Tim Saunders' Blog

May 21, 2010

February 24, 2012

If you watched the 5:00 news on Thursday, you may have seen me delivering a live report while driving a car.  That was not a trick.  I really was driving and communicating live with Jean Jadhon.  Given all the amazing technology that’s available these days, a live report from a moving automobile might not seem all that special.  But you might think otherwise when you consider what it normally takes for us to do a live broadcast.

There are two primary ways for us at WDBJ7 to transmit live pictures from the field, and both involve the use of large trucks.  Those vehicles are outfitted with large dishes on top, which transmit a live picture back to the television station.  We call these our “live trucks.”  When broadcasting a live picture, these live trucks cannot move.  For one thing it would be incredibly dangerous.  The equipment on top of the truck has to be extended into the air to send out a live picture.  If the truck was moving, the dish might hit a tree, a light pole, or a highway overpass.  If the equipment made contact with a power line, we could be electrocuted.


Transmitting a live picture while moving is a luxury that has not been available to us, until now.  There is new equipment that allows us to transmit a live picture, without the large live truck.  The new equipment uses cell phone technology and fits in a bag that looks a lot like a child’s backpack.  All we have to do is plug our camera into the bag and turn on the equipment.  With the push of one button, we can send a live picture straight to your television from any location that has adequate cell phone service.

My story yesterday was about a speed limit increase on part of Route 29.  During the live portion of my report, I was driving on the 29 bypass near Amherst.  The broadcast did include few barely noticeable problems.  There were “glitches” at the end of my live shot; places where the live picture froze momentarily because I was driving through an area where the cell phone service is marginal.  All in all, I think it was a great trial run on an amazing new piece of technology.

One viewer did send me an e-mail, suggesting that my report was unsafe.  In my defense I was driving well under the speed limit, and I never once took my eyes off the road.  I had a photographer in the passenger seat, taking care of all the technical aspects so that I could focus on driving as normal.

Technology is greatly changing the way we do things in the news business.  Joe Dashiell has been broadcasting from Richmond via Skype during the General Assembly.  Now that we have the ability to do a live broadcast with nothing more than a small backpack, I expect you’ll start seeing live reports from places even more unusual than just a moving car.

December 30, 2011

This weekend marks a milestone of sorts in my television news journey: ten years since my first appearance as a reporter on WDBJ7.  No, I have not been a reporter on News 7 for the last ten years.  I didn't start working at channel 7 until the summer of 2006.  The first time you ever saw me on Your Hometown Station was during my time as a student intern.

In December of 2001, I was 21 years old and a senior at Radford University.  Wanting to earn extra credits during my Christmas break, I applied and was accepted for a six-week internship at WDBJ.  I had the opportunity to work at WDBJ's old building on Colonial Avenue, just a few months before we moved to our current home on Hershberger Road.  I still remember how excited everyone at the station was about the upcoming move.  I even remember seeing an artist's rendering of the News 7 set that we use today, before it had been constructed.  Mostly what I remember about that opportunity was how it changed me personally, and set the course for many events that have taken place in my life over the last decade.

When I started my internship at WDBJ, I was at a point in my life where I wasn't sure television news was something I truly wanted to pursue as a career.  Even at the age of 21, I already had a taste of what the news business was like.  Between the ages of 17 and 20, I worked behind the scenes at another television station and that experience was not entirely positive.  I was far too young and naive for the stressful newsroom environment.  When I left that job, I had a very low opinion of television news in general.  Channel 7 was an opportunity for me to change my outlook, and that's exactly what happened.

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