Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
CBS News turns to self-contained ENG for campaign coverage

To broaden its reach and use reporting resources more effectively to cover the Democratic primary, CBS News has relied on brains, brawn and technology.

CBS News reporters have a backpack full of technology when they cover the 2004 campaign. A Sony DSR PD150 DVCAM is just one piece of news equipment used in the field.

At times during this campaign season, as many as nine CBS journalists were in the field, equipped with a backpack full of enough technology to make them a self-contained reporting source. “We built a backpack that they can carry on their backs or pull on wheels with the Sony DSR PD150 type DVCAM camera, batteries, a tripod, and a laptop with editing software,” said CBS News vice president of operations Frank Governale. “They have all the tools needed to be effective in the field by themselves.”

Since 1988, CBS News has sent off-air reporters into the field to follow candidates, but this is the first time that the network has equipped reporters with everything from audio and video equipment to Wi-Fi-equipped editing laptops so they could contribute footage and stories by themselves.

“In the past, they had to rely on an ENG crew or a pool feed,” explained Governale. “Now they can shoot video, use the laptop to do triage for the tape that was recorded and feed it back via an FTP transfer when no uplink truck is available.”

“Having these reporters in the field has given us a unique perspective on candidates where we might not otherwise have been able to cover them,” he said.

When covering larger campaign events, the one-man-band television journalist can arrange with the network for a full ENG crew or hook up with an SNG vehicle to transmit footage back to the network. But for the most part, these individuals have proven their news gathering mettle, alone.

“There has been from time to time some pretty important video that’s gotten on the air thanks to them,” said Governale.

Most of the off-air reporters worked as news producers before CBS News trained them for their solo coverage act. Now, thanks to their training, their existing journalistic skills and a backpack full of technology they provide source material for CBS News, CBSNews.com and the CBS Radio news.

“They have been given the tools that in the future we will use to cover news. Between the training and their own self-training, they have grown to really understand the equipment and get the most out of it. They have also been very good at sharing this info with others on the campaign,” said Governale.

“I was concerned that at some point these people would feel like they couldn’t handle the workload –the editorial duties with some production. But they have really come through, embracing the technology and succeeding in making it work well.”

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