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Anyone have any insight on newsroom staffing in bigger markets? We had a decent sized earthquake here on Friday night. It seems like a few stations were caught off guard without talent in the newsroom. The quake as a 4.5 (small by most standards, but it was a shallow quake centered in the populated area of El Monte, in the SGV so it felt stronger than what it was reported. It woke me up out of my sleep here in the IE). Our 11pm newscasts end at 11:35pm, the quake hit at 11:38pm. KCBS didn't get back on the air until 11:50pm with Pat Harvey who had left right after the 11pm news and had to be called back to the station. On KNBC, Chuck Henry and Colleen Williams had just wrapped up the 11pm and were still in the building. They were able to get back on the air shortly after and remained on until nearly 1am. It seemed like KABC may have been on the air during the quake, their 11pm anchors were already on the air when I turned to them. KTTV FOX 11 was nowhere to be found. I assume their anchors head out right after their 10pm ends. KTLA, I assume cut in, but didn't see it with my own eyes. Do stations in larger markets not (Top 20-30) keep at least a reporter in the newsroom on standby for big stories anymore? Can't forget we have had a few big stories break on Friday night over the past few years....the death of Muhammad Ali, the death of Bush 1, and the recent passing of Justice RBG.

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KTLA didn't cut in. I was watching the Friends reruns that usually follow the News at 11, and they were not on. 

 

I would say, regardless of the size of the market, anyone putting on an 11 PM newscast to air will usually want to leave the building ASAP if they don't have to be there. IMO, Pat Harvey did nothing wrong, and KNBC were lucky that Chuck and Colleen were still in the building. Technical staff and producers would probably have also bolted as soon as the newscast signed off.

 

There would probably also be union and cost considerations when it comes to calling back staff once they have clocked out and left the building, as well as the cost of pre-empting whatever programming is on at the moment.

Edited by ED2
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The union and cost considerations likely contributed to the delay. Technical personnel are hourly, and their 8 hours is usually timed to end in conjunction with the end of the last newscast. Anything after that is overtime, which means you're paying at least 1.5x the normal cost to have them around. This is why there is usually some kind of approval process from management in order for the last newscast to go long. A technical employee making $30/hr normally is now making $45/hr. Those costs add up fast, and rolling news coverage usually doesn't have commercials, so you're not making any money while paying 1.5x the cost to have just your technical employees around. 

 

Three minutes might not seem like a long time, but I would not be surprised if the studio lights were already off, the cameras parked (fun fact: those cool moving camera shots for a newscast close are often the preset to park the cameras being played out over a long duration), and the control room empty at several of these stations. 

 

Not to mention, in this day and age with automation, you usually can't just push a few buttons and be on air. Someone has to load up a rundown into the various systems that put a newscast on the air.

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4 minutes ago, Weeters said:

Not to mention, in this day and age with automation, you usually can't just push a few buttons and be on air. Someone has to load up a rundown into the various systems that put a newscast on the air.

 

I thought that was the selling point of Ross OverDrive and Sony ELC? Those systems interface with actual switcher panels to manually punch a show if needed. 

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1 hour ago, Weeters said:

Not to mention, in this day and age with automation, you usually can't just push a few buttons and be on air. Someone has to load up a rundown into the various systems that put a newscast on the air.

 

Load up a rundown, code the show elements properly, throw in stings, etc

 

1 hour ago, caliwxdude said:

 

I thought that was the selling point of Ross OverDrive and Sony ELC? Those systems interface with actual switcher panels to manually punch a show if needed. 

 

You won't get any stings or graphics at all if you're punching a show manually in an automated environment from scratch, you're just cutting between cameras/sources (unless you were switching manually within a show that's already on-air). So it'll look plain/basic/ugly.

Edited by ED2
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1 hour ago, ED2 said:

You won't get any stings or graphics at all if you're punching a show manually in an automated environment from scratch, you're just cutting between cameras/sources (unless you were switching manually within a show that's already on-air). So it'll look plain/basic/ugly.


That’s how most of our breaking news actually shakes out. In rolling breaking news, no producer has time to put together a rundown, no director has time to code one, and nobody cares about flare. As long as it comes off looking clean switching from different video tapes and live sources with maybe a double box or two in there, everyone’s happy. Where I am, our directors can end up switching manually and avoid all the Ignite coding/automation nonsense pretty well. We also have, at minimum, the ability for master control to punch up our newsroom cam and a crawl in the event that there’s breaking news and no director in the building.

