NEW DIGS: KTHV has new curves.
In addition to a neck-and-neck race with KATV, Channel 7, for first place in the news ratings, KTHV, Channel 11, has something else to be proud of: a snazzy new news set that rotates, providing views of a city skyline backdrop, a perforated screen with the station’s logo, a 72-inch high-definition television monitor, or a view through a newly created window to the outside world.
Maybe most amazingly, the set — from design to woodworking — was completed and installed in-house by KTHV staffers.
Most of the time, said KTHV station manager Larry Audas, sets are designed by companies on the West Coast and installed at stations all over the country — something Audas said the staff agreed didn’t “say Arkansas.” Instead, the station sought input from on-air talent and staff to make a wish list of needs for a new set. Then they employed the skills of graphic artist Mike Murphy, assistant chief engineer Russell Wilson and news operations manager Chuck Weaver, who worked out a 3-D fly-through of the new set and lighting array before generating architectural plans and building the set from scratch.
“They literally designed it from scratch and carried it though the process,” Audas said.
The set has no right angles, and the entire thing can be rotated to provide different backdrops or even an entirely different set (the 6-and-10 news desk is on the front, while the couch used by the morning crew is on the back; the weather center, meanwhile, is at a fixed desk to the right).
“The curved nature of everything is what’s striking to me,” Audas said. “A lot of sets, they’re boxy. Square desk, square walls.”
The biggest physical change to the newsroom, however, was the demolition of a large section of the east wall, which was replaced by bank of windows to provide a view of the station’s Weather Garden, where meteorologist Ed Buckner reports nightly on conditions outside.
During the month it took to complete, newscasts moved to a much smaller adjacent studio, with the talent seated at a spindly steel desk that some viewers have been heard to call “the card table.”
“We shifted everything over to that location,” Audas said. “I guess people thought we had downsized.”
News director Mark Raines said that on the old set, they were limited, without much flexibility to do other things in the studio. Raines said the old set was also handicapped by lighting issues.
“This frees us up to do a lot more,” Raines said. “It just gives us a lot more versatility … We pretty much built exactly what we wanted. When you do it yourself, you can do what you want that way.”
n Still little word is coming out of KARK, Channel 4, since the departure of station manager Perry Chester and news director Rick Iler. Speculation continues to circulate among media insiders that KARK will be outsourcing its sports operations to Northwest Arkansas (and chiefly Fayetteville broadcaster Bo Mattingly), though Iler discounted that before he left the station. Little Rock media watchers think it looks like parent company Nexstar Broadcasting Group might be following the national trend toward decentralizing departments at satellite stations in order to cut costs — broadcasting sports news for several stations out of a central hub, for instance. Nexstar owns NBC affiliate KNWA in Fayetteville and two more stations in Joplin, Mo. More as this unfolds.
I’m all set.