A quick post, this morning. More to come as I’ve had a chance to sort the thousand-thousand impressions.

A part of the substance of the book-in-progress happens in the word of broadcast journalism. It’s a field about which I know little. Fortunately, I discovered a resource to help me remedy that: the wonderful local journalist Joy Robertson.

Got the call last evening at 4:35: Joy was going to be available to let me sit in to observe the live news broadcasts at 5 and 6. Could I make it by then?

Can a car go fast?

Got there with minutes to spare. Joy came out to meet me…gracious and composed, she was. She had not much more than 5 minutes before her live segment—I would have been off in a corner hyperventilating—yet she was calm and relaxed, a contrast to my totally unnecessary anxiety on her behalf.

Things are quieter on-set than I’d expected. Calmer. And closer-in. Joy walked me to a stool at the back…so close to the on-camera action that I was afraid to drop a pen cap for fear of being heard. The moving cameras threatened to roll over my toes. The lights were bright; the colors supernaturally vivid. Only five folks there, not counting me: The two anchors, Joy, Ted the weatherman, and the two young camera guys. No craziness. No “stop the presses!” (okay, this is broadcast journalism, not print, but you get the idea.)

I’d expected the hush of preparation. I’d expected a breathless severity as the countdown to air went from 30 second to 15 to 5. Not so. Folks chatted. Joked. As it nothing at all were about to happen. And then it began.

A live newscast becomes a dance of technology and timing and teleprompters and thinking on one’s feet. The precision timing (for which the rundown sheet looks like a page of precision military operations) has all been worked out beforehand; the execution of that timing is like pouring sand from one hand to the other to keep it in balance…a little back, a little forth, a little from here, a little to there.

Between broadcasts—in this case, the half-hour between the 5 and 6 shows—the work begins again; stories teased on the previous show and finalized and edited right up to airtime, graphics are selected for this broadcast and the next. Leads come in. The team’s other skills come into play, the many-faced skills at home in each individual, writing, editing, developing, analyzing. The tight-knit mesh of activities is all executed with the same deceptive sense of unhurried calm that I saw on the set.

The control room is rather something else. The seeming-serenity is still there, but this is constant motion even when no one is moving. More about that in the next post.

For now, my endless thanks to Joy Robertson, whose knowledge, skill and new friendship I am delighted and honored to share. Thanks, Joy, for the eye-opening education, a 90-minute class that will stay with me for a very long time.

Advertisements