TUNED IN JOURNAL: WPXI's major malfunctions

Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2007

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WPXI managed the unenviable task of migrating from one facility to another over the weekend as the station departed Television Hill for Summer Hill. Kudos to engineer Annette Parks for her role in managing this little miracle of planning, engineering and execution.

The new set looks good and the station showed it off many times all weekend and in Monday morning's newscast. The station's new graphics are also an improvement: Simple without much fuss.

But all of this is going to be for naught if Channel 11 can't get its automated production system to work properly. Launched over the summer, the Ignite! system was a mess from the start that slowly began to improve and misfire with less frequency. But in recent days it has been screwing up left and right. The 6 p.m. news Sunday began with Gordon Loesch in the new newsroom mouthing something to himself for a good 10 seconds before getting notice that he was live on the air. Monday morning was just as bad, with a camera stuck on Bob Bruce at 5:30 a.m. for a good 20 seconds while Tricia Pittman tried to give a traffic report. Then the first weather cut-in during NBC's "Today" failed to play, treating viewers to studio sounds at "Today" in New York.

At 5 p.m. Monday, the top story on a motel stand-off didn't air until 5:11 p.m. because attempts to go to TWO reporters at the start of the newscast both failed. A story at 5:29 similarly refused to play. At 5:34, anchor Darieth Chisolm read a story that didn't match the graphic over her shoulder.

Why did Ignite! choose now to go haywire again? WPXI general manager Ray Carter said the system is interacting differently with new equipment in the new facility. Manufacturer's representatives are at the station attempting to get the system under control.

In the meantime, Channel 11's newscasts risk becoming unwatchable, and I'm sure some viewers may have already given up, not ideal for a business that counts on people tuning in.

And it's not just a pesky TV critic who notices these flubs. At a community gathering I was invited to yesterday, someone there brought up all the glitches and how much they frustrate her. A professional TV operation should not look like something produced with less competence than a college TV report.

This clunky production system makes WPXI look amateurish and ruins the hard work of those who toil everyday in the station's news operation. It's not fair to them and it's a disservice to viewers.


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