Background noise

images1Lord help anybody watching WGCL’s news in the last two weeks.  Nothing wrong with the content, as local TV news products go.  You see decent stories.  You see some enterprising reporting and some pretty solid investigations.  You endure the Restaurant Report Card only once a week, thankfully.  You’ve accepted Dagmar as a pleasant part of the landscape, and learned to tolerate her occasional winks and her kindergarten-teacher voice (a characterization first astutely made by an LAF commenter).  You’ve also learned that, like Kanye, Dagmar no longer needs a last name.

But the perennial also-ran has morphed again.  It’s producing HD video.  It’s changed its handle to “CBS Atlanta,” partly a result, we suspect, of audience research that gave low points to the “46” part of its previous brand.  And it has ramped up its newscast stylistically.  This bothers us, but much about local TV news bothers us.

Leapfrogging the Fox 5 News Edge formula, a CBS Atlanta newscast on WGCL is an audio tech’s nightmare.  Every video transition requires a low “kwommm” sound effect.  Every super requires a “swoosssh.”  We suspect even the untrained masses have noticed.  We suspect they find it jarring, especially when the anchors are reading a succession of quick v/o’s.  And there are no exceptions, apparently, except during weather.  Don’t want to drown out the whispery voice of Dagmar, one reckons.

Fox Sports broke the mold when it introduced gratuitous sound effects into its baseball broadcasts. Skip Caray made fun of it.  But after a few years, the sound effects became part of the background.  It’s no longer a big deal.  Perhaps one day, we’ll grow accustomed to all the noise in local newscasts.  But right now, it’s an unwelcome cacaphony.

Meantime, WGCL had a viewer contest to name its helicopter.  The name, one presumes, should be consistent with its new brand.  The winner:  CBS Atlanta Sky Eye.  Too bad.  Here’s our suggestion:  SkyThumper.  That name would salute the racket helicopters create while their news crews on the ground are trying to record audio.  And it’s consistent with CBS Atlanta’s new brand, which is all about the background noise.

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About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

7 thoughts on “Background noise

  1. Steve

    And, WGCL stopped using the annoying practice of introducing every person as “CBS46’s” so-and-so, even if they were in LA, London, Baghdad, wherever, trying to make it sound like their own staff was everywhere.

  2. Andy Funk

    Those sound effects don’t have to be a problem for the audio operator if they’re integral to the video. These days the boxes that playback supers, full-screens, and other effects also playback audio. The audio operator can just set the fader for that audio to the correct position and leave it open — no further adjustments needed during the broadcast. (Well, unless they need to clip the associated audio, say for a story about a funeral…)

  3. scott hedeen

    I like it. Think of the newscast as a performance piece. A journalistic In A Gadda Da Vida perhaps? One piece leading to another… unraveling like an onion to reveal the center core of beautific news genius. The noise is all part of a bigger picture.

  4. Jay

    The day you posted this entry, WGCL’s 4pm newscast had audio with a green screen, black screen and test pattern for the first 10 to 15 minutes. It might have something to do with their HD transition. If so, it was a little smoother than WAGA’s transition awhile ago.

  5. Don B Johnson

    Pleaseeeeee take away the “swish bang” and give me more NAT SOUND people or you will be working the over night shift….

  6. Dirty Laundry

    One thing they got right during that botched 4pm newscast: “Customer Relations”
    The poor guy who answered the phone (I had to call after 10 minutes b/c I couldn’t believe they were still only giving us audio) – and I could hear the panic in his voice, was actually NICE. And, yes, they knew about the problem, and yes thanks for calling/watching, etc. I was impressed! Seems like the only people who didn’t know they were having problems were the anchors. They carried on as usual. Stephanie even said during one story, “take a look at …” which is why I called, ’cause it seemed like they didn’t have a clue!


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