Sometimes I wish the audience could see the things that go on behind the scenes during “Weekend Live.” Live television is like a riding a new roller coaster for the first time. You know starting out that you are in for some ups and downs, but you never really know what is just around the next corner.
The script in our show is only a guideline. You must be ready to respond to the unexpected or to the many technical glitches that arise in every telecast. For example, we had Bret Baier scheduled to report from Afghanistan (search) via video phone in the first hour, but there were problems with the equipment on his end and we had to make it a plain ol’ telephone report (we did get the gear operating for the second hour.) But, my team of technicians and producers are pros. If they are fast and nimble enough, the viewer seldom notices the problems we are dealing with behind the scenes.
One of the unsung heroes of our little telecast is director and DC broadcasting legend, Mark "Bubba" White. Bubba is, well, I guess you'd have to call him a character. I have known Bubba for about 20 years now, and there is no one I would rather have in the trenches with me when there is breaking news.
A lot of people ask me about that little earpiece that we wear. We call it an IFB (search), and it allows the director, the producer, the audio tech and a whole host of other people to speak to me directly during the show. Most people think they are going crazy if they hear voices in their head — I panic if I don't. As an anchor you become pretty adept at absorbing information through the earpiece, even as you are talking or reading. There is one downside to the voices in your head. Sometimes when they are feeding information to you during an interview segment, you miss what your guest has just said and you end up asking a question the guest has just answered. I hate it when that happens.
My favorite stories about live television are about the times when everything goes wrong. This is when you really earn your pay. I will never forget the time when there was a leak in the floor above our master control room. The water was dripping directly into the rack of equipment that handled ALL our live remotes. We had no pictures coming in — no guests to interview — zippo. This is when the anchor must "tap dance" until some solution can be found. At some point, even if you are very good at what you do, there comes a point when the audience figures out you are in trouble. I have always believed that it's best to let the audience in on the secret at times like these.
Strange thing is — my research shows that even when everything is going into the toilet — and the anchor is up to his or her eyeballs with technical problems — people stay and watch. I guess folks like to see the host or anchor squirm a bit.
While I have you, I have received some mail about the amazing guitarist we had on our Sunday show. People are having a hard time finding his website. It is www.johnnyhiland.com. I hope you enjoyed his performance as much as I did.
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Brian Wilson is a congressional correspondent for FOX News and anchor of the Sunday edition of "Weekend Live."