Probably the question I am asked most often by people about my work at news outlets like News Channel 5 and now at CBS12 is what it’s like “behind the scenes” at a television news station. Most people assume that it’s a bustling, dramatic place with a lot of intrigue and last minute scoops.
I cover technology news, of course, but I see most everything that’s happening at the station while I’m there, including the broadcast and many of the pre-recorded segments as well. Most of my segments are pre-recorded, but sometimes a big headline item will mean going on live to talk about things (or at least introduce the pre-recorded part).
This means that the glamorous part of news is not what most people think. A lot of what you see during the nightly broadcast has been pre-planned and already recorded for use. The news anchors generally go on live, of course, but much of the content you see is prepared well beforehand. Rarely does news “sneak up” on the broadcast and require last minute cut-ins and rescheduling of the night’s planned coverage.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot going on, though. At News Channel 5, for instance, the studio is broken into sections and the news floor itself, where stories are found, researched, verified, and followed-up on by reporters, is separate from the broadcast studio, which is a controlled sound stage area with a handful of cameras and several technicians ensuring good lighting and sound are to be had for the broadcast. The “screens” behind the anchors are actually squares of colored cloth that technicians can “blue screen” (impose) images on. When they’re not being used, an image of the studio background is used in that area. The setup at CBS12 is basically the same.
When I do a technology news segment, unless you see me appearing directly at the news desk with the anchors, I’ve likely been filmed at a separate location in a smaller studio or on location rather than in the anchor’s desk studio. Sometimes, if pre-recording, we will do multiple takes of a spot so that it can be done just right and within a specific time parameter they have scheduled for it.
Most of the action in a news studio happens in the “bull pen” or reporter’s area. These are basically cubicles in which several reporters, interns, and so forth dig up stories, check facts, find out more information, formulate “angles” for the anchor’s introduction scripts, and otherwise build what becomes the night’s broadcast. In television news, the reportage is pretty timely, so what a reporter is working on right now is likely to be what is aired that night. Editors decide in which portion of the news cast stories will appear in (if they appear at all) and on which broadcast (early “meal time” broadcast or the later “late night” one).
At News Channel 5, for example, there is a 5:30pm, 6:00pm and 11:00pm evening and night-time broadcast. Each of those will have stories that carry through all three as well as stories…