 

The other thing in this is that earthquakes are otherwise very boring and fairly non serious cases of breaking news. There are 10,000 earthquakes every year in the state of California, and very few of them ever end up causing sizable damage. A lot of people might tune in right away if there’s a big one, but then the viewership drops off pretty steeply. The California DMAs are also so large that there have been plenty of times when none of us felt it at the station, but then we find out about it when the flood of viewer calls start coming in.

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6 hours ago, ED2 said:

 

Load up a rundown, code the show elements properly, throw in stings, etc

 

 

You won't get any stings or graphics at all if you're punching a show manually in an automated environment from scratch, you're just cutting between cameras/sources (unless you were switching manually within a show that's already on-air). So it'll look plain/basic/ugly.

That’s what the flash cam in a newsroom is for they flip a switch in master control and be on in ten seconds they may not have graphics but they can do a breaking news update

Edited by Newsboy22234
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42 minutes ago, Newsboy22234 said:

That’s what the flash cam in a newsroom is for they flip a switch in master control and be on in ten seconds they may not have graphics but they can do a breaking news update

Unless your master control operator is hundreds of miles away.

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8 hours ago, who?cares said:

Unless your master control operator is hundreds of miles away.

We’re talking major market like 1 to 20. Mainly markets 1 to 10. Usually markets 1 to 20 someone is going to be in master control at all times. They need to make sure the ads air. If they need to get on tv you pick up the phone and say you need to get on tv now. 

Edited by Newsboy22234
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37 minutes ago, Newsboy22234 said:

We’re talking major market like 1 to 20. Mainly markets 1 to 10. Usually markets 1 to 20 someone is going to be in master control at all times. They need to make sure the ads air. If they need to get on tv you pick up the phone and say you need to get on tv now. 

Most major markets have more hubbed master control operations than small markets.

 

KABC: Currently hubbed at Encompass in Atlanta, soon Houston.

KNBC/KVEA: Hubbed at Comcast Media Center in Dry Creek, CO.

KCBS/KCAL: Hubbed in the room next to ABC in the Encompass facility.

KTTV: Hubbed at FOX facility in Las Vegas.

KTLA: Unsure, but likely to be out of one of the 5 new Nexstar hubs eventually (Springfield (Massachusetts), Spartanburg, Indianapolis, Dallas, and Denver)

 

Transmissions sometimes monitors the transmitter, but they do not have Master Control duties, and Transmissions is also not staffed 24/7.

 

Some of these stations may have local override buttons. But again, there are union rules about who is allowed to press that button, and station rules about clearance needed to break into programming.

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Trust me it may be outsourced as I’ll admit I don’t know about every market . But trust me someone is watching the feed at all times and is there in case some crap happens. God only knows what can happen if an advertisement does not air. As well as the fact someone can take over the television station. I can’t get in with my card and it’s behind bulletproof glass. I’m in a top ten market and there are 2 people in master control. We don’t have security anymore but we have someone in master control. I am almost positive if something whacky was happening an engineer or freelancer is going to fix the problem. In addition there has been situations where breaking news is warranted and management is trying to compete and can care less about the union at that very moment.

Edited by Newsboy22234
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I also highly doubt someone is actively sitting in front of the TV monitors watching all these TV stations at these master control hubs. They'll probably get an alarm if there is missing commercials/TV shows or a newscast is sitting in black for too long. It's all automated playback equipment. 

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22 hours ago, Newsboy22234 said:

 In addition there has been situations where breaking news is warranted and management is trying to compete and can care less about the union at that very moment.

 

Management was probably OK with paying all the overtime the collective agreement asks for back when COVID 19 didn't crater their ad revenues.

 

I get it though, there are some stations that are in the position to break in to programming and staff their coverage as required, but there's probably a growing number of them that would look at breaking in after 11:30 PM and be like "ah, let the morning show deal with it".

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 9/21/2020 at 10:51 AM, Newsboy22234 said:

We’re talking major market like 1 to 20. Mainly markets 1 to 10. Usually markets 1 to 20 someone is going to be in master control at all times. They need to make sure the ads air. If they need to get on tv you pick up the phone and say you need to get on tv now. 

Nope - can't speak for other stations but all CBS O&O's now have one master control hub in Atlanta. No MC in any of their buildings.

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