January 6th, 2009
09:56 PM ET

90 seconds to air, and the anchor can't hear!!!

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/08/art.tpm.jpg]
Brooke Turnbull
AC360° Technical Production Manager

Maybe you've heard that saying about ducks - all calm and serene above the water, but paddling like hell underneath. That’s a good way to describe AC360 the other night.

With Anderson half way across the world - near the Israeli border in this case - things tend to get a lot more complicated. There’s a lot of equipment, personnel, and time that goes into making sure things go smoothly. And luck. And sometimes things don’t work according to plan.

Monday night, there wasn’t much that went according to plan. Five minutes to air we couldn’t get audio from Israel, as the wireless microphone decided to take the day off. We went to a backup microphone, something we call a boom mic, because it's held up in the air on a long "boom" pole, and got that working just a couple minutes to air.

So all is well and we’re going to start the show without any problems... right? Not exactly. About 90 seconds before the show was to begin we lost all communication with Anderson. And that tends to cause quite a bit of anxiety, because it’s never easy to do a show when your anchor can’t hear anything.

We use phone lines to talk to Anderson when he’s in the field, and he hears us through an earpiece. The phone lines we use are similar to your cell phone lines and, as you know, they tend to drop calls at the most inconvenient moments. And that's just what happened. Our primary and back up lines to Israel had dropped out 90 seconds before the show was to start. What we did do to get on the air? Well we yelled at our producer Charlie who at that point was the only person we had communication with and told him to cue Anderson - that is, point at Anderson and tell him to go!!! It worked, kind of. Did you notice the slight delay?

Anderson was able to start the show and tell us the news. It was a few minutes before we were able to get the phone lines working, but it felt like a lot longer. We got everything on the air intended, but we had to change the order around at lot at the last moment because of communications problems. If you saw the show, you probably noticed that we started with Gaza, went to the economy, went back to Gaza, and then went back to the ecomomy. Did that seem fine to you, or a little strange? In case it seemed strange, I just thought you'd like to know why.

At one point, Anderson skipped the tv equipment and talked with us by cellphone using a regular, everyday earpiece like the kind you might use on the street. There might have been a better way to do it, but I don't know what it would have been. Sometimes you just have to wing it and do the best you can. Anderson did admirably. Did you hear voices in the background or see people scrambling around in the shadows? That was us trying to fix the problems.

And maybe you noticed Anderson taking a couple of seconds before answering a question. That was a two-fold issue. One being he couldn’t hear the program at first, and the other being the time it takes his satellite signal to travel from Israel all the way back to our control room in New York. Not quick. And not a lot of fun for anyone - until you look back at it afterward.

These problems do not make for an easy working environment. It’s my job to make sure things work. I’d like to say that some days go better than others and tonight will be a smooth affair. Maybe I’m a pessimist or maybe I’m a realist, but I’m not counting on it. I like to think it’s good when things break or malfunction. Keeps folks on their toes. I’m not sure Anderson or our producers and director in the control would agree. Tune in tonight. Hopefully you won’t hear anyone drowning.

Filed under: Behind The Scenes • Brooke Turnbull
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Michelle Fonthill,Ont

    It's always amazing how you can communicate with CNN corosponants all over the worlsd .thanks goodness you fixed the problem ohterwise AC would have had to have used his cell phone to do the news .It is not an easy task you have to keep things moving along quickly .

    January 7, 2009 at 10:43 am |
  2. Jude

    Wow, who knew there were so many things that could go wrong in your efforts to produce your usual smooth and high quality show. When the whole thing falls apart, that's when the folks with the most experience are usually at their best. Just goes to show ya they are worth their money although we'll never meet most of them on the air.

    January 7, 2009 at 7:54 am |
  3. Martina Ilstad Germany

    Hey Brooke
    I missed that AC 360 that time.I think jou do a verry good job, at least jou did it on this night,not easy work in a warzone.You risk your life to inform poeple like me.Dont worry about these problems,they happen when poeple work.It makes you verry human

    January 7, 2009 at 7:35 am |
  4. Maria_Isabel, RJ, Brazil

    Today, I heard on the radio, two good news. You confirm?
    "Under pressure, Israel will allow passage of humanitarian aid in Gaza" and "Israel begins' daily truce 'for three hours in the bombing."
    It's always good to begin the day with good news!
    Good day to all!

    January 7, 2009 at 6:50 am |
  5. julie ,p.i.

    right attitude:Just Wing it! it sure looked fine from my end! wouldn't have thought you had those glitches! I figured the delay was due to the satellite feed!It does sound like a"monumental task" to try to run the show smoothly! You sure seem to be doing a great job!

    January 7, 2009 at 4:41 am |
  6. L Griffiths Australia

    Brooke that is so funny, I can imagine the person standing behind the camera pointing when Anderson has to speak. Congratulations to the team for pulling it together.

    January 7, 2009 at 4:22 am |
  7. Lilibeth

    Hi Brooke, I did hear people sort of yelling in the background, but I didn't realize it was you guys trying to fix problems. I also noticed a delay before Anderson's responses, and yes, I've seen this happen before so I wasn't surprised at that. But you could have fooled me when you said you were having problems. You all handled it extremely well! Anderson looked calm and confident. Keep up the good work, all of you!

    Edmonds, Washington

    January 6, 2009 at 11:52 pm |
  8. Philoan Tran - Houston

    LOL! But we the audience really couldn't tell as to the technical difficulties – good job of camouflage.

    January 6, 2009 at 11:15 pm |
  9. Rikki, Fargo, ND

    I did notice some oddities with the show last night...but they were very minor! You did an excellent job in what sounds like a very flustering situation!

    January 6, 2009 at 11:07 pm |
  10. Maureen

    I was just wondering who was getting in a car because I kept on hearing the beeping on the car alarm thing. That was kind of anoying.

    January 6, 2009 at 10:56 pm |
  11. Pati Mc

    Expect the worst, hope for the best. Good way to go.

    I did notice that Anderson had what looked like a cell earpiece last night part way through the broadcast- thought maybe he had to go to a sat phone. Figured the delays were due to sat delays, no big deal.

    You guys did a fine job. I am sure that only we total CNN, 360 junkies noticed anything amiss. You guys covered it well, very well.

    Lord, I cannot imagine what Anderson was thinking when it was almost time to go live and he could not hear. Talk about your consummate pro. Really, that goes for all of you. Keeps you on your toes, for real. Yeesh.

    Thank you for sharing the behind the scenes. Very interesting stuff. Hang in there the rest of the week. We will all hope the best for you guys. Tell the gang in the ME to keep their heads down.

    January 6, 2009 at 10:47 pm |
  12. Amanda Walton

    Well Brooke from an everyday watcher of the program I knew something was a bit off last night and I can only imagine with an audience that you have, it must have been chaos but I have to say to those of us not trained to know something is amiss, everything seemed to go just great. Things could have been worse, a bomb could have dropped a bit to close and made Anderson flinch. I did hear a whistle every once in a while and since I'm surround sound in my bedroom and in the middle of the forest, I was getting a bit freaked out until I watched the repeat at 1pm after Larry King and realized it was coming from your program. For two hours I was looking around outside my window going, what the???

    All's well that ends well.

    Stay Safe and to the viewers, you guys do an excellent job

    January 6, 2009 at 10:30 pm |
  13. Annie Kate

    I didn't notice any glitches and I didn't think anything about the order of the program. It was nice mixing it up; made me pay more attention. Problems aren't fun but it sure is rewarding when you get them fixed especially on time and keep things on track. You'all did real good.

    January 6, 2009 at 10:20 pm |