Automating the Story-Centric Workflow

HAMILTON, N.J.—Two key trends are causing a paradigm shift in broadcast news: the need to produce news stories for multiple distribution platforms, and the "story-centric workflow."

The story-centric approach empowers journalists to shepherd a news story from field to finish, including: acquiring video, retrieving media assets, adding graphics, recording audio, and writing and editing versions for different media outlets.

This paradigm shift is taking place at a time when lackluster ad revenues, budget cuts, and layoffs have decimated many news stations and networks. The most cost-effective way out of this do-more-with-less conundrum is to maximize newsroom automation and asset management to free news people from time-consuming tasks so they can produce more of the value-added content viewers want right away on their preferred device.


KPNX uses Bitcentral newsroom automation and digital asset management in its control room. "Automating news requires an end-to-end platform where all the tools are integrated, powerful, and intuitive to the needs of those working in this high-energy, creative story-telling process," said James Frantzreb, broadcast segment manager for Avid Technology, in Burlington, Mass. "Newsroom and asset management systems must be flexible, agile, and robust enough to help reporters pull together breaking news stories and newscasts that win ratings without compromising production quality."

Avid's newsroom solutions include the iNEWS newsroom computer system (NRCS), Interplay asset management, NewsCutter for editing, AirSpeed Multi-Stream server, and iNEWS Command for automated play-out, all of which can be seamlessly integrated. Avid recently introduced NewsVision, an affordable broadcast news solution based on its higher-end systems.

Avid Interplay Central is a set of Web browser-based tools that connect to iNEWS and Interplay media asset management to support the story-centric workflow by giving journalists in the field swift access to media servers to create their news stories.

Smartphone users can create and publish stories with the native Interplay Central Mobile application. And Avid's iNEWS NRCS promotes creative collaboration in news story development, rundowns, and broadcast play-out or posting online.

Frantzreb cited the role Avid iNEWS played when the small newsroom staff at WKBT, the CBS station in LaCrosse, Wis., needed to provide continuous coverage after a May 2011 tornado devastated their region.


Bitcentral's "story-centric workflow" consists of Bitcentral Create content creation, Oasis media management, and Precis for production playback to air and posting online. "Our automated newsroom/asset management workflow enables segment producers to acquire and browse media, write and edit news stories, as well as move B-roll, media assets, and finished media-rich reports between the field and station cost-effectively," said John King, vice president of engineering for Bitcentral in Newport Beach, Calif.

"The entire news workflow from field to distribution should maximize a station's time, money, and talents, especially in breaking news situations," King said. For example, Bitcentral had just installed a newsroom automation and digital asset management solution at KPNX-TV, the Gannett-owned NBC station in Phoenix the day Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot.

"Members of the newsroom had only been using their new Bitcentral tools for a few hours before this national news story broke in their market," he said. "But KPNX reporters were able to jump in and simultaneously prepare different story versions for their local news, station website, and Gannett newspaper 'The Arizona Republic,' without waiting on each other for anything. By working in parallel using shared media assets, they produced a large quantity of media stories and updates without any bottlenecks or hitches."


Newsroom productivity is often hampered by time-consuming searches for content that the news team is sure exists somewhere in their media library, but just can't be found.

"Having tools to find the precise media assets you need rapidly is extremely empowering to newsrooms," said Cynthia Parrish product line manager, Harris Digital Asset Management, Harris Broadcast Communications. "When newsrooms have intuitive search tools to find the exact footage they need when they need it, they can use those media assets to enrich the value of their newscasts and create new revenue streams for their organizations."

Harris Broadcast recently packaged existing systems into a modular, scalable solution geared to broadcast newsrooms, including the Harris Invenio digital asset management system and server and (optional) Harris ADC or D-Series automation. The newsroom solution will be shown at IBC 2011 working with Avid iNEWS and AP's ENPS NRCS as an additional content management layer.

"We've added a graphical user interface that makes this powerful system user-friendly for newsrooms," said Jason Salyards, product line manager for Harris Automation. "Users also have creative latitude to impose an automated workflow that manages media the way they like to work for maximum functionality and cost-efficiency."

Invenio automatically tracks assets according to all sorts of metadata, including geo-spatial, date/time, and content description information, and automatically moves it along the content creation and approval process.

As broadcast news organizations expand the newscasts they produce, reusing existing content becomes increasingly important. But preserving, tracking, and managing archival content are labor-intensive challenges not easily undertaken by newsrooms pressed for time, money, and personnel.

Front Porch Digital, in Louisville, Colo., provides an automated workflow that cost-effectively migrates, manages, and markets video content by transferring it to digital files easily accessible within file-based workflows.

"Archival content can give breaking news a valuable historical context that helps viewers better understand a developing story, said Dave Polyard, Front Porch Digital's senior vice president for strategic sales. "For example, showing footage of Joplin, Missouri before the May 22nd tornado hit juxtaposed with the aftermath is an impactful way to convey the scope of the damage, Reusing content maximizes the time and effort a station invested to acquire it, and reinforces its brand identity as a news leader."

Grass Valley Ignite, MediaFUSE , and HDC Robotic cameras are used in the control room at WJXT, an independent TV station in Jacksonville, Fla. Oftentimes the significance of content is not realized until a future date, or people don't really know the value of particular archival content, so it pays to have a cost-effective means of preserving it all. "One station found a videotape labeled 'Resignation/Disneyland' recorded in the early 1970's which turned out to be rare footage of then-Governor Ronald Reagan commenting on President Nixon's resignation while on a Disneyland trip," Polyard said.

The ABC station group—including WPVI/Philadelphia, WABC/New York, and WLS/Chicago—has been using Front Porch Digital's SAMMA to migrate their Betacam and U-matic analog video to digital files. DIVArchive supports content storage management; DIVAdirector serves as a media asset management search tool; and DIVApublish offers tools and services to publish content to new media channels.


Many stations want to repurpose their live news for the Web, mobile, and iPad apps to unlock new revenue streams. "But if that requires hefty investments in additional personnel or expensive equipment, it won't make financial sense, even in larger markets," said Scott Matics, product manager for Ignite, MediaFUSE and HDC Robotics for Grass Valley in Nevada City, Calif.

"With news resources stretched thin, the only way stations can add newscasts or repurpose content for new distribution outlets is through automation," Matics said. "Our user-friendly, automated news workflow enables journalists to create content for live news as well as retain journalistic control over online versions without worrying about how it will look or work on different mobile devices."

Grass Valley's MediaFUSE enables content repurposing for multiple platforms, including websites, mobile devices, and tablet PCs, with minimal effort. It handles technical tasks, such as reformatting HD video into flash, H.264 and other formats of files, and management of XML metadata and still images, all as background processes. Ignite, MediaFUSE, and HDC Robotic cameras are used by WJXT, an independent TV station in Jacksonville, Fla.

A companion to Grass Valley's Ignite automated live production play-out system, MediaFUSE encodes live newscasts so journalists can add text, trim content, and add images, among other creative tasks. Matics said, "To be competitive, journalists need to be able to publish breaking news online, even when the station's web team has left for the day."

To realize a return on investment on newsroom and asset management solutions, Avid's Frantzreb said that "it pays to look for systems that are streamlined, feature-rich and purpose-built for broadcast news. And choose vendor/partners who stand behind you and share a stake in your success."

Claudia Kienzle