It can sound a bit like a modern-day Tower of Babel. Sometimes talking at once, up to five voices deliver the day's news to viewers as close as Tampa Bay and as far away as New York.
That's the atmosphere sometimes at the skybox booth inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum for the news outlets owned by Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable covering the RNC. Sitting shoulder to shoulder, anchors for local news channel Bay News 9, Orlando's Central Florida News 13, Spanish-language InfoMas and New York 1 are perched before a huge space looking out onto the convention floor, just a few doors away from the GOP nominees' official box.
"The sharing of resources is so important because we're so spread out covering Hurricane Isaac," said Bay News 9 anchor Al Ruechel, minutes before jumping into recording an interview with Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll for playback during the special 6:30 p.m. Political Connections show.
Ruechel was among the flood of local TV journalists covering the RNC for stations across the bay area. Many were implementing plans developed over many months, spending upwards of $100,000 to re-create control rooms, editing facilities, anchor desks and more within the tight confines of skybox booths.
For local TV, RNC coverage is about more than planting the flag in a national news event — though every station has banners touting their organizations draped outside their skybox window. It's about uniting their staffs in covering the biggest local news event the area has ever seen.
"I know people have asked about covering something so many other people are also covering," said Don North, news director at NBC affiliate WFLA-Ch. 8. "But if you're a news organization, you can't assume the other guy's going to take care of it. You've got to cover the news."
WFLA anchor Keith Cate is like a kid in a candy store, brimming with information he has developed as the station's political reporter while chasing down such notables as Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul for interviews. His on-screen partner, longtime co-anchor Gayle Sierens, has a simpler goal. "I didn't want to end up on The Daily Show," she said.
Donovan Myrie, a producer hired just to coordinate RNC coverage for ABC affiliate WFTS-Ch. 28, said the station received staff and resources from other TV outlets in Cleveland, Denver, West Palm and Cincinnati — all controlled by WFTS owner Scripps TV — to help the station balance RNC coverage, Hurricane Isaac reports and more.
Even retired street reporter Don Germaise returned to help. And the reports, along with lots of online and social media material, have nearly doubled their web traffic to 180,000 page views in one day.
Heather Van Nest, anchor at CBS affiliate WTSP-Ch. 10, said trying to snag big names for on-camera interviews while leading five newscasts each day can be the biggest challenge.
"That's why we're here," Van Nest said. "If you can get in front of them, you've got a shot at talking to them."