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MSNBC meltdown

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Lester The Nightfly
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MSNBC meltdown

Post by Lester The Nightfly » Thu Feb 25, 2021 12:02 am

Say what you will about the network and reporters but they ARE professionals. Apparently tonight (2/24) their main control room went the way (as Brian Williams explained it) of parts of the Texas electric grid and completely went down for the 11:00 broadcast.

When Laurence O'Donnell threw it to Williams for the 11 o'clock, we were greeted with an image of Williams doing what anchors do prior to the tally light being lit, which was not much of anything. This went on for about a minute, then they threw it to a camera in the newsroom where someone I would describe as a standby staff announcer took the reins for a moment before going to commercial. When they came back, the staffer read a few stories then broke to commercial again.

This time when they returned Laurence O'Donnell was back on air and proceeded to deliver a few more stories. Back from that commercial break and we once again had Williams, who went on to explain the control room went down, all the feeds for that night's guests were lost and his IFB was gone as well. He also said there would be a little something extra in O'Donnell's paycheck this week for covering an additional 23 minutes of network airtime.

Eventually with the use of a speakerphone as IFB and systems slowly restored, they managed to cobble together a broadcast and hit the mark getting out. As I said, regardless of what you think of Williams, if I'm a network exec or EP, there aren't too many folks I'd rather have sitting in the big chair if the technical wheels completely fall off a national broadcast right when you go to air.



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Calvert DeForest
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Re: MSNBC meltdown

Post by Calvert DeForest » Thu Feb 25, 2021 8:30 am

What you describe reminds me of network TV coverage of the JFK assassination (which is all available on YouTube). The networks were clearly unprepared for such an event, and had to scramble to make things work. Walter Cronkite at CBS had to use an audio booth with a slide to break the initial bulletins as the camera normally used in the newsroom had been moved. Even after they located it, it took 20 minutes to fire up the tubes and do the calibration.

Over at NBC they had difficulties patching Robert McNeil's phone audio from Dallas. At first they tried attaching an amplifier speaker to the handset, which only produced feedback squeal. Frank McGee ended up repeating McNeil's report sentence-by-sentence from the New York studio until they could finally get the Dallas phone feed patched. After a few failed attempts with some nasty feedback loops, they were able to establish a video feed for live reports from WBAP-TV, NBC's Dallas affiliate.

ABC's main anchor Ron Cochran was out to lunch when the news broke, and a backup reporter had to anchor until they could reach Cochran and call him back in. The studio set wasn't prepared, so they set a podium up in a corner of the studio with a disconnected teletype machine in the background (they finally covered it with a curtain).

Although it was a technical nightmare to start, the networks did an impressive job pulling things together and working out the kinks as the tragic day progressed, especially given the limited technology they had to work with at the time. Suffice to say there were a lot of changes in protocol that came out of the experience. Cronkite, for instance, insisted that the camera in the CBS-TV newsroom be stationary and hot at all times from that day forward. I would guess that there were also major updates in the patching systems of the networks to insure feeds could be routed to air quickly should the need arise.


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tapeisrolling
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Re: MSNBC meltdown

Post by tapeisrolling » Thu Feb 25, 2021 7:58 pm

I remember one of the early days of MSNBC when there had been a earthquake in CA and Tom Snyder did his show from the parking lot.
Another time when there was a fire in the NJ HQ and Snyder did a 6 or 7 hour gig from LA filling the time with anyone who wandered in the studio. At one point a piano player from a restaurant down the street even dropped in to play requests.
Times like that the real pro's shine.



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rugratsonline
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Re: MSNBC meltdown

Post by rugratsonline » Thu Feb 25, 2021 9:13 pm

Calvert DeForest wrote:
Thu Feb 25, 2021 8:30 am
What you describe reminds me of network TV coverage of the JFK assassination (which is all available on YouTube)...

Over at NBC they had difficulties patching Robert McNeil's phone audio from Dallas. At first they tried attaching an amplifier speaker to the handset, which only produced feedback squeal. Frank McGee ended up repeating McNeil's report sentence-by-sentence from the New York studio until they could finally get the Dallas phone feed patched. After a few failed attempts with some nasty feedback loops, they were able to establish a video feed for live reports from WBAP-TV, NBC's Dallas affiliate.
Furthermore, WBAP's segments were in color, as that station was an early adopter of local color, while everything else, including NBC's network segments, were in black and white, as the studios and equipment used were B&W only.



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Lester The Nightfly
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Re: MSNBC meltdown

Post by Lester The Nightfly » Thu Feb 25, 2021 9:17 pm

tapeisrolling wrote:
Thu Feb 25, 2021 7:58 pm
I remember one of the early days of MSNBC when there had been a earthquake in CA and Tom Snyder did his show from the parking lot.
Another time when there was a fire in the NJ HQ and Snyder did a 6 or 7 hour gig from LA filling the time with anyone who wandered in the studio. At one point a piano player from a restaurant down the street even dropped in to play requests.
Times like that the real pro's shine.
I would have loved to have seen that. Snyder was the best!



thekman
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Re: MSNBC meltdown

Post by thekman » Tue Mar 02, 2021 11:05 pm

Recently I have been hooked on watching Tom Snyder clips on YouTube. He truly might be my favorite broadcaster of all time.



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Calvert DeForest
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Re: MSNBC meltdown

Post by Calvert DeForest » Wed Mar 03, 2021 7:42 am

rugratsonline wrote:
Thu Feb 25, 2021 9:13 pm
Furthermore, WBAP's segments were in color, as that station was an early adopter of local color, while everything else, including NBC's network segments, were in black and white, as the studios and equipment used were B&W only.
Right you are. A&E originally aired the first 4 1/2 hours of NBC coverage on November 22, 1988. It was aired in the exact same time frame as the live coverage 25 years prior, complete with the WBAP cut-ins which were in color. I later read that the WBAP segments were edited into the replay as the NBC recording contained only the New York studio feed. A couple of the edits included feedback loops during the switches back and forth to Dallas. Whoever put it together did an amazing preserving the original feel.

Also notable is the fact that NBC's Bill Ryan and Frank McGee were practically chain-smoking on the set during the coverage. Needless to say it would be unheard of today, but nobody really thought about it at the time. Given that most of these correspondents were already heavy smokers, the added stress of the day likely ramped up their cancer stick cravings just to keep calm and focused. The Surgeon General's report, which would lead to the eventual curtailing of such practices, was still a year away.


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