Local broadcasters beef up security and prepare for biggest story in recent history as RNC comes to Tampa
As local broadcasters prepare to cover what may be the biggest story they'll see in many years, the preparations for the Republican National Convention in Tampa are reaching a fever pitch.
One TV station, Tampa ABC affiliate WFTS-Ch. 28, gave staffers riot training and hired a former journalism professor from the University of Tampa to focus specifically on arranging it's RNC coverage. Other stations are considering how to beef up security for the staffers, perhaps hiring guards to watch their vehicles and people while considering advice to de-emphasize station logos while out where protesters may target journalists.
Tampa Fox affiliate WTVT-Ch. 13 has de-emphasized the logos surrounding it's Kennedy Blvd. headquarters, with black rectangles placed over some signs featuring the Fox 13 logo and a sign touting its Skytower radar placed over the big station logo in the building's front yard.
Metal fencing also stretches across the opening to the station's parking garage, which has a guard shack at the entrance where staffers and visitors would enter -- a change from times past when that area was open and unguarded.
A Fox spokeswoman declined to comment specifically on the modifications, saying only that every Tampa Bay area TV station is increasing its security as the Republican National Convention approaches. She also wouldn't say if they were inspired by the possibility that protesters at the event might associate the station with the conservative-friendly programming of its corporate sibling, Fox News Channel (both are owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.)
When it comes to the RNC, the numbers alone are daunting: 50,000 visitors expected, 15,000 credentialed journalists, protesters in the thousands. Local TV stations with a spot in the Tampa Bay Times Forum have likely spent more than $100,000 on pulling together coverage, spending more than $25,000 on skybox suites, more than $8,000 to place a camera on the floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum and $9,000 for extra air conditioning in the suites for anchors to keep cool.
I wrote a story in today's Times about local broadcasters' coverage plans; most will broadcast their newscasts from inside the Forum, with some adding special programs or extending the hours of existing shows. CBS affiliate WTSP-Ch. 10, for instance, will add a 7:30 p.m. show on the RNC tonight, begin its morning show at 4:30 a.m. starting next Monday and extend its 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts to an hour next Monday.
There's an all-hands-on-deck feeling among local media, who compare the four-day event's impact to Tampa hosting four Super Bowl games in a row.
"Ir's not the end of the world," said Donovan Myrie, the executive producer hired by WFTS. "But imagine a Super Bowl weekend where (crowds) don't go home for a week."