Nick Ross

video. audio. design. live production.

Breaking News

We hear breaking news all the time nowadays. CNN has more "breaking news," "happening now," and "developing story" graphics than you can shake a stick at. Most local news stations actively promote their breaking news coverage and why you should choose to watch their broadcast over their market's competitors. Most simply, people want to be informed. No one wants to seem out of the loop and when an organization can bring that to the people for which it matters most, that's important.

Bringing the news to the students of Syracuse University is exactly what CitrusTV News did on the night of October 14th, 2015. At 8:29 p.m., I received the Orange Alert e-mail that DPS was investigating an off-campus incident that was believed to be a shooting. The campus was to shelter-in-place. I immediately called our news director Lauren Anderson and began tweeting the information we had. Neither she nor I could do much since we were both in our residence hall, but she began making phone calls and trying to learn new information as I monitored social media. Since CitrusTV broadcasts on OTN, we wanted to get a live broadcast out as soon as we could. Sports shows were in production at our studio and OTN was already taking the Watson Hall fiber feed from one of Z89's shows. Sports was able to quickly get some news on the air by switching the feed and breaking in with our coverage. They produced the following brief update:

After that broadcast, we quickly hit a wall as the Z89 programming expired and no one from OTN was in their master control location to allow us to continue broadcasting on the campus cable system. Lauren and I met up in our dorm while sports made do using Periscope to keep bringing updates and information while I continued to monitor five different streams via TweetBot and kept tweeting the latest information we had. Then, we started getting pictures and video from one of our anchors and reporters, Hunter Sáenz, who lived close to where the incident happened. At that point, Hunter sent us the media he was able to gather and rushed to the studio. He had a friend of his stop by my dorm and take both Lauren and myself to our studio where we began to make preparations as the situation continued to unfold.

I immediately began thinking of the fastest way I could get us live on the internet. I thought I remembered that CitrusTV had a Ustream account, but I couldn't find anything at all. Then I remembered YouTube live streaming. I quickly downloaded the free version of Wirecast from YouTube and (mercifully) found that YouTube had made getting a stream up much easier than before. It's no longer necessary to create an event and set encoder settings, YouTube just listens for your encoding software (in our case Wirecast) to stream live, and then it turns on the broadcast. One of our computers in the control room was still equipped with a (unused) BlackMagic DeckLink SDI capture card. I was able to take an SDI program feed from our distribution amp into that machine and use it as a source in Wirecast. Thankfully, everything worked and we began a live broadcast.

Hunter (who was back in studio by this point), Seth Quam, and Gabriella Rusk anchored an hour and seventeen minutes of live coverage throughout the night. The YouTube realtime analytics showed that over 1,300 people tuned in during the course of the broadcast and that's not counting locations like the Hergenhan Auditorium in Newhouse where our broadcast was being streamed to several hundred students. Lauren was incredible at her job and produced amazing coverage as members of our sports department filled crew positions. I continued to monitor Twitter and tweet new information. Others at the studio worked with Lauren to call police, DPS, students at various locations across campus, and more. This is the full archive of that live broadcast:

The next day, we didn't stop our coverage at all. Carling Mott, executive producer of our Thursday News Live at 6:00 show, planned an amazing broadcast. Lauren had gone earlier in the day to a DPS press conference, so we had good sound and confirmed information to report. Max Darrow (one of the Thursday anchors) and Gabriella were live from Hope Ave with Hunter and Mike Riccardi field producing the coverage. Their report was absolutely amazing. Not only did our remote live-hit software perform flawlessly, Max broke down a full timeline of events and Gabby expanded upon exactly what a shelter-in-place really meant. We created custom half-screen graphics for the layout of the timeline of events and rolled in great video where we had it including reactions from Scott Shafer and students who lived closest to the area where police had established a perimeter. Jessica Mendelson (our other Thursday anchor) anchored the entire show solo tossing to various interviews and segments. Another of our reporter/anchors Jacob Reynolds was also in studio doing a live interview with members of the Syracuse Youth Development Council about events that tied into the situation that had just unfolded the night before. The entire broadcast is here:

Later that Thursday night, we decided to create a promo that could run on our shows and the web promoting our breaking news coverage. It aired during the Friday news broadcast.

We've put a renewed focus on our news department's coverage this semester, branding ourselves Your Campus News Leader. I am unbelievably proud to work with such an excellent network of talent, producers, and crew members who produce the news each and every day at CitrusTV. I can't wait to see what we'll do next...

Copyright 2017 by Nick Ross