This Is When Live TV Is Most Exciting


I missed being in a newsroom the past few days. Understand, I would have been the least important person there. On days like this it is exciting to “watch the sausage get made.”

News shows are usually live, but heavily scripted (except weather). Even camera shots and sequences are repeated regularly.

Not for the past few days! You watched lots that was live and done on-the-fly. It’s amazing it comes off as smoothly as it does.

Usually the show is run by two, producer and director. These titles in local TV are different than Hollywood. The producer is in charge of content. The director controls technical execution and coordination. Only the director speaks to the crew.

In order to succeed both must make rapid decisions. That sounds elementary, but many people are too cautious. There isn’t time to weigh your options.

The best producers and directors make their decisions quickly in a (hopefully) predictable way. Not every decision is right, but even a moderately wrong decision is usually better than indecision.

Meanwhile, the director is trying to organize unexpected incoming sources of video and sound–satellites, microwave, cell packs, in-house live shots, phoners and packaged feeds.

While all this is going on it is the anchor who’s sorting it out for the viewer. During breaking news there are seldom scripts and often no guidance to the anchor at all!

You can pass off an attractive anchor (male or female) most nights, but not when news breaks! These are the nights when intelligence and confidence pay off. The smarter the anchor, the more you as a viewer are going to get.

Maybe they should put cameras in the control room so I can watch.

4 thoughts on “This Is When Live TV Is Most Exciting”

  1. I had the thrill of working at Ch. 8 mid-80s and I because of the department I was in got to spend time all over the station.
    Outside the control booth was my favorite spot during a newscast watching what was going on.
    I always say that job was the best one I ever had.

  2. I remember coming home and going down to the Wharf to go see my dad. There was a tease coming up and Ken Mellech was the shooter. I asked my dad who was running the satellite truck at the time where the reporter was and he pointed toward Ken’s van. There was the reporter, some 20 year old sitting in the van playing on her gameboy. She popped out the van long enough to do the tease and then went right back in to play her video game. I looked at Dad confused and he said, “Yes, this is the quality of reporter coming out of school these days.” I just shook my head in disbelief.

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