reports were WLKY-TV’s John Boel and WHAS-TV’s Mark Hebert. Of course, most of you know Boel lost his job due to a drinking problem last year. But every sweeps period he would spend countless hours tracking sexual predators or staking out felons or chasing down somebody doing something wrong. My favorite Boel piece was his hidden camera of J-town Mayor Clay Foreman looting an evicted tenants’ stuff, an event that may have cost Foreman his job.
Hebert, now a U of L spokesman, was a master at digging up the right open records and confronting politicians with damaging details. Some say he singlehandedly altered Kentucky politics when he got Paul Patton on tape denying his affair with Tina Conner, and then his interview with Conner was priceless (“Because I was fxxxing the Governor,”). Some of us remember him chasing down Billy Clyde Gillispie at UK as classic TV.
I should also mention former Fox41 reporter Dick Irby, if only for that priceless confrontation with a J-town car dealer who attempted to break his camera a few years ago.
I doubt anyone will ever get an exclusive of the governor fooling around again, but among those chasing stories around here now, WHAS-TV’s Adam Walser is best at the awkward confrontational interview that makes for good TV. He’s great at chasing down people who don’t want to be interviewed, and even if he doesn’t get his target, it’s entertaining, as in this piece was about a police detective and sex and traffic tickets.
If I’m a public official, I don’t want WAVE’s Eric Flack snooping around my business. I think Sheldon Berman would agree. Flack’s recent piece on how long JCPS bus rides can be concluded with a backs-against-the-wall interview of Berman that didn’t come out well for JCPS or the already-besieged supe. Flack spent the time chasing the buses, then pinned his prey to the wall. Good TV.
That’s not to say there aren’t other reporters cranking out quality journalism during sweeps. But right now, Walser and Flack are the ones getting it done.