As Bloomsday grows, coverage by area TV stations gets more intensive
By Jim Kershner
Spokane’s TV stations cover Bloomsday the way CNN covers a war.
They mobilize all of their reporters. They rent helicopters. They broadcast live, this year more than ever. And sometimes there are even casualties.
In 1988 a group of TV cameramen and photographers went skidding across the pavement when a platform on the press truck collapsed as it was chugging along at the head of the pack. With 120,000 Reeboks and Nikes thundering toward them, it’s a wonder they survived. The photographers did, but several cameras didn’t.
Then there was the time in Bloomsday’s early years when two newspaper photographers lashed themselves to the top of a moving delivery truck for a better vantage point. Unfortunately, the driver made an unscheduled detour off the course and kept driving merrily along.
“We were both pounding on the top of the roof, yelling, ‘Stop this damn thing!'” said one of the photographers, Larry Reisnouer of The Spokesman-Review. “Then we both turned at the same time and saw he was about to go under one of those low railroad trestles. We both slammed face down onto that truck. It missed us, but not by much.”
Nobody ever said Bloomsday coverage was easy. This year, it may not be easier, but it’ll certainly be bigger. All three local TV stations have stepped up the coverage a notch. This is the first year the entire race will be broadcast live, instead of just the start and finish. And it’s not just one station going live, but all three.
“A number of years ago, we would be devoting only a couple of minutes to it on the newscast and sportscast,” said Paul Brandt, KREM-2 news director. “But it’s different now. This is the biggest event we cover all year.”
KXLY-4 will be giving it the biggest play of all. For 11 years, KXLY-4 has been the “official” station of Bloomsday. They have a contract with Bloomsday in which they get official status in exchange for the proverbial “promotional considerations.” This doesn’t exactly sit well with the other stations.
“Official station? I don’t know what that means,” said KREM-2’s Brandt. “It’s a public event held on the public streets. There’s no way Bloomsday can prevent us (from covering it), even though they’ve tried.”
Brandt said that for the first time this year, Bloomsday officials told him he had to keep his cameras off the course. He said he considered taking them to court, but decided it wouldn’t be worthwhile. After all, “off the course” means only off the street and sidewalk, where they might get trampled anyway.
“We’ll have our cameras on private property, parking lots, Spokane Falls Community College,” said Brandt, still sounding peeved. “If we’d had our choice, we’d have somewhat better locations. It just took us a heck of a lot more work to find the spots than if Bloomsday people had been more cooperative.”
Official or unofficial, all three stations will be blanketing Bloomsday with cameras. Here’s a look at what various media outlets will be doing:
KXLY-4—When you’re the official station, you not only get better access, you also devote more of your airtime to the race. KXLY-4 will begin on Sunday morning at 8 am with “cut-ins” every 10 minutes during “Good Morning America Sunday.” Then at 9 am, the station goes to non-stop live coverage for three hours.
Bud Nameck will do play-by-play of the elite runners. After that, the live coverage will consist mostly of cameras set up at the finish line. The audio from 9:30 am To 10:30 am will be a simulcast of the KXLY-AM radio coverage. The audio from 10:30 am to noon will consist solely of the finish line announcer, Tracy Walters.
“The idea is to show all of the runners as they finish,” said Dawn Bayman, KXLY-4’s director of local programming. “Viewers are encouraged to set their VCRs.”
They’ll have 50 reporters, photographers and production people working on the story. They’ll have a camera on their own press truck (the official truck gets even better positions than the main press truck), on a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle, and on a motorcycle for the wheelchair racers. Steve Mumm and a camera crew will be in a helicopter, circling overhead.
These mobile cameras will not be broadcasting live, however. Bayman said that it’s just too difficult and too expensive to go live “from a moving target.” The tape from those cameras, along with tape from a number of other crews, will be edited and used on the big 90-minute showcase broadcast scheduled at 6 pm Sunday evening.
“It’s very similar to what we’ve been doing for the past 11 years,” said Bayman. “We assign people to all of these locations, and then we spend the next six hours editing the whole thing and assembling the whole thing. Then we air it like a big newscast.”
KHQ-6—Virtually the entire KHQ-6 staff will be out there working on this story – two entire crews for a two-hour live broadcast, and another crew covering the event for their regular 6 pm news broadcast.
The live broadcast will be on an expanded version of the station’s Sunday morning news show, and the emphasis will be on the pre-race activities. The anchors will be Randy Shaw, Debra Wilde and Dan Kleckner. It runs from 7:30 am to 9:30 am, which means that only the final half-hour will be coverage of the actual race.
“We’ll have Debra and Randy in the crowd as people are getting off the buses; we’ll have general feature stories, we’ll do weather and information about the route,” said Patricia Clemm-McRae, KHQ-6 news director. “The first half-hour especially is for people to watch as they are going out the door. And for the viewers who really don’t want to fight the crowds, they can turn to us and see everybody gathering, stretching. They can watch it as it’s happening.”
KHQ-6 has to leave its live coverage at 9:30 am, because of the NBA playoffs, but they’ll cut into the game to show the winners crossing the finish line and any other breaking news.
The regular 6 pm news broadcast will also have extensive Bloomsday coverage, said Clemm-McRae.
KREM-2—KREM-2 is also going all out this year in live coverage, with a 90-minute broadcast from 8:30 am to 10 am.
“We decided it would be a challenge and that viewers would enjoy seeing it live,” said Brandt. “It’s very expensive and about 90 percent of the staff will be working. This is the biggest event we cover every year.”
Despite Brandt’s frustrations at getting camera sites, KREM-2 will have cameras at the start and finish lines (off the course, of course) as well as five or six other cameras at strategic locations along the route.
The emphasis will not necessarily be on the elite runners.
“We’re covering it as a community event,” said Brandt. “We’ll cover the winners and losers, but really it’s a community event as much, or more, than an athletic event.”
Radio: Most of the radio stations in town are planning some kind of live presence at the race, including several which plan complete coverage.
KXLY-AM (920) will broadcast Bloomsday live from 8 am to 10:30 am. The anchors will be Pete Fretwell and Cathy Sanborn, with reports by Bud Nameck, Dennis Patchin and seven-time Bloomsday champ Anne Audain. And Darin Watkins will report as he runs the Corporate Cup.
Just before the race broadcast, KXLY-AM will air a look back at last year’s race, “Bloomsday ’92 Revisited,” from 7 :30 am until 8 am.
KEZE-FM (106) and KJRB-AM (790) will also air live Bloomsday coverage from 7:30 am to 10:30 am.
Press: Just like the electronic media, The Spokesman-Review will be carpet-bombing Bloomsday with coverage. Pardon that “carpet-bombing” figure of speech – The Spokesman-Review will be using a rented helicopter, but it will be used only for taking photographs.
Eight reporters will be working the course, as well as nine of the staff’s 13 photographers. They’ll shoot about 2,000 frames, of which 60 will be printed.
The biggest project is the annual Bloomsday special section, which lists the names and times of all the finishers. The Bloomsday people work on compiling a list all of Sunday afternoon and evening, and then deliver a computer record of the finishers to the paper by midnight Sunday. When printed out, the list of names is over 100 yards long, said Bloomsday section coordinator Neil Felgenhauer.
A group of editors, computer operators and printers work through the night setting the type and preparing the pages. The 40-page section begins rolling off the presses at about 9:30 am Monday. It will be available at newsstands and stores around noon on Monday. It is also included in every subscriber’s paper on Tuesday morning.
If, that is, everything goes according to plan.
“We’ve had some close calls,” said Felgenhauer. “But it always comes out.”
Saturday, May 1, 1993