ABC News Now turns to Sprint PCS video phones for inauguration coverage

ABC News Now’s Bob Woodruff introduces viewers to use of video cell phones for news gathering during the inaugural parade in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy ABC News Now.

ABC News Now relied on ordinary people equipped with Sprint PCS Vision Video Phones to augment its coverage of the 2005 inauguration of President George W. Bush.

Working with Sprint PCS, ABC News Now equipped about two dozen inauguration parade participants with video-capable cell phones to contribute first-hand accounts of the festivities from street level.

While the news service relied on ABC anchors and correspondents stationed throughout the parade route for its primary coverage, at least 5 percent to 10 percent of the material originated from the video-cell-phone-carrying “everyman journalist.”

Prior to the parade, each cell phone’s address book was preprogrammed with a phone number at ABC News Now. After capturing a clip — which couldn’t exceed 15 seconds, the upper limit of the cell phone’s memory — users phoned in their video files.

A producer/editor, which ABC News Now calls “preditors,” was stationed at a computer monitoring the e-mail inbox. When new e-mail arrived, the producer/editor made an editorial judgment about the quality of the video and whether or not it would fit into the flow of the network’s coverage.

Keepers were stored on a Flash Memory card and transported to another computer connected to the larger computer network that includes an editor and playback. The files were imported into an Avid NewsCutter and assembled into 45- to 60-second mini-reports from the parade route.

Turnaround took about 40 to 45 minutes from the moment the video file was captured till the time it made air. However, since the cell-phone stories augmented the network’s overall coverage the delay was not objectionable.

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