Just Another Day in the Newsroom... NOT

by - October 06, 2010

For those of you who don't know, I deal with news on a daily basis. I read and edit news stories for two newscasts five days out of the week.

It's very similar to what I used to do when I worked on the morning shift, just on a different time schedule and incorporating many more live and ever-changing elements.

With that being said, I only deal with news. We have a separate department that handles sports, but what happens when the main sports anchor calls in sick and the assistant sports guy is out of town?

You improvise.

I covered sports in college, but on the print side of the ballpark. Sports for broadcast is a completely different thing. Three minutes is the standard timing for a sportscast in my shows. The guys are completely self-reliant and figure out their timings on their own.

Yesterday, however, neither of our sports guys was here [for the aforementioned reason]. So one of the reporters was chosen to front sports. The web guy and myself were responsible for putting the sports block together for the early show. Then for the late show, the reporter and I worked to put it all together. We pretty much just guessed on the timings.

In the early show, we ended up being two minutes light at the end. In the late show, we had 9 seconds coming back to close out the show.

Sports is hard!

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  1. Timing the newscast is always a challenge. When I produced I tried to leave 15 to 20 seconds left in the show when we came out of the kicker. 10 seconds was still okay and more than 30 seemed like too much. I hit the zone about 95% of the time.

    I dreaded days when my newscast followed a network sporting event because they inevitably ran long forcing me to acordion the show. That meant dropping stories, segments and commercial breaks on the fly.

    In the 70's before 11pm affiliate newscasts led into late night network programming every night of the week our station used to run a movie at 11:30, play the national anthem and sign the station off the air for the night. On nights like that when we were leading into local programming instead of network I could relax and let the show flow at its own pace. I didn't have to time it out precisely. The newscast could be shorter than 30 minutes or longer than 30 minutes and it didn't matter because we floated the start of the local movie. Those days quickly came to an end when late night network shows proliferated and stations began operating 24 hours a day.

    When a newscast must be timed to run exactly 30 minutes in order to hit network straight up many things can go wrong. As hard as it must be today please know that it was worse decades ago and horror stories abound. Imagine what it was like to produce in the days before your entire show was scripted and loaded into a teleprompter. My team wrote their news stories using old fashoned typewriters. Carbon paper was used to make copies of the show for the director and crew. The news and sports anchors sat on camera reading directly from those hand held sheets of paper. On more than one occasion an anchor was hurrying to get to the studio on time and dropped their stack of papers on the floor, getting the day's news stories scrambled with little or no time to put them back in the correct order. I remember one time when the sports guy misplaced his entire 3 minute show and was panic stricken (as was I). With seconds to go before his segment was due to begin somebody found his stack of papers in the men's room!

  2. I can definitely see how sports can be a challenge. But I'm sure you handled it as best you could.

    You're super-girl after all. :)