(… and Drinking the Kool-Aid)

Television News Research (1980) was a venture to provide a video library of newscasters to be used by local News Directors in order to identify and evaluate likely candidates for employment as on-air talent.


The Challenge

As Editorial and Technical Manager I supervised a small video editing staff in the creation of a national video “talent bank” of newscasters – cross-referenced by region & market, as well as rated … by me. I “discovered” several news media stars who were soon acquired by larger markets (including Michelle Marsh).

  • hqdefault[1]My staff and I logged and libraried recordings of local news programs from the Top 90 Television Markets across the United States
  • We then edited representative examples of the individual newscaster’s performance onto compilation tapes.
  • The tapes were organized and cross-referenced by appropriate criteria (a rudimentary form of keyword tagging and content management).
  • In creating the compilation tapes, we also evaluated and rated the newscasters (more tagging), and produced News Bank guidebooks with relevant information.

The total task required technical expertise, the maintenance of rigorous standards, tight scheduling, and appropriate content strategy, timely product delivery and overall production quality control.

  • Our Library delivered more than 1000 “video demo reels” of television news talent in the 300 top US TV markets directly to directors throughout the nation.
  • Each demo featured 2.5 – 3.5 minutes of the newscaster’s performance (intro, story, outro, banter)
  • The library was cross-referenced by relevant attributes (role, location, market size, sex, age … plus the all-important value)

Drinking the Kool-Aid

The video “sweeps” (when local tape studios actually recorded the raw news programs in each market area) were all done during the same 1-week period in late 1979.



At the direction of their cult leader, the 900+ folks in the tragedy at Jonestown, Guyana, (including hundreds of children) dutifully imbibed poison-laced fruit drink in a mass suicide on November 18,1979.

Hence, the phrase:

Drinking the Kool-Aid

As a result, the 1000+ lead feature news stories that I edited …. and edited … and re-edited … all focused on the emerging shock and horror of the mass suicide at Jonestown.

Again, and again, and again…

Rulclas1moscone-slain-front-page[1]… all except for the an Francisco Bay Area.

Due to technology limitations there, the video sweeps were made a little later, during the week in which Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone were assassinated in San Francisco.  Resulting in …

Riots. The notorious “Twinkie Defense”.

Interesting times… I had nightmares.

The Upshot

The Television News Talent Bank package was purchased by major broadcast news organizations across the nation and resulted in more effective (or at least more automated) talent recruitment for those groups.  Several of the highly-rated newscasters we “discovered” ended up in the NYC market within the year.

This was one of the first examples I know of in which a “toy” microcomputer (Radio Shack’s cheap-but-functional plastic TRS-80) was used to produce a cross-referenced marketing database.

It was … Computer-aided Talent Search using Virtual Video

I’ll be publishing outtakes from the TCS WayBack Machine every so often.  Or you can go directly to the source: jcvtcs.com




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