On Tuesday night, I anchored coverage of the local elections on KBIA-FM with Sara Wittmeyer. What a fantastic experience, one that taught me a lot about covering live news.
A few observations about what I think made the night work so smoothly and so well:
(1) Producers controlling the flow of live phone-in interviews was so key. KBIA only has the ability to take one live phone call at the time, so managing the process of calling in was quite the logistical challenge. We had a team of four supervising producers back in the newsroom while Sara and I were in-studio who would contact us on Google Chat while we were on-air to decide which caller to send through next. In the meantime, Sara and I had to cover the time of transfer with discussion about the race. She was so well-read-up and I did enough research that we handled it just fine between the two of us.
(2) Roving reporters with mobile phone technology enhanced coverage, but unforeseen technical glitches got in the way. KBIA had more reporters working election night parties than any other local broadcast outlet. We also had some roving reporters using iPhone technology and Vericorder devices to edit pieces for air from the field. Unfortunately, there were server issues, and we couldn’t get a lot of the wraps on the air. I think it was a promising trial run for the devices, though, and I think they have a lot of usefulness for covering live and developing stories. Erica Zucco and Brian Pellot did such a good job.
(3) Stepping back and taking a look at the bigger picture is important. One of the most formative moments in my training as a journalist happened while watching CNN during the ’08 Democratic primaries, when Anderson Cooper was so concerned with trying out one of CNN’s new gadgets that he seemed to lose track of where he was in the election coverage — he got sucked in to the horserace journalism. What Sara, the rest of the election team, and I were doing was actually getting down to the underlying issues and bigger trends — not just reading election returns to fill time. I think we succeeded in that regard.
What a wonderful experience, I’ll have to post some clips soon!