Thursday, August 23, 2012

Majestical Newsroom Land

I arrived just in time for the hustle of a busy newsroom to be at its peak-an hour before the evening newscast. I called my supervisor to let me in, since I don't yet have my own name badge that opens the majestical doors. Okay, let's be honest, they were normal double doors in a normal looking office building. But they lead into a majestical land that I like to call newsroom land. The ceilings are high and showcase exposed pipes and air ducts. A series of cubicles with low walls cover the majority of the floor space, arranged diagonally across the room. High on the wall are maybe ten flatscreen televisions, each silently showing a different channel, labeled underneath. The room is broken up by royal blue pillars that are cleverly placed to run cords and electricity from the ceiling. A whiteboard shows a list of stories, when they will be aired and the reporter who is doing the story. On one side of the big room is a raised platform where my supervisor's desk sits. And directly across from that is a strange window surrounded by a curtain that looks like it belongs in a theater. On the other side of that window is the coveted desk. The one where the pretty anchors sit to read the pretty news and get paid the pretty, pretty money.

The phone rings only once. "Newsroom." I know this woman is perpetually busy, so I talk fast, "Ms. S, this is Jocelyn Langford, I'm waiting right outside the double doors."
The realization of who I am and why I am there sinks in.
"Oh, Jocelyn, right. I'll be there in one second."
And the phone clicks, signaling that the call has been disconnected.

I wait what seems like 10 minutes but I'm sure is only 2.

"I forgot you were coming. You didn't remind me."
"Oh, I'm so sorry."

She leads me to a big white couch next to her raised platform desk and asks me to wait. She then sits down at her computer and the rapid typing commences.
I've never really understood why someone would choose a white couch, and this one doesn't even have a family of young children sitting on it all day. Yet it is obvious to me that it is not a new couch because, well let's just say its not all that white. The color of dishwater comes to mind. This couch was obviously also not meant for people in slacks to sit comfortably on. Especially short people in slacks. It's too deep for me to sit all the way back without looking like I'm sleeping since my feet won't touch the floor. So here I sit on this couch, hunched over awkwardly blogging on my phone, waiting for something majestical to happen.
The only thing I can really do while I wait is sit back and listen. The common background noise is a steady clicking of keyboard keys. Just above that I can hear a what I assume is a police scanner or some other kind of news radio which is mingled with the occasional telephone ring. Every so often I hear familiar words like "VO" and "SOT". Oh thank goodness this isn't one of those bad dreams where I've accidentally been taking classes in a completely different field. I might be ok.
Ms. S. talks very quietly and bids me to follow her so she can show me the control room where I will sit during during the newscast.
She leads me behind the curved walls and theatrical curtains and past the coveted desk to a door that is almost hidden. Inside the room is dark and I almost don't notice the two men sitting there because I am overwhelmed by the computers and screens. She introduces me to two men whose names I have already forgotten and we leave. Before I know it, we are walking around a wall until we are right in front of the coveted desk. To the right of the desk is another desk with computer screens that show weather charts and I am introduced to a man who tells me about how much he loves snowboarding in Ogden. To the left of the desk is a couch on a raised platform with two armchairs on either side. There is a dark wooden coffee table in front that ties the mock living room scene together. This is the set of the Sunrise show.
An hour rolls by an it's time for me to head on into the control room. Ms. S. warns me that it will be cold in there, but I assure her I'll be fine as I'm still getting back to normal body temperature from my no-ac drive to the station. As I pass by the coveted desk I see the pretty anchors with their pretty papers getting ready to read the pretty news. There are more people in the control room this time. I settle into my chair and get ready for the show.
I'm staring at three huge, flat screen television screens mounted on the wall. In each screen are dozens of little squares, Brady Bunch style, and in each little square is a different channel. Some of the squares are just different cameras around the set. One shows the live feed of the channel the show will be airing. Another shows the Teleprompter relating the show's script. Below the screens is a long wraparound desk where two women are sitting at different computers. Each computer appears to have several monitors. The one on the left looks more like the controls to launch a spaceship than something you might find in a news station. There are hundreds of little square buttons the light up when you press them and lots of switches and other controls. The woman sitting there keeps pressing buttons in a seemingly random manner the way I used to when I pretended my old bunk bed was a spaceship and the wall, in my mind, had similar controls.

Watching the show wasn't much different from the show in our control room back at BYU. The women in the room talked to reporters on headsets about their cues and the show went off almost without a hitch. There was the occasional wrong shot or sound byte. But it's all to be expected. So how was this different from watching the news in the comfort of my own home? I got to see what goes on when they aren't on the air. I get to hear what the anchors say during the commercial breaks and how they deal with breaking news. The whole experience was fun to observe from the sidelines and not have anything to do. Much less stressful that way. And Ms. S. was right. The room was a little cold.
As I watched the newscast, I was reminded of the few times I've actually sat down and watched the news on my own free will. It was usually when my mom had it on in her bedroom while she was folding laundry. I remember wondering how they got the footage of mass production of medicine or other random behind the scene shots. Well now I know. I know because I've been there and had to get similar awkward footage (b-roll). But I can't help but think that I'd much rather be sitting on my moms bed, watching this newscast and helping her fold laundry.
I watch both the 5:00 and 5:30 show, thank my supervisor, take one last peek at the pretty anchors getting ready for the 6:00 show and went off on my way. As I walked out the normal looking double doors a man stopped me.
"Are you the new sales rep?"
I must look professional.
"Intern." I explain concisely. And I realize how nice it is to say that. Intern. I am an intern.

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