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The State & Lake Experience

14 April 2014

The team took a tour of ABC7 Chicago this weekend to get a behind the scenes look at how a sports segment is produced for a Saturday evening newscast. Sports anchor Rafer Weigel guided us through the process of putting together the roughly three minute segment two hours before airtime. Not surprisingly, there are many moving parts: logging game highlights, finding a good cut-away, picking out post-game soundbites, crafting a script that’s concise and clever, and deciding the order of the rundown.

This is made all the more challenging, especially on the weekends, because games are still going on while the show is being prepared and even aired. The anchor has to be nimble enough to keep up with these developments, sometimes even relying on his cell phone at the desk for updates.

Most of us were really impressed with a few things during the newscast. One was how meteorologist Phil Schwarz can move around the studio and even sit down in a chair at the news desk while delivering the weather forecast. He didn’t stumble over his words once, and didn’t even rely on a script.

After the show, we took a tour of the studio and went over the daily operations of the newsroom. ABC7 Chicago Director Lee Levin gave us a demonstration of the local station’s spaceship, formally known as the control room. What’s fascinating about it is that their team created an in-house code that controls graphics and the automated cameras for exact positioning and timing. It took ABC7 more than a year and half to finalize the code, which is now shared with a handful of stations throughout the country.

Overall, what we really took away from the field trip was how vital everyone’s role is for the newscast, which kept the show running flawlessly. The producer talks to the floor director who signals in and out cues to the anchors. It felt like we were watching a well-oiled machine at work. The team hopes to have the same type of results for a our show in June.