Breaking News Room
Last Monday, exactly 7 days ago now, Robin Williams committed suicide. Last Monday, like every Monday this summer, I was at work from 8am-4pm. The news about Williams was announced a bit after 3pm. This is significant only because it meant that I was at KQED when the news broke. In fact, one of the Forum producers broke the news.
She lives in Marin, so she always has a tab open to the Marin Independent Journal; Robin Williams lived and died in the jurisdiction of the Marin Sheriff’s Department, and they led the investigation. They wrote the press release and the Marin IJ were the first to see it and publish it. Our lovely producer saw the press release, and told us about it so fast that nothing came up on Google. (Because, as Dan pointed out, Google is an important source: “If it isn’t on Google, it isn’t true!”)
After a simple email to the entire news room with the news and the link, everyone was moving. Within about three minutes, Forum producers had determined if Williams had ever been on the show (he hadn’t). About three minutes after that, the emails started and the people walked down to ask if he’d ever been on the show. Since photos don’t exactly come across well on radio, people were looking for audio clips, which we unfortunately couldn’t provide.
We’d planned a show for the 9am hour. In fact, there were two shows planned (each 30 minutes). As sometimes happens, however, breaking news replaced the previously selected topics, and a Robin Williams show was instantly being crafted. By the time the decision was really made and the potential guests lined up, it was nearly 4pm. And, with the time sensitive nature of the show, the producers did all the work anyways. They know who’s been on Forum in the past, who they’d most like on the show, etc, without needing to ask questions, which always slow down a process.
It was fascinating to watch the process of breaking news being digested, interpreted, and reported on in the station around me, as tragic as that news may have been. I certainly didn’t expect anything along those lines when I began my internship at Forum, but it was certainly an interesting experience from which I learned a lot.