When Young Broadcasting recently finished upgrading its stations to HD newscasts, the move was not only important for the stations’ competitive position. It also provided a morale booster for the group, which had slipped into fi nancial trouble at the height of the recession in 2009 and emerged from bankruptcy with new owners in 2010.
“There is kind of a Cinderella part to the story,” notes Craig Porter, Young’s top engineer. “It was unintended, but as the group was coming out of bankruptcy, [HD] became a focal point for morale. In a short time, we completely changed the attitude of employees. Not that they hated the stations before, but [HD] helped them feel reinvigorated.”
The move to HD also provides an obvious example of Porter’s technology leadership. For starters, the upgrades were based on models for streamlined workflows that Porter had developed in his many years at KRON, an early adopter of the video-journalist model. “Most of the background for the workflows came out of the stuff we were doing at a couple of Young stations, but probably most aggressively in San Francisco at KRON,” with video journalists and tapeless workflows, Porter notes.
Those workflows also reflected Porter’s long experience in broadcast engineering, which began in 1983 when he was working in the aerospace industry. A friend who was working at ABC’s KGO in San Francisco asked him if he could help the station work on some early digital technologies. “I knew nothing about broadcast technology, but could fix the stuff they couldn’t,” Porter recalls. Porter stayed at KGO, where he learned broadcast engineering, until 1986, when he landed the chief engineer’s job at KRON, where he continued to be based after taking the top engineering job at Young.
For the HD upgrades, Porter pushed to implement the same technologies at each station, beginning with KQWC in Davenport, Iowa, which he then used as a template for the other stations. Key vendors included Ross Video for production automation; Chyron for graphics; Panasonic P2 cameras for studio and field operations; and Grass Valley for playout, archiving and editing systems.
Currently Young is also upgrading its master controls in a number of stations, installing Crispin’s master control automation and asset-management solution to further streamline workflows. While standardizing the technologies has a number of advantages for implementation and training, Porter says the deployments were also designed to offer “the stations a tremendous amount of flexibility, which I think helps with the acceptance.”
Training was also crucial. “I discovered early on at KRON that the more information you give people, the lower the anxiety and the higher their confidence.”
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