The Organized Chaos Known as a Daily Newscast

I received a comment from the Tall TV Guy who had witnessed a TV news cast from behind the scenes thanks to a weatherman friend of his.  This was his observation.  "He invited us to observe a newscast from behind the scenes.  If people only knew what went on during it, especially at a bare bones station."

Actually it doesn’t just happen at a bare-bones station.  All it takes is someone on the assignment desk to shout “breaking news” or to witness what the competition is teasing  on an upcoming newscast and you won’t believe the combination Chinese Fire Drill/One Armed Paper Hanger/One Legged Man in an Ass-Kicking Contest shenanigans that take place as producers and others scramble to get a newscast on the air.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat on the anchor desk and heard that we’re dropping a couple of stories and to stand-by for copy coming from “producer row”  This announcement in the ear by way of the IFB or earpiece usually comes right after the newscast goes to a commercial break.  That means there is a two minute clock running before you’re back on the air.  You hope like heck th copy gets there early so you can at least scan it and not read copy “cold” on the air.  That’s just one way erroneous information can get on the air because somebody got their facts wrong or perhaps didn’t get all of the important information and it’s handed off to someone to read on the air, ALL in the name of beating the competition.  Even on a normal, non-breaking news day, a packaged report might not make its slot until 15 seconds or less before the story is scheduled to be read.  Some organizations will tell you that “a story won’t air if it’s not ready two minutes before it’s slated to go”.  Yah right.  If it’s a big enough story or perhaps the only way to fill the news hole in that news cast, it doesn’t matter if it’s still loading in the machine while the introduction is read from the desk.  That’s the reality of local TV.  I will say this about having non-news people sit in to watch a newscast from a studio.  It forever changes the way they watch local news.  They walk away amazed that things get on the air.   That’s what they told me.  I also got to the point where I told them this particular truth about watching a newscast from behind the scenes: news and sports are boring to watch.  However, watching the weather was like magic.  Those having sat through a weather cast in a studio will either smile or shake their head in amazement at watching the weather person du jour stand in front of a green screen and point at nothing while filling three minutes of air time.  Now THAT IS magic.


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4 Comments on “The Organized Chaos Known as a Daily Newscast”

  1. The GM Says:

    The magic of television. Those of us in the business forget this fact, to most folks its show business. As a sales guy we’d bring in a client to tour the station. We’d get to the studio and let them see the green screen and explain that’s the weather map. We even used to let them shoot demos to take home. The most cynical advertiser would act like a kid in the studio. What a great business.
    The GM

  2. Doug J. Says:

    When I worked in lovely Casper, Wyoming (circa 1986), the station had a blue ChromaKey wall, not green. I did weather weekdays, while the weekday assignment editor subbed for me and handled weekends. She had the prettiest blue eyes that always disappeared when she stood in front of the weather wall. I used to refer to it as “Zombie Weather!”… Always got a laugh.

  3. JD Says:

    For the edification of the GM:

    “We are in the same tent as the clowns and the freaks. That’s show business.”

    -Edward R. Murrow

  4. the tall tv guy Says:

    I forgot about that, Joe! That was amazing. The weather guy wasn’t looking at the screen behind him, but at monitors at the edge of the blue screen, showing the map and himself on the picture so he could point at the right place on the map.

    Another observation….some of these weekend sports guys on Memphis tv now….where in the world are they coming from? Scary thought….

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