The Incredible Shrinking Show

By: Don Ward
By: Don Ward

How we custom-build the newscast around CBS sports coverage.

If the Game Goes Long, the Newscast Goes Short

Every weekend it's a challenge in the 11 Newsroom.  First of all, we are the Broncos station for Southern Colorado, and that is great, but it does leave us scrambling sometimes like a quarterback chased out of the pocket!  Here's why.

On Sundays we always bring you 11 News at 5:30, at least that's the plan.  But we also have NFL football right before 11 News.  That's where it gets tricky.  Ideally, the football game ends right in time for us to go on right at 5:30.  Do you know how often it happens that way?...almost never!  So that's when it gets fun.

We produce what's called an "accordion show" named for the fact that it can expand to get longer, or contract to get shorter, like its musical namesake.  Every Sunday, our producer Mark, has to put together a newscast that's a full hour long, knowing full well that a good chunk of it will never make it on the air.  I'm sitting near him right now in the newsroom and he's building the hour, even as the Broncos are beating up on the Raiders.

It's unlikely, but there is a chance that football will end by 5.  That means not only the Broncos, but any other CBS games too.  We've all seen it happen the Broncos game ends, and the network switches to other game (s) until they're all over.  That's rarely by 5pm, but in case it is, we have to be ready with a full hour-long newscast.

Much more often, it will all wrap up at 5:15, 5:20, sometimes 5:40 or 5:45.  That's where the accordion comes in.  As the games run longer and longer past 5pm, Shannon Brinias and I are on set, the entire crew is in position, ready to start and the reporter/photographer teams are in place at their live report locations.  With each passing few minutes producer Mark decides which elements of the newscast will be cut.  He then announces all of the cuts, by story number, to all of us.  The first segment of news is the "A" block, followed by "B" etc. 

The worst case scenario is that the game ends and we start at about 5:23, and we end up doing the "A" block, most of the top stories, then go to a commercial, then come right back and do all the same top stories again.  We do write two different versions of each story so it's not exactly the same, but it can feel that way.  Here's why we do it. 

Once the games are over, we know we have a lot of viewers, we hope they hang on to watch the news, so even if it's 5:25, we want them to see the most important stories.  At the same time, we have  a lot of viewers who expect the news at 5:30, and tune in then to see it.  We could do the top stories at 5:25, then just go on with the rest of a normal newscast, but then all those 5:30 tune-in viewers would miss the tops stories.  So if you see us seem to be repetitive, that's why we do it, Again, that second set of top stories is produced differently, often a longer version of live reports, etc, but it still may seem odd to viewers.

I love it when we hit at almost exactly 5:30..that way we keep the football fans, and please the on-time tune-ins. The worst..when football goes really long, and we don't do any newscast at all.  That's especially frustrating when we have some really good stories (which we almost always do) and none of them get on the air.,  That's when we hope you'll stay up late to watch at 10!!!

So that's how it works during football season and quite often when CBS airs golf tournaments too. It can be a scramble for us, but I love the fact that CBS carries such great sports programming, including the Broncos!   I hope that all makes sense..and I'll see you at 5:30, or 5:10, or 5:45 or 5:53..  Can you hear the sound of an accordion?

We'll talk again soon.



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