How can you broadcast a newscast when there’s nobody in the studio?
Bangor television station and ABC network affiliate WVII (Channel 7) will answer that question next week as it takes a new approach to its late night newscasts.
Starting Monday, WVII and sister station/Fox Network affiliate WFVX (Ch. 22) will pre-tape their respective 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts.
“We’ll tape it a couple of hours earlier because – frankly, for the same reason there isn’t an afternoon newspaper – not a whole lot happens in Bangor, Maine late at night,” said Mike Palmer, WVII’s vice-president and general manager. “We can save some efficiency that way by sending everyone home a couple hours earlier and still have an 11 o’clock newscast.”
Palmer said the 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts will be the same, but they won’t be the same as the early evening (6 p.m.) newscast on WVII.
“It’s still a completely different newscast. It’s not going to be the same thing,” Palmer explained. “We’re going to have a different, updated weather forecast, different stories, updated sports … If it was simply a repeat of the 6 o’clock newscast, we’d just tape it and play it back, but that’s not what this is.
“The only difference is they’re live now, but the new ones won’t be.”
Actually, that’s not entirely the case. The sports report portion on Friday nights this fall will remain live because all high school football games are played at night.
“We’re still going to do that live. We’ve made arrangements to keep doing that because there are a lot of games in progress that don’t get over until 9 or so,” said Palmer.
That came as a huge relief to sports director Evans Boston.
“That was absolutely the first concern we had, but they made it clear from the start that would not be affected,” Boston said. “I’m hoping this change won’t affect our coverage at all. It’s something we’re going to have to adjust to, but I still plan on providing the best sports coverage in our area on TV.”
Boston and assistant sports director Tony Consiglio have adopted a wait-and-see attitude as to how this change affects their ability to provide comprehensive sports coverage.
“I suspect they’re less than pleased, but it is what it is and they won’t get less air time than they have now,” Palmer said.
“We’re going to have to find new ways to cover these games at night. Tony and I are talking about it with (news director) George Thomas, but this is an ongoing thing,” Boston said. “The biggest problem is going to be keeping up with other stations on those late games. One advantage, I think, is we may be able to do more in-depth stories and pre-planned features.”
Boston, a York native who has been on the job at WVII since January, says he’s anxious to see how things work out.
“It’s almost like it’s a brand new routine and it’s like starting a new job. It’ll be interesting,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Palmer said there will be things that take awhile to be ironed out.
“We haven’t done it yet, so we’ll find out how long it exactly takes to tape it,” he said. “Eventually we’ll get into a routine.”
Palmer said there was no specific trigger or stimulus for this change.
“It’s something we’ve had in the back of our heads for awhile now,” Palmer explained. “I’m pretty big on quality of life, not just for me but for the people I work with and if anything, this is a step in that direction.”
Palmer said he doesn’t think many viewers will notice the difference because the late newscast won’t be a carbon copy of the early newscast, but said there will be something on the screen to let viewers know the late one is taped.
“I don’t think this is a huge change from an aesthetic point of view. Some stories will be the same, but others will change,” said Palmer. “I mean, it’s not like we’re putting on the news from Portland and masquerading ourselves as a Bangor TV station.”
Andrew Neff can be reached at 990-8205, 1-800-310-8600 or at firstname.lastname@example.org