02.04.2004 12:00 PM
CNN Election Express hits the road to cover the candidates


This year’s political horserace has a new entrant of sorts, the CNN Election Express. The 40-foot bus doubles as a mobile campaign newsroom that’s crisscrossing the country covering the candidates in their quest for the nomination.

As the race to the Democratic Party's presidential campaign rolls down the road, the contenders for the nomination couldn’t be blamed if they sensed they weren’t alone and glanced over their shoulders occasionally.

They aren’t.

This year’s political horserace has a new entrant of sorts, the CNN Election Express. The 40-foot bus doubles as a mobile campaign newsroom that’s crisscrossing the country covering the candidates in their quest for the nomination. Whether the candidates are debating, speaking, shaking hands or kissing babies, it’s likely that the CNN Election Express will be nearby.

“The bus has allowed us to do full-scale shows from the campaign trail,” said CNN senior executive producer political programming Sam Feist. “We’ve never been able to do that before.

“The bus has all the equipment and workspace we need. We can take Inside Politics and Crossfire anywhere and do the shows from the road. No network has ever taken political programs to the campaign trail to a comparable degree as we have with CNN Express.”

CNN outfitted the Election Express with three Sony BetacamSX cameras, an Apple Macintosh G5 running Final Cut Pro with 27-inch monitor, a basic BetacamSX laptop editing package, satellite phones for computer hookup and IFB, videophones with two tracking satellite uplinks to go live while the bus is moving, tracking downlink capabilities for news monitoring, a working studio with lights, mics, and enough room for a three-camera shoot, and an electric generator that lets the vehicle operate independent of an off-board power source.

According to Feist, the immediate availability of the Election Express on the campaign trail is a real boon to election coverage. “We can have ENG crews break away from the bus and talk to people about the campaign or shoot a candidate on the trail,” he said.

“We can do candidate interviews on the fly. There are times when time was short, we walked in, turned the lights on and hit play and record, and we were rolling,” he explained.

However, the bus's greatest strength is its ability to support the production of CNN’s regular political programming from the campaign trail with minimal setup.

“We’ve done Inside Politics in 10 different cities in 10 different days with very little set up,” Feist said. “The bus has allowed us to do at a very reasonable cost that which we would never have done.”

“The whole point of the bus is that it is a mobile newsroom.”

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