MUSEUM OF BROADCASTING SEMINAR SERIES, THE: DGA: DIRECTING TELEVISION IN NEW YORK: DIRECTING LIVE NEWS {LONG VERSION}

Summary

One in this series of seminars presented by The Paley Center for Media, known at that time as The Museum of Broadcasting. This event, presented in associated with the Directors Guild of America, examines the role of the director in live television news.

Andy Halper (curatorial director, The Museum of Broadcasting) offers opening remarks and preview upcoming events relating to the field of directing.

Brian Rose (special projects officer, DGA) then moderates the following panelists: Charles Heinz (staff director, ABC News), and Julian Finkelstein (director, NBC Nightly News).

The panelists touch on such topics as: an average day in a news director's life, including meetings with producers and graphics teams; last-minute changes relating to breaking news, including Heinz's explanation that the pre-planned "American Agenda" segment is typically the only thing that airs unaltered; why NBC and ABC usually have the same lead stories; responses to "chaotic" incidents, such as the loss of a feed and Heinz's memories of an anchorman's sudden attack of illness while on air; comparisons to the movie "Network" (1976) and its infamously stressful live-TV events; why ABC News now has less time in the studio thanks to budget cuts, as it shares the space with "Good Morning America" and "Nightline"; why the director typically remains in the New York office while reporters and camera operators travel to other countries for on-location stories; and the challenges of working around audio delays from satellite feeds.

Questions from the audience then lead to a discussion of the following topics, among others: the stage manager's role in relating information from director to anchor; how scripts are prepared, typically at the very last second; Finkelstein's dislike of robotic cameras, used instead of a human operator to save money; how much editorial control the director have over their content, including why producers must sometimes "be creative" in finding visuals for complex stories; whether the role of the director is becoming redundant next to the editor and the executive producer and why it is arguably better to have fewer people working on a piece; the use of remote units for late-breaking big stories, such as an assassination, and how directors must quickly assemble a coherent story from various feeds; the need for careful timing in allowing for promos, bumpers and commercials breaks; why NBC purposefully allows for 24 extra seconds of "padding"; the pre-interview process, conducted a day or so before a guest sits down with the anchor; how cutbacks and budget changes have affected – or not – the studios' daily routines; Heinz's musical background and his early work as an associate director; why he prefers the fast-paced world of news directing to something like soap-opera work; Finkelstein's psychology background and work at a local news station in Los Angeles; why the choice to air controversial content, such as a criminal execution, is not a directorial decision; the precise roles of an associate director and how it differs from those of a production assistant; stylistic changes over the years and debate about background imagery, including the possibly distracting nature of a busy newsroom; how advancing computer technology will affect the look and production of television news; whether network news will disappear as satellite technology becomes more popular; NBC's financial decision to work with cable networks for the Olympic Games; the challenging life of a news anchor, including the lack of personal or vacation time; why the news is still "the poor child" of the television world in terms of salary; choices about anchors' physical movements between stories, such as jotting down notes or answering phones; comparisons to CNN and the "constant turnover" of their reports, compared to the once-a-day evening news programs of the major networks; the precise pacing of a new program; their views on ethics and sensationalist programming, including why they are more interested in intelligent journalism than in TV ratings, despite the danger of losing viewers to cable; differences in format with hour-long programs like "Nightline"; why early-morning news differs greatly from the evening show; and the importance of maintaining other interests while working in the busy world of television news.

Clips are also shown from both ABC and NBC news, including behind-the-scenes glimpses of the directing process and clips from various stories from recent weeks featuring Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings.

Details

  • NETWORK:
  • DATE: March 14, 1989
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:13:58
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: B:16666
  • GENRE: Seminars
  • SUBJECT HEADING:
  • SERIES RUN:
  • COMMERCIALS:

CREDITS

    • Andy Halper … Host
    • Brian Rose … Moderator
    • Charles Heinz … Panelist
    • Julian Finkelstein … Panelist
    • Tom Brokaw
    • Peter Jennings