The Magic of Live TV
by Ginella Massa Working in broadcast news for the past few years, I've experienced my fair share of election specials. From the municipal election that gave us the infamous Rob Ford, to the federal election that brought Jack Layton's Orange Crush, and even the U.S. election that saw Obama win his second term in the White House. I've been in enough control rooms and assignment desks to know that it takes a lot of hard work to get fast and accurate information out to viewers when it matters most.
While I've never been a much of a political junkie, something about the drama of election night is always exciting. No matter how much you plan and prepare, you never know just how the night will unfold. Sometimes, what is expected to be a long night, can be over within minutes of the polls closing. Other times, a party may seem to have it all sewn up, only to have the numbers tell a different story. When I was asked be part of Rogers TV's election night coverage as a reporter, I was thrilled at the chance to experience the election from the other side of the camera. I was excited to finally be out in the field, talking to the candidates, and capturing the emotion of a win or a loss. While the thought of being on live television is scary for many, to me it's exhilirating. When the camera is on me, and that red light goes on, I feel that rush of adrenaline most people get from extreme sports. I know I have one chance to capture the attention of my audience and make them care about the story I'm telling. There really is no better high. But while I was out having fun at the local candidate's victory party, the real work was being done back in the studio. Since I only had to worry about one of the eight ridings being covered, I had an easier task than most. I filed three hits throughout the program without much incident -- one from each candidate in the riding. But I knew the real heavy lifting was being done at the station. I've seen the chaos and excitement of a newsroom on election night. It's all about following the puck, looking for the standout stories to tell. Producers are juggling multiple locations and reporters, watching for surprise wins and upsets, trying to capture the drama, and taking the viewers there. The uncertainty of it all means dealing with all kinds of unforeseen circumstances, and making quick decisions on the fly. Once you're live to air, there is no turning back. I know from experience that the producers and studio crew are the real unsung heroes when it comes to live television. When I got back to Rogers after my last hit, it was no different from the national newsrooms I've been in. The control room can only be described as organized chaos. Producers relaying updated information, directors calling for shots, newly arrived tapes being cued up to play back. Meanwhile, the anchor appears on-screen, calm, cool, and collected. That's the magic of live television. No matter how much is going on in the wings, the real pros never let you see them sweat.
Next time you're watching your favourite host on air, remember just how much it takes to get that finished product on your TV set. For every person you see on camera, there are dozens of people working really hard to make it look really easy.