What can go wrong, will

By: Don Ward
By: Don Ward

I've seen a lot of things happen to make things difficult during a live newscast. This was new to me!


That's a phrase we often say when weird things happen during a newscast.  The satellite signal gets distorted and we lose the picture of a reporter, mid-report...hey it's live TV.  I've had robotic cameras take off across the studio floor in unintended directions during a newscast. 


One time in Cincinnati a co-anchor and I even had to abandon set during a Sunday morning newscast because the fire alarm in our building started going off.  In that case a staffer had left a bagel in a toaster oven too long, right before news time.  Whoops..., hey, it's live TV.

Reacting to and covering up for these glitches can be a real challenge any time they happen. You just try to roll with the punches and keep it as smooth as possible.

Today during the 4 pm newscast we had a little glitch the likes of which I've never had to deal with, until today.  We read the news stories off of a device called a TelePrompter.  (in the lingo of TV we just call it a prompter.) The scripts are generated through the computer system, then with a series of monitors and reflections, the words all show up on a clear surface right in front of the camera lens.  We can read the stories as we're looking right into the camera. 

The teleprompter isn't perfect.  Back in the days when paper script copies were literally taped together, then fed manually in a giant chain into the device that projected the words into the prompter, it used to fail all the time.  Now that it's all computerized it's much more reliable, but it can sometimes freeze or disappear, or mysteriously lose some of its content....hey, it's live TV.  That's why we always have hard copies of every script on the news desk with us, so we can read from that.

Today the prompter malfunction was actually kind of fun, because it happened during a per of the newscast when the prompter isn't that crucial.  We always flip a switch during weather so that Brian doesn't;t see words in the camera lens, he sees what's on the air, in this case, himself.  At the end of weather, Shannon and I just had a tease to read.  A tease is when we talk about what's coming up after the break.  We hit the button to return from a view of what's on air, to the teleprompter, and we saw this.

Somehow the words on the prompter were reversed..a mirror image of what they should be...impossible to read in real time.  Hey it's live TV.  We just read from the desk copy and moved on to the break.

It should say:



You can make it out...slowly.   During the commercial we laughed it off, and knew we'd go with with those backup hard copies for the rest of the newscast.  Between newscasts our I.T. guys took a look, figured it out and took care of the problem...no big deal.  The only big deal is that after 20 years in the business, and thousands of hours of newscasts at the anchor desk, I thought I'd seen every possible problem at least once.  I was wrong, this was new!

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(we'll talk again soon)




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