December 01, 2004

Local Atlanta reporter likes being "human piñata"

Powers getting taseredWGCL (CBS 46) reporter Fred Powers seems to like his role as "stunt reporter" for the perennial ratings bottom-dweller in the local news race 'round these parts.

Powers has been set on fire, bitten by attack dogs, tasered, "rescued" from a building as part of a firefighter training exercise, and most recently, shot while wearing a bulletproof vest by local police as a part of a training exercise -- all in the line of duty, and usually as part of "sweeps month" stunts.

No wonder he's being dubbed the "human piñata" by TV wags.

Not coincidentally, his biggest stories tend to pop up during the sweeps months of February, May and November. (The current sweeps period ends today.) Because advertisers base what they pay partly on viewership during those three months, a shift of a ratings point here and there can mean millions of dollars for each station.

With such high stakes, it's not surprising that WGCL promotes Powers as the man who will do anything for a story, showing snippets of his escapades accompanied by a rotating 360-degree shot of the reporter, bionic man style.

"I have to admit I don't feel comfortable with that," said Powers, who often has an urgent, swashbuckling attitude on air. "I don't want to be promoted as the story. The story should be the focus."

Last month, Powers aired a live SWAT demonstration at a police training facility in Douglas County. He played a suspect holding a cop hostage. The police stormed the house on live TV and shot Powers, wearing a bulletproof vest, three times in the chest.

Powers' most infamous live demonstration aired in February, when police jolted him with a Taser stun gun.

The Georgia State Patrol was about to equip its officers with stun guns, so he approached Forest Park's police department, which already used them.

"I want to be Tasered," he told Chris Matson, the administrative captain.

"It was," Matson said, "an unusual request."

Powers convinced him that the goal of the segment was to show stun guns were not as dangerous as they appeared.

"We granted his wishes: We gave him 50,000 volts," Matson said.

When the dramatic moment arrived, Powers screamed and fell to the floor, immobilized for several moments. "You just freeze up, but five seconds later, I was fine," he said.

Powers was one of the first reporters to be "Tasered." Not surprisingly, dozens of TV stations nationwide copied WGCL in subsequent weeks.

Of course, what was funnier was the studio rerunning Powers' "tasering" and falling down -- complete with scream -- in sssssllllloooowwww mmmmooooottttiiiooonnn....

Now. Tell the truth. How many of you watch reporter stunts like that to see if the reporter will REALLY hurt him/herself trying? Go ahead. Raise your hands.

I thought so. Me too.

Posted by mhking at December 1, 2004 01:51 PM
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