The 5 p.m. newscast was spent on-set, in the light. The 6 was spent in the dark, in the guts of the quiet beast: the Control Room.
The same calm that is so remarkable on-set is also present in the Control Room. But here it is the ticking heart of the show, and it is quiet in constant motion.
The control console—the kingdom of the Director—faces a wall of electronic screens that display every option possible. The screens show what each camera sees. The feed from remote locations. The tapes that are cued or airing. The TV spots. In other words, everything you see is there. And everything else.
Arrayed before the director is a bank of switches which controls everything. The director speaks to the camera operators, telling them what to do, sometimes in the instant before it is to be done. The engineer sits beside the director…doing what engineers do (sorry, folks, there was just too much going on during a live broadcast to get the details of all these vital jobs.)
In the second row of command, on a raised platform, sits the Producer who is the guardian of time. The producer monitors the precisely-timed show on a special monitor, and tracks the actual timing of each segment against it, to know whether a cut or a stretch is needed. Go short, and the command goes out, “Chat”, or improvise to fill the time. Go long, and adjustments are made to truncate a delivery or remove a bit of tape.
Beside the Producer sits the master of the teleprompter, who makes sure the scripted words crawl smoothly at talking speed, easy and precise for the talent on camera. In this broadcast, the director for the 10 p.m. newscast kept herself busy selecting graphics that would air in the night’s last show.
I’m told that things are much different when breaking news forces more split-second choices. Things are more hectic then. But not on a night like this. When the newscast is over, the room empties fast. Folks go home. Nonchalance reigns, as if nothing momentous has happened. The acute concentration of attention, the critical dance of split seconds—all of it accomplished with so little apparent stress—is over. For now. In news, as in life, it starts all over tomorrow. It always does.
And to Joy Robertson of KOLR10, yet another in an endless series of thanks for making this all happen for me. Joy, I want to be you in my next life.