Newsroom Demographics: Less People, More Computers

A couple years ago, the television news station I was working at went automated in their news distribution process.  They wanted to be cutting edge, so they pushed forward into the “less is more” concept.  The one where people are laid off, so computers can do their jobs.  They laid off a staff of four people in the graphics department so one person in another city can do their job, when they get around to it.  The result…the graphics were not nearly as innovative, and initially you couldn’t have the person change it as quickly as you like, because again, they were in a different city.

They got rid of the camera operators so that the automatic cameras can come in.  These cameras were operated by the director (as if he didn’t have enough things to do) and he would tell them where to go, and through the control room, he could move them in the studio.  The result…as cameras were focused on the anchor, they would randomly move up towards the roof of the studio.  Another time, the camera and its base would move around the studio floor away from the talent altogether.  It was a mess.

The example that sticks with me is the time the computer shut down completely.  The rundown, cues, scripts, commands, everything the talent, producer and director needed to “do their jobs” all ran through the computer.  Wouldn’t you know it the computer shut down.  Everything was lost.  No scripts, therefore there was nothing to show on the teleprompter.  The director cues that he would mark pre-show was gone, so the computer wouldn’t know what story to run next, what camera to take, because there was no rundown for the producer to track the show, because there was no computer working at all.  The cameras didn’t work, nothing.  The show went to “color bars” because commercials weren’t ready to air, they rushed the anchors out of the studio and one anchor went in front of the old newsroom camera; because only one camera could be squeezed in.  Why?  Because this was the only camera that didn’t run on the computer.  The anchor, producer and director went old school and went on the fly until the computer operating the rundown, scripts and automated cameras was back up and running.

Morale of the story…yes, automation is great.  It’s technology and it’s always moving forward.  However, in this instance, it was nice there were people there to look back so that news could move forward.

This entry was posted in Audio/Video. Bookmark the permalink.