60 Years With You – Part 3: How technology has changed news

As we celebrate our 60th anniversary, we


Ten years ago for our 50th Anniversary we talked to the late John McCullough, who was WNDU news director and anchor from 1958 through 1967.

He told us then that Channel 16 broke ground with our election coverage even back in the day.

“We zoomed so far ahead of the country in election coverage that it was unbelievable. The reason being, Notre Dame had started a computer lab. We moved it over to the computer lab, and we were so far ahead and so accurate and so able to look at trends that it was unbelievable,” McCullough explained.

It continues today. Computers bring us up-to-the-minute results from around the area, country and the world.

It’s what the news business has become. It’s about getting our viewers all the news immediately. NewsCenter 16 was the first in the area to have three tools to make that happen. The first live truck, the first satellite truck, and the first and only helicopter, which allowed us to bring you live pictures from the sky.

In December of 2004, we were able to use our chopper, live truck and satellite truck to bring you a midday airplane landing with snow falling on State Road 933 in Roseland.

While we were able to pull out the best technology, at the time, to bring you that story, we have even more now

To show you how rapidly technology has changed, News Director C. J Beutien talked about the technology we had when we both started in the business in the 1970’s,

“Mo, you remember these. This is a microwave truck and that’s a microwave signal like you have in your radar range at home or your microwave. As long as you could reach our tower, you could go live. And then we graduated from that into this monstrous truck which, you can see up there, is a satellite dish. So wherever you can see the sky basically, whether it’s here or in California, or around the world, you could get a signal out with that.”

And while we still use those units, they are big and costly and take a lot of people to operate.

“Now, in 2015, we have it all in a backpack which runs everything. This does everything those trucks do,” Beutien explains.

The backpacks contain aircards that send the picture and sound back to the station through a cellular signal. That means our reporters can grab a backpack and run out the door, no photographer or engineer needed. So the next time you see our reporters live, chances are they’ll be using that backpack technology. And that’s not all that’s changed.

Chief photojournalist Don Schoenfeld explains how we have moved on from film to the latest greatest HD technology.

“When it comes to film, when you’re out in the field you had to have the right exposure and everything, but when you came back you had several hours to process it. And then when tape technology came along in the 80’s, 3/4 inch tapes, you could shoot up to 30 minutes on this tape, you also had a camera with a 25 inch umbilical cord, basically attached to a VCR on your shoulder. Then in 1983 when WNDU started using Beta, we used to fit 32 minutes of analog video on it, and then 10 years later acquired SX digital tapes. In the last three years, we acquired the smaller cameras, half the weight, half the size, and you’re recording two and a half hours on a standard disc just like you have on your home camera.”

And now, in addition to a better and more real look with HD TV, social media has exploded. If we aren’t updating you during 16 Morning News or during our 90 minutes at 5, 5:30, 6:00 and again at 11, we are Facebooking, tweeting and posting on our website.

General Manager John O’Brien explains how all this has changed the way viewers consume news.

“Today, people’s alarms go off on their smart phones, they check Facebook, they check Twitter, then they turn on the morning news and they consume news through the entire day, and we allow them to do that because we are feeding those devices for the entire day.”

And in spite of now being owned by Gray Television, a company that owns 44 stations across the country, O’Brien believes the tradition of sharing the news with the latest technology and integrity, started 60 years ago by a Notre Dame priest with a vision, continues.

O’Brien says, ” I think you can probably see on the set we are in, that we have robotic cameras, which is certainly cutting edge technology. The way we present graphics and the way we have used graphics to tell a story has changed dramatically, and it takes a great deal of technology to make that happen.”

When asked whether that has helped us improve our product, O’Brien says, “Oh, I don’t think there’s any question, and I’m sure the viewers notice. Presentation matters.”

In the coming weeks, you’ll want to stay tuned because we will unveil another new element, now being used by the networks.

While the technology has certainly changed over the years, and also some of the faces, we are proud here at WNDU that your main news teams, including myself, Terry, Jeff Jeffers, Mike Hoffman, Tricia Sloma, Mark Peterson, committed ourselves years ago to stay with you, our viewers.

And there are many others, behind the scenes, whose names you wouldn’t recognize, who have also been at WNDU for decades.

Michiana is our home, and as many of you know, Terry and I were both born, raised and educated here.

We thank you for your years of support and encouragement, even when sometimes the technology can have a mind of its own.

And while we have been celebrating a week ahead of time, our official 60th birthday is next Wednesday, July 15th.