While interviewing Bill Fesh, news ops manager at WFAA in Dallas, for today’s story on how two station news photographers used IP newsgathering tech to deliver live HD video from the midst of the sniper shooting in Dallas July 7, I made a passing comment about the 1987 ABC TV series Max Headroom.
In the show, the Edison Carter TV reporter character always seemed to be going live from the scene of breaking news, much like the way TV news photographers can go live nearly anywhere with IP newsgathering equipment.
Fesh agreed but said there was a much better TV foreshadowing of this trend: the at-the-time Saturday Night Live comic and now U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.).
What makes the Franken bits special and more appropriate, says Fesh, is the fact that the whole point was to poke fun at, and in the process acknowledge, the role technology was playing in TV newsgathering. Franken’s shtick was his newsgathering getup made him the “first totally self-contained, one-man mobile uplink unit in electronic news gathering history,” in the comedian’s own words.
While he said he was outfitted with a lightweight Sony camera on a Steadicam harness, the thing most people will remember is the ridiculous satellite dish affixed to the helmet on his head.
“As you can see, once again I have mounted on my head the 1.3-meter parabolic antenna which is aimed directly at a transponder on a Sat-Com satellite in geosynchronous orbit about 23,000 miles over Easter Island,” he said in one of the sketches.
I only bring this up because Fesh’s recalling of Franken’s SNL bits put a smile on my face. Maybe you’ll find Franken’s newsgathering antics funny, too, like this one where he’s reporting from the 1988 campaign trail during the New Hampshire primary race. Enjoy!