COLUMBUS, OHIO—Today’s TV newsrooms are increasingly being tasked with serving the web and mobile first, and broadcast second.
This is a natural consequence of the “always-on” nature of internet-based news: Although regularly-scheduled TV newscasts still matter, viewers are expecting their local broadcasters to be on top of stories at all times, and have that information available online as soon as news breaks.
In response to this online-driven reality, Columbus, Ohio CBS affiliate WBNS-10TV has radically rebuilt their newsroom. “We have replaced a dimly-lit, divided-up old school newsroom—all that was missing were manual typewriters—with a circular, multi-ringed layout that allows for the free flow of information between all news team members,” said Kelly Frank, director of news and digital content for the station, which is owned by Dispatch Broadcast Group. “The change in layout has created a constant back-and-forth between the online and broadcast elements of our news team; resulting in better content for viewers, and better morale for our staff.”
At the center of WBNS-10TV’s new digital news facility is “The Hub,” a raised half-walled circular platform, whose digital/assignment editors look outwards towards the rest of the newsroom.IT ALL STARTS AT THE HUB
Walk into the WBNS-10TV newsroom, and you might think you’d stepped onto the bridge of the next Starship Enterprise. That’s how big a departure this facility is from the desks-and-cubicles layout of most current TV newsrooms.
At the center of it all is “The Hub,” a raised half-walled circular platform, whose digital/assignment editors look outwards towards the rest of the newsroom.
Set directly against the other side of The Hub’s walls is a desktop surface that encircles the structure: This is where WBNS-10TV’s assignment-only and digital-only producers work.
On one side of the wall behind them is a 24’x7’ monitor video wall with 18 monitors. On the other side are outer rings of desks assigned to the various AM and PM TV newscast teams, plus desktop-based edit bays. (WBNS-10TV uses Grass Valley EDIUS ENPS newsroom system for editing and playout.)
All these work spaces are open to each other, as are the floor-to-ceiling glass walled conference room and news director office at the room’s periphery. The only areas that are isolated are three edit bays specifically set aside for WBNS-10TV’s investigative news unit.
There are also two rings of ceiling-encompassing 14 HDTV monitors. One faces into The Hub, and the other faces out into the newsroom. Content from various news sites, 24/7 TV news networks, and other sources are rotated across these screens every 20 seconds, so that viewers have a true up-to-date sense of what news consumers are seeing in real time.
As stylistic as this layout looks, WBNS-10TV’s newsroom is entirely functional. “The Hub is the central source for information monitoring—including social media in all its forms—and for driving coverage decisions that work their way into the various news teams, and back again,” said Tim Moushey, WBNS-10TV’s news operations manager. “We think of The Hub as being ‘Media Central,’ it is the core of our newsgathering operation,” added Frank.
Set directly against the other side of The Hub’s walls is a desktop surface that encircles the structure: This is where WBNS-10TV’s assignment-only and digital-only producers work. The reason The Hub is so vital to WBNS-10TV’s new-style newsroom is because The Hub’s staff is constantly monitoring online news sources, and populating the station’s own web and social media sites in response.
“We keep a close eye on what people are saying online, plus what’s being posted on our competition’s TV and newspaper web sites,” Moushey said. “The producers at The Hub do all of this, in addition to monitoring the scanner and other older news information sources.”
The Hub’s role as Media Central also ensures that WBNS-10TV’s news teams are constantly informed on what is happening, and communicating to each other about it. “In our old newsroom, the anchors were isolated in one area, the reporters in another, and the photographers in a third,” said Frank. “In our new model, each news team is grouped together. This makes it easy for a producer to grab their news anchor and get their feedback on what is being put together as it happens.”
Beyond being functional, WBNS-10TV’s modern newsroom is meant to impress. “We have a controllable camera based at The Hub that can be used to shoot an anchor or reporter in front of our video wall, while switching between video sources as required,” said Moushey. “This gives us a profoundly powerful informational and visual source to use for breaking news, or for special events such as our November 2016 election coverage, which is the first time our viewers saw our new facility.”
Most importantly, WBNS-10TV’s newsroom has revolutionised how the station’s journalists produce the news. “It’s not just that we have brought everybody together, but that they have embraced this new model whole-heartedly,” said Frank. “There is a new enthusiasm for newsgathering at our station; not just because we have cool new technology to present the news with, but also because our approach works so well in the online multimedia world we live in. At WBNS-10TV, we have the tools we need to do the job right in 2016; not when we signed on in 1949.”