JULY 1, 2011

WKBT Weathers Epic Storm with Avid


The night before an Avid crew came in to profile La Crosse, Wisconsin TV station, WKBT, a tornado rolled straight through the middle of town. Now, early today, the newsroom air crackles with an extraordinary intensity.

Definition of a big news day

With 21 full-time staff members producing a schedule of news, weather, and sports content, a story of this magnitude has placed all hands on deck. Many will have to do things they have never done before and everyone will have to jump in where and whenever needed. Editors, reporters, and control room directors all know this will be the definition of the big news day for years to come.

“We were scrambling all last night and now again today,” Anne says, “to make sure everyone has the information they need to stay safe. The beautiful thing about what we’re doing is that everything is shared so everyone can see what everyone else is working on.”

A few short years ago, WKBT ventured into the vanguard of story-centric media production often referred to as integrated news and built its news operation around the Avid iNEWS newsroom computer system—based upon the Avid MediaCentral platform. From the beginning, iNEWS showed it could make things a great deal easier and more manageable for everyone, from journalists and bloggers to editors and producers. The system not only brought the station an easier way to search, retrieve, edit, and playout content, but the foundation of a much more powerful, integrated news-production platform.


“She may have the latest information on whether that was a confirmed tornado,” WKBT Assignment Editor, Adam Hatfield raps out to an ad hoc meeting of WKBT news anchor, editor and news director. In another two minutes, they will be literally off and running to the control room for a briefing from the Governor on the state of the devastation.

[iNEWS] allows our crew to rise to the challenge and exceed expectations in covering a story like this.


But behind them, the cornerstone of the station’s integrated news workflow will continue working the same overtime hours, allowing every contributor to not only manage, and consolidate the incoming story threads, but to collaborate seamlessly on the work they are doing. Unseen and unsung, a journalist' desktop will enable them to manage the news workflow, from script creation, including graphic references, and video preview to post-to-web from a single application. The station’s recent iNEWS upgrade will provide every contributor with the ability to identify and view all associated story content in a single view. And there is no time this “scrappy” little station, in the middle of storm-ravaged Wisconsin has needed it more.

“Many of our Avid upgrades haven’t been so much feature changes as performance enhancements,” Anne asserts, “but I don’t know what we would have done today without them. For us, today, iNEWS is the glue that has held us together.”

A swirl of events continues

“Do you want me to save the data and just kill the rest?” Sherrie Steinhauer, News Producer, shot crisply into the control-board mic.


“The iNEWS system," Adam explains, "has been really helpful to us in terms of stacking the show, dropping stories in, taking stories out, floating stories if you need to. It allows our crew to rise to the challenge and exceed expectations in covering a story like this." Both he and Anne acknowledge that when iNEWS was first installed, there were a number of challenges. For instance, it was virtually impossible to shut the newsroom down and facilitate the cutover seamlessly.

iNEWS is the glue that has held us together.


“But the Avid Professional Services Group was there with whatever we needed,” Anne enthuses, “helping us to establish our integrated news system in the most reliable and efficient manner possible."

Conducting a site survey long before starting the project, Avid support staff led WKBT through an advanced investigation and discussion phase. Then, when it came time to implement the new system, they made sure that everything went according to plan by being onsite through the entire installation process. Even when the station first took iNEWS to air, they remained on-board for the initial newscasts.

Somebody to turn to

“Nice job, real clean,” Anne complements her noon anchor over the control room intercom. "I am always so amazed at what people are capable of, especially on days like this,” Anne reflected in a moment of fleeting calm. “And the fact that you folks have basically held our hand the whole way. Even today, we know we always have somebody to turn to.”

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