Lights, Camera, Silence – Behind the Scenes of KSAT 12 News Station

Hours before the cameras even start rolling, Leslie Mouton and Mark Austin arrive at KSAT 12 around 4:00 a.m. to debrief with Ellie Holmes, the producer, about what they’re going to do for the 7:00 a.m. show. Holmes sets up their markers so the anchors know where and when to go. She is the expert when it comes to visual elements. The studio is dark and empty. Besides Austin, Mouton, and Holmes, the only other person there is the receptionist.

The KSAT 12 building is in the middle of downtown, so they take security seriously. Just getting into the building is a whole process. First, press the button. Next, answer the receptionist. Once inside, the receptionist is sitting at her desk with a smile on her face and she greets with a nice cheerful hello. The next door is the entrance to the newsroom. The aroma of coffee overwhelms the newsroom. Coffee is what keeps everyone awake. Usually the room would be hectic because there is always something to be done. However, during the morning everyone is out reporting, interviewing, or searching for a new story so the room is empty.

The sunlight gleams through the big windows. This makes the building look the opposite of dark and dreary. The building looks lively especially when there are people working in the newsroom. They are all constantly going. The red ceiling and concrete floors give the building a comfortable yet kitschy look. There are also bright lights everywhere, especially in front of the desk that is used for show. Lighting is crucial while on camera.

It’s thirty minutes until the 9:00 a.m. show. It’s time for Leslie and Mark to go back to the makeup room to touch up their hair and makeup. Her eyeshadow is blended well. No hair frizz in sight. She’s wearing an orange shirt, white jeans, and tall brown wedges. Not the typical anchor outfit. Mark is wearing a suit where his jacket and pants match perfectly. No wrinkles. Once every shiny spot is blotted, it’s time to head out on set. One last look in the big mirror before entering the set. People are hustling, yet they are not stressed. They are placid. However, there is still tension felt throughout the station because everything has to be perfect. Everyone in the room is frantically on their iPad or iPhone to making sure there is no breaking news to report on. Ten minutes until the show.

It’s time for the second show of the morning: the 9:00 a.m. show. Leslie and Mark have five seconds. Five. Four. Three. Two. Red light is on. Everyone in the studio is silent. Leslie and Mark immediately have big smiles on their face. Then with a crisp and clean voice, Leslie says, “Good morning, San Antonio.”

The studio is filled with television screens. In fact, the entire back wall is just one big screen. That wall is where the actual newscast is shown for the anchors to see. There are six smaller television screens over to the side, next to the set. Those show other news channels like Good Morning America or other national newscasts so that way the anchors can watch them while on commercial break. Of course the most important screen is the teleprompter. The teleprompter is behind the camera and shows the anchors exactly what to say and at what pace. It even tells them how to react after they speak. The man that’s in charge of the teleprompter is sitting off to the side making sure that the teleprompter is constantly going so the anchors never get stuck because they do not want to make a mistake on live TV.

In the control room behind the studio, Ellie is making sure everything goes right. The control room is drastically different than the studio. First of all, there is no silence. Ellie and Kai, the editor, are cracking jokes in the back. Kai has control over everything with just the push of a button. The red one makes the whoosh sound. Chris is in charge of the robo cams. Unlike, Ellie and Kai, Chris doesn’t talk much because he’s too focused. The interns are sitting out of the way, off to the side, waiting for someone to give them a job. The clicks of their computer mouses are constant because they’re always doing something. Time for a commercial break. Kai counts down to commercial then takes off his head phones. Ellie starts checking her emails or her Instagram. Even when they are off-air, they have to continue working. The only break they get throughout the day are during commercial breaks.

Back in the studio, Leslie, Austin, and meteorologist Justin Horne are talking about the news they just reported on. Even when they are off camera, they are talking about the news. Commercial break is up. Time to count down again. Five. Four. Three. Two. Red light. Silence again. Leslie smoothly says, “Welcome back.” The anchors talk as if there is no script because the conversation is so effortless that the audience cannot even tell that there is a teleprompter.

Leslie and Mark end the show with “Thank you for joining us, we’ll see you next time.” That is Kai’s cue to push the button as he says “And we’re out.”  

Ellie claps her hands for everyone in the control room. “Good show everyone.” The show may have ended, but that does not mean the work has.

Back in the newsroom, there are more people around because now that the morning shows are over, it’s time to write stories for the website. Half of the room is filled with people frantically typing while taking small sips from their coffee cups in between paragraphs. The other half is filled with people constantly answering the phone. Leslie and Mark take a seat at their desks. Leslie kicks off her brown wedges.

Everyone’s desks are cluttered, but nicely decorated. Most of them have awards pinned up on their bulletin boards. Some of them also have pictures of their family. What differentiates their desks from the desks of people who work in other office settings is that each desk has large Mac computers. They use their computers for every part of their job. They can edit on them using the expensive editing software. Or they can write stories on them. Or even both at the same time. The advanced technology is mesmerising. The work ethic of the people working here is also mesmerising.

The inside of KSAT 12 gives an entirely new perspective on what kind of work actually goes into every part of the news from newscasts to articles. Watching the news from the living room television is nothing like watching the news from a chair inside the studio or control room. Behind the scenes in the newsroom, the reporters type up stories before they are edited and published. This may be an odd and unordinary way to watch the news, but seeing things from the outside looking in makes a difference. Whoever said the news is boring has clearly never seen the news happen behind the scenes.

This was originally written in May of 2017 for an Advanced Composition Course at St. Mary’s University.


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