Q&A witrh WABC's Camille Edwards

Breaking News Trifecta Doesn't Break WABC

WABC New York VP of News talks about the challenges of covering three mega-stories — Hurricane Sandy, the presidential election and a Nor’easter — just three months after taking the job. “The fact that we had three stories back-to-back and the team was still coming in with smiles on their faces and wanting to do what they could do is, like, wow.”
TVNewsCheck,

Camille Edwards was still getting used to the ins and outs of managing the newsroom of WABC New York when the market was hammered Hurricane Sandy on Monday, Oct. 29. While continuing to cover the devastation brought by the storm, Edwards and her team had to divert resources the following week to cover the election and the a fierce Nor’easter that dumped up to six inches of snow on much of the metropolitan area.

Edwards, who joined the ABC flagship as VP of news in August from NBC-owned WRC Washington (DMA 8), is no stranger to big stories. But in this interview with TVNewsCheck correspondent Diana Marszalek, she says that the back-to-back-back events were enough to wipe out even the most seasoned pro. “It’s been a crazy few weeks," she says. "The news gods certainly had New York in their sights.”

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An edited transcript:

How was your team able to cover Hurricane Sandy — a storm of such enormity — successfully, considering all the logistical and safety concerns the storm posed?

It was just a matter of really planning, and I think that is something this newsroom does very well. Our meteorologist, Lee Goldberg, had warned us in advance that it was going to make a dead hit for us so we really knew what we were going to be dealing with.

And we were in the right spots. We were in the locations where people were hit the hardest. We have a great weather team and that really helped us. This station is equipped with great people, who obviously know the market.

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How far and wide did you send crews, and what was their workload like?

We certainly blanketed the tri-state area. In New York, we were everywhere.

We were strategic about where we put our teams. They stayed in hotels near the locations where they were live. But they worked long hours and did an amazing job and without a whole lot of sleep.

What sort of equipment did you use to transmit stories — and stay in touch with your team? Did you ever lose communication?

We used microwave and satellite and the backpacks for live shots, which was really helpful. As far as getting live shots and stuff, there are always little glitches here and there but on air we were very clean.

Cell phone and email is how we stayed in touch and how we got updates. There came a point where email was taking forever to go through and we certainly had our moments, but overall I think we weathered it pretty well.

Who was in charge of overseeing the logistics it takes to cover a story this big?

We have a core group of managers including our managing editor and ENG supervisor and EPs. It was really a group effort and we were able to be smart about it because we were getting information on locations from our meteorologists.

What were the challenges of mobilizing that effort while still being new to the market, as well as the newsroom?

It’s amazing to me to see how this team operates.... I relied on them a lot. They are experts in knowing the market, just knowing where to go and who to talk to. This is a machine that is well oiled.

It sounds like that left quite an impression on you.

It’s very emotional for me — and I’m not an emotional person. When I wrote my thank you [to the staff], I had tears in my eyes remembering how hard they worked while dealing with their own personal struggles. The dedication of this team is like nothing I have seen before.

How did that dedication show in coverage, as well as support for hurricane victims?

We did over 100 hours of local news from Oct. 28 to Nov. 4 and we were on the air for 42 consecutive hours from Sunday to Tuesday. The other thing that did really well for us was our website, 7online. On Monday we had 4.4 million-plus page views and beat WNBC and WCBS combined, and that is huge for us. It was the highest day ever in our history. We had over 10,000 viewer photos.

We also streamed all our coverage online and simulcast on ESPN radio, which really helped. And then the company raised $16.8 million with our Day of Giving.

Did your commercial load change during that wall-to-wall coverage?

During our wall-to-wall we did not have a whole lot of commercials. Maybe at the end of each hour we would use a commercial break to transition to a new anchor team but that was rare.

Did anyone on the news team suffer his or her own loss from the storm?

I had many people on the team that didn’t have power for a very long time. I have one weekend editor who pretty much lost her home. I have a Web editor who lost his car. The amazing part, the piece that makes all of us so grateful, is that everybody was safe.

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Ratings

Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 29, 2016
  • 1.
    1.6/6
  • 2.
    1.2/4
  • 3.
    1.2/4
  • 4.
    0.9/3
  • 5.
    0.6/2
  • 6.
    0.3/1
Source: Nielsen

Reviews

  • Rob Owen

    Easily fall’s best broadcast network comedy pilot, NBC’s The Good Place offers a clever high-concept premise that’s complemented with intelligent, sometimes absurdist humor. Created by Michael Schur, co-creator of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, The Good Place is a highly serialized series that’s essentially set in heaven and stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. NBC made five episodes of The Good Place available for review, and the show not only holds up, but also it improves, deepening characters that initially feel one-note and frequently leaving viewers guessing with cliffhanger endings to many of the episodes. The combination of snappy dialogue and winning but flawed characters makes The Good Place a great bet for fans of smart TV comedy.

  • Maureen Ryan

    Pitch has swagger, for good reason. It gets the big things right; the Fox drama about the first female baseball player in the Major Leagues is one of the year’s most assured and exciting debuts. But part of what impresses about the pilot is also the way it confidently strings together so many small but telling details. Ginny (Kylie Bunbury) is the first woman to be called up from the minors to the big leagues, and no show since Friday Night Lights has done a better job of portraying the internal and external pressures that weigh heavily on young athletes asked to do much more than merely succeed on the field. Pitch will likely do a good job of getting viewers to root for it. The hope is that the show won’t be an impressive, short-lived curiosity, but rather a long-term phenomenon.

  • Kevin Fallon

    In a fall TV season that’s already making a splash for championing diverse, distinctive voices in an array of projects that they created, wrote, and starred in, Better Things on FX stands out. The show is created by, written by, and starsPamela Adlon. She plays Sam Fox, the single mother of three daughters modeled after her own reality-show-ready experience raising three girls in Los Angeles following a divorce. Sam is also, like Adlon, a working actress — on shows both raunchy, a la Californication, and animated for children, like her role on Recess. It’s a refreshingly blunt take on single motherhood without sacrificing the warmth of parental love, portraying the dance between selfishness and selflessness that’s at the heart of being a parent — especially one weathering the hormonal fireworks of a household of four women at different ages.

  • David Wiegand

    The fall TV season doesn’t count as much as it used to — we already know that. But no matter how many retreads the broadcast networks throw at viewers in the next few months, this fall will be memorable because of the premiere of Atlanta on Tuesday, Sept. 6, on FX. The half-hour comedy created by and starring Donald Glover (Community), simply and brilliantly recalibrates our expectations of what a TV comedy is and how black lives are portrayed on the medium.

  • Louisa Ada Seltzer

    The second reboot of the 1980s John Candy movie Uncle Buck, bumped by ABC from midseason, has the same tired jokes you'll find on any second-rate sitcom. Too bad, because Mike Epps is appealing and ABC would be wise to keep him around for future shows, but there’s just not enough to this show to suggest it will last past summer. It also airs against NBC’s America’s Got Talent, summer’s No. 1 program on broadcast, which may make it even harder to find an audience.

  • Neil Genzlinger

    Bryan Cranston brings his Tony Award-winning interpretation of President Lyndon B. Johnson to television in an adaptation of the Robert Schenkkan play All the Way, and it’s still quite a sight to behold, just as it was on Broadway in 2014. Nothing beats witnessing this kind of larger-than-life portrayal onstage, of course. But the television version, presented by HBO, offers plenty of rewards, allowing Cranston to work the close-ups and liberating him from the confines of a theater set. Cranston’s performance is a gem — in his hands, this accidental president comes across as an amazing bundle of contradictions, someone who seems at once too vulgar for the job and just right for it.

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