Harvey Coverage Showcases New Coverage Capabilities and the Challenges They Bring

By Steve Schwaid,  CJ&N VP of Digital Services

Amazing. Unbelievable. Engaging.

The live images we saw from the local stations and cable networks covering the Hurricane Harvey aftermath were almost overwhelming. Technology has pushed live reporting to a new level.

Crews weren’t stuck to a stationary position tethered to a microwave or satellite truck. Viewers were taken live into the middle of the rescue and recovery efforts. Live on boats. Live inside of rescue helicopters. Untethered in military chopper zones and talking to victims almost as soon as they’re rescued. Press conferences instantly broadcast and streamed as crews used bonded cellular transmitters mounted on their cameras… units no bigger than some camera batteries.

We have truly entered a new era of live disaster and breaking coverage. But this also brings along challenges.

With this technology, everything and everyone is live. No editing, no discussion about what to show and, maybe more importantly, what not to show. Immediate decisions need to be made in the field.

The temptation is to show it all. But we shouldn’t.

It’s not always about the viewer but also about the victims. Kudos to reporters and photojournalists who knew when to turn the cameras away, including the CNN crew who turned the camera away as rescuers helped an elderly man assisting his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife into the boat. In fact, the reporter put down the mike to help.

There were dozens of live interviews with those rescued telling us what it was like and how they barely escaped, and journalists asking how their kids were coping and what their homes looked like as the story unfolded. It helped us all understand the magnitude and the humanity of the disaster.

These technologies are no longer optional. They’re a must.

If given a choice of buying a live truck or a cellular transmitter for each photojournalist, I would recommend the transmitters. Years ago, in my newsroom I was always pro-truck, but you have to get the story on the air and doing it from the truck no longer cuts it. If you have three trucks you have three shots. If you have 10 photojournalists with this gear you have 10 live shots.

But you still have to know how to use it. Does everyone in the field now how to transmit with it? Do the folks back in-house know how to use the receiver/decoders and servers and get it to the control room and your digital platforms?  I would bet that in many shops the weekend, part timers and the overnight folks lack the training and experience. Fix that now. Later could be too late.

The stations in Houston have shown us they were technologically ready, people were trained and they were able to focus on taking us inside the story (sometimes even to locations rescuers hadn’t gotten to yet).

Amazing. Unbelievable. Engaging.

In an upcoming CJ&N Blog, I’ll offer ideas and actionable steps on how to make sure your newsroom is ready.

By | 2017-09-06T14:51:17+00:00 September 6th, 2017|CJ&N, future of journalism, Steve Schwaid|0 Comments

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