(From Marc Koslow, TODAY Producer)
When a producer actually puts together a television story - after all the reporting and the interviewing and the shooting - the backbone of that story, the starting point of the editing process, is the track. The track is the reporter's narration, the words you hear that tell the story. 99-percent of the time, the track is edited first - then the interviews are put in - and last the pictures.
At the risk of sounding like my grandfather, in the old days (my grandfather used to say that a lot) there were just a couple of ways to get the reporter's track back to the studio for editing if he or she was out in the field. Here in Washington we had special high quality phone lines set up at major locations like The White House, The Capitol, and The Supreme Court, that would allow reporters to track from there. If they were pretty much anywhere else, the video crew would record the track and send it back to the studio any way they could. Sometimes they'd use satellites or microwave transmitters - other times, they'd just put it on a plane or a bus and ship it back (not real great for those fast breaking stories). All that so viewers didn't have to listen to television reports that were tracked over a regular old phone line and sounded like they came from Mars.
Fast forward to today. Digital technology has now drastically changed the way we get and work with tracks. We still have lines at the studio, of course, and at places like the White House and The Capitol, but now we have options.
Several Washington reporters have special setups in their home that allow them to track right from there. This is especially useful for Today Show reports that break or change overnight as in: "Hi (Kelly, Andrea, Mik, Pete, Kevin) I know it's 3:00am and I'm sorry to wake you, but the five inches of snow you reported in your story has now turned to two feet and we need you to make the change."
We also have special gear that allows reporters to track over the internet which means they can be anywhere. As long as they're able to connect to the net, they can track their story as in: "Hi (fill in the name) I know it's 3:00am and I'm sorry to wake you while you're on vacation at your mother's house, but the five inches of snow...." You get the idea.
The quality is amazing. I would challenge anyone (short of a team of audio specialists) to be able to tell which stories are tracked right here at the studio and which are tracked somewhere else.
For us this means a great deal more flexibility. For viewers it means faster and more accurate news reports. And for our intrepid reporters and their families vacationing at their mother's house it could mean, on occasion - RARE occasion - an interrupted night's sleep. Sorry mom.