There’s a new television journalist in town. More than just a naturally charismatic persona, East Cobb native Michael Seiden recently joined WSB-TV as a general broadcast reporter. Seiden generates his own leads and sets the bar for “on your feet” thinking and living on adrenaline. “I’ve covered ice storms, children trapped in schools, EF5 (Enhanced Fujuta scale) storms (exceeding 200 mph) with people crawling out of mobile homes … all with a producer’s voice in my earpiece telling me to keep talking. With only an hour’s notice, I was sent to D.C. to cover the Congressional softball shooting, the deadly church shooting in Charleston, and the PULSE nightclub massacre in Orlando. This is a part of history.”
Jaffe: Growing up in Atlanta, was your narrative always to be in broadcasting?
Seiden: Yes! I was in a terrific program at Walton High School, WHS-TV, where I covered sports, but as a Jewish kid, I knew Zaban would be the last stop in my basketball career (laughing). After high school, I headed west to study journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Mass Communication and Journalism. There, I balanced a full class load, jobs with the campus radio and television stations and even a full-time media position with the Arizona Cardinals.
Jaffe: How did your circuitous route bring you back to Atlanta home base?
Seiden: I paid my dues. I sent out a bunch of DVDs of my work to local markets and landed my first gig in Beaumont, Texas (they actually have a synagogue), where I spent two years and earned less than $20,000 a yr. It was the place where I cut my teeth. Next stop: Oklahoma City (three synagogues). For three years, I covered all sorts of natural disasters –tornadoes, earthquakes and wildfires. From there, I moved on to Miami. (Too many synagogues to count – no longer the token Jew!) Miami is a breaking news machine, but it was always my dream to come back to Atlanta (June 2018).
Jaffe: You’ve had some harrowing adventures. What are some of your scariest brushes with danger?
Seiden: Last year, I covered Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. … My life was on the line. While most people were fleeing, we were driving straight into danger. We didn’t sleep for days, surviving only on Red Bull and beef jerky, with no running water or electricity, but our struggles could not compare to those of the victims.
Jaffe: How do you evaluate the current state of the news industry?
Seiden: It is changing daily. The world doesn’t want to wait until 6 p.m. to get their news. They want it immediately, which is why we’ve put a huge emphasis on digital. Every day, we’re breaking big stories on multiple platforms, like Twitter and Facebook. It’s exciting, but extremely challenging at the same time.
Jaffe: Being live on air has some special “narcissistic” components.
Seiden: Yes, haha. Ten years ago I had to learn how to do my own makeup. I remember how mortified I was while I stood at the MAC Cosmetics counter. Even today, my wife picks out my clothes. We work with consultants who critique us on everything from our storytelling to our appearances. There is nothing natural about speaking into a camera with a burning building in the background. In Georgia, I dress more conservatively than I did in Miami, where ties were a “no-no” and even shorts were acceptable, depending on the story.
Jaffe: How would you evaluate your own particular strengths?
Seiden: I am laser-focused and driven; but more importantly, I really care. I’ve covered tragedies where victims wander the streets, showing us pictures of lost family members and begging for our help. Those heartbreaking moments really stick with you. While I have to maintain my composure while reporting, I’m also a human being. Behind the scenes, I keep peoples’ numbers and follow up to see how they are doing.”
Jaffe: Do you see yourself down the road as a national news anchor?
Seiden: It’s been a wild ride and I’m very happy to be back home in Atlanta. I have a wife and a 2-year-old son, so the life of a network anchor/correspondent would be tough because you’re always on the road. That being said, I do admire the network guys, like David Muir, Lester Holt, Anderson Cooper and Chris Cuomo. I watch a lot of news and really respect journalists who hold people accountable.
Jaffe: Leave us with an outrageous assignment.
Seiden: While working in Miami, I received a call from the desk, telling me that I had two hours to get to the airport for a flight to Anchorage, Alaska, to investigate the family of the Fort Lauderdale airport shooter. It was January and I didn’t even own a pair of gloves. Talk about adrenaline … and frostbite.