In 2010 we were still doing the news the same way. Reporters and photographers would leave the newsroom around 10 am in search of a great story. We’d shoot interviews and B-roll, come back to the station and write and edit. The only live shots were the ones using a live truck. Two or three people (if you were lucky) to set up, light and broadcast from the field.
That’s how it had always been done and that’s how we thought it would always be done.
In 2005, WKRN in Nashville began knocking down the walls of how it had “always been done” and gave everyone a camera. Photographers became ‘video journalists’, reporters became ‘video journalists’. Instead of 6 crews, there were 12 or 13. It was like in the newspaper business when everyone had a pencil.
Still, the demands of the job stayed the same. Every day we left the station after the morning meeting to “do a story” for the evening newscasts. Sometimes we did live shots, sometimes we were live in the studio and sometimes it was just the package which, for non-TV types, is a fully produced story with interviews and B-roll that could stand alone.
In 2008 I began to experiment with U-Stream. It was one of the first live-streaming apps for smartphones. It allowed anyone to go live with video and publish directly to the internet. Keep in mind, this was before Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Skype and even those LiveU units TV stations were buying so that reporters could go live using only a camera and a backpack that felt like it weighed 500 pounds.
Anyway, I was trying to convince my producers that we could broadcast live through an app on a smartphone. “Yeah…that’s not going to work” was the response.
Then May 1st, 2010 happened. The great flood that hit Middle Tennessee and devastated thousands of homes and lives. You might remember the footage of a schoolhouse floating down an interstate or the historic Grand Ole’ Opry going underwater.
I was out with my camera covering homes that were destroyed either by the water or uprooted trees. No live truck or photographer, we were all shooting the stories, driving back to the station and getting the footage on the air. I came upon a home where a large tree had fallen and crushed it through the living room. The firefighters had just arrived and the homeowner was in the yard crying.
I called into the station and said “I’ve got a live picture on U-Stream if you want to take it.”
In a matter of a few minutes, WKRN made local broadcast history.
I used the station phone to shoot the video with the U-Stream app and used my personal phone to call in to talk live with the anchors. Our production team popped up the video and the anchors tossed to what was the first live-streamed video report. The homeowner talking over the live-streaming video.
It doesn’t sound like much now, but nearly a decade later I’m proud to say it was the first in Nashville.