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Next Step: Newsroom

Newsroom nonlinear editing will top the NAB agenda of Sterling Davis, Cox vice president/director of engineering. The station group has a team dedicated to the topic, an approach that gives the group focused energy and expertise on a variety of technical subjects.

"We have a team looking at newsroom editing, graphics, that sort of thing," he says. "The expert groups get smart about a given topic year round, and NAB is an extension of that."

A couple of the stations are slated to convert their entire news operation to nonlinear editing, but others will install only starter systems.

"The systems need to be user- or editor-friendly, not only for craft editors but for producers and writers," says Davis. "They also need to be compatible with our Avid iNews newsroom system via MOS interface."

The reason for the move is simple: "We're tired of buying tape machines and maintaining them."

The group currently uses Sony's Betacam SX format. Davis says he will take a look at Sony's new optical disk format—not to buy but just to look. "A new format certainly bears watching to see if it will be worthwhile or not. I'm sure it may be worthwhile eventually, but I haven't seen it yet so I just don't know if it's there yet."

A system that will allow sharing of graphics between stations will also be on the agenda. "We don't know completely where we're going with that project," he says, "but we do know we also want a common graphics platform as well."

Shared graphics and newsroom editing systems that can be used by non-craft editors open up the possibility of new workflows. Davis says, though, Cox won't be looking to design a single workflow process to be used across the group. Instead, station size will dictate workflow issues.

With its stations on the air with DTV signals (and its radio stations getting on-air with digital radio), Davis says, it's nice not having to spend capital on DTV. But, he adds, the group is only through round one of the DTV conversion. "Within two or three years, we're going to have to fully power our stations and change channels, which is going to be expensive."

For now, he is looking at HDTV production gear as a future interest. HD gear will come into the group only as replacement gear, and whatever other equipment is purchased needs to be compatible with HD or convertible to HD.

"At local stations like ours, 95% of what we produce is news," he says. "But, as we buy production equipment, we'll make sure that, when HD comes to news, we'll be ready."

Davis also expects to further investigate the creation of an IP-based station infrastructure. A consultant has been hired to design a plan that the stations could eventually implement. "The biggest advantage would be handling things via IP without people needing to schlep things like tapes around the station."