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Louisiana station shakes up HD newsgathering, production workflow

The transition to HDTV often serves as a springboard for stations to re-evaluate their operations, re-examine workflows and reinvigorate their core business by offering a better on-air product to their viewers.

That's exactly how KTBS-TV and KPXJ-TV, the ABC/CW affiliate duopoly in Shreveport, LA, is approaching its switchover to local HD operations. With the help of consultancy Audience Research & Development and advice from Avid, KTBS-TV is using its transition to locally produced HD newscasts, due to begin Aug. 23, to put in place an entirely tapeless news production workflow and adopt the multimedia journalist — or one-man-band — model of reporting.

Like other stations grappling with the effects of last year's economic slide and changes in how viewers consume news, KTBS approached the changeover as an opportunity "to do more with less," said station manager George Sirven. "I can tell you that this station, like most others, has gone through significant budget cuts and reduction in personnel and had to find how to do more with fewer people," Sirven said.

By replacing the traditional two-person news crew with multimedia journalists equipped with light ENG cameras, laptop computers and wireless broadband connectivity, the station aims to produce more stories and better serve its audience.

According to Sirven, the station produces 5.5 hours of weekday news, 4 hours per day on the weekend, two hours daily for the CW affiliate and a robust website. KTBS also airs two 24-hour news and 24-hour weather digital multicast stations. By producing more content and increasing the story count via the multimedia journalist approach, the station will present newscasts "that are faster-paced and offer more information than ever before," Sirven said.

To get ready for HD, KTBS upgraded its master control three years ago to pass through network HD programming and prepare for production of local HD news. Following completion of its transition to DTV transmission in June 2009, the station focused its attention on its HD newsgathering and production needs.

An extensive evaluation of competing alternatives culminated in the spring in Las Vegas at the 2010 NAB Show. The station selected Avid as its technology vendor and based its new tapeless workflow on the Avid ISIS server, Interplay production, iNEWS, DS, Media Composer, NewsCutter and Avid automation.

The station's tapeless environment will make content contributed from the field simultaneously available to news producers, journalists responsible for the station's Web presence and the promotion department, Sirven said. NewsCutter will allow journalists to edit their stories, craft editors will rely on DS and the station's promotions department will put its pieces together with Media Composer.

The transition to a tapeless HD news and production workflow has triggered a complete change in mindset, Sirven said. While some in the newsroom initially were wary of the being asked to take on additional responsibilities, once it was understood that the multimedia journalist model gave individuals more control over their storytelling, many warmed up to the concept. Some have struggled "to put their arms around it," Sirven said. A few probably won't want to transition to the new approach.

The bottom line for the station is that it would be unable to meet its goal of doing more with less if it had not adopted the multimedia journalist model and the new tapeless file-based workflow, Sirven said.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.