How CP24 is ready for anything, behind the scenes at the Burlington Basement Bureau

March 27, 2020

This blog post was originally written and published by Nick Dixon, Anchor & Reporter, CP24 & CTV News Toronto.

As CP24 continues to be the GTA’s around the clock source for COVID-19 updates we are changing how we operate. Some things, like having members of our team work remotely, or how we deploy our reporters and live resources, you can’t see.

But one thing you’ve likely noticed is that since Monday I’ve been anchoring CP24 from home. We’ve dubbed it the Burlington Basement Bureau. And while that’s a fun nickname, it serves a serious purpose. This setup gives us the ability to keep broadcasting from multiple locations across the GTA while keeping our social/physical distance.

So how does it work? Well, it’s all thanks to technology and an amazing technical crew that worked out a plan to make sure our anchors can keep delivering the news, at a time when more people are turning to us for the facts.

I’m able to transmit remotely using a Dejero EnGo unit. In layman’s terms its a kind of super-charged cell phone that can get a strong enough signal to make the feed from my house as clear as a standard shot from the studio. It’s connected to my camera through a cable. A separate cable connects my ear piece, enabling me to hear the control room (essential to know when to speak and when to be quiet), other reporters, and guests who join our broadcasts via FaceTime, Skype etc.

As for how I “read” the news, there is an app that enables me to see a feed from the TelePrompTer (run by a rotating crew of my amazing colleagues at 299 Queen St. West) on one of my iPads. And on another iPad I can see the “return feed,” basically what’s on air at the time, so I can see what the viewers are seeing. The iPads are on top of stacks of board games on top of two bar stools, so my eye line is as close to normal (looking directly into the lense) as can be.

When we set the remote bureau up, we set up a series of lights and a shot with a decent background of a built in bookshelf (not a fireplace, despite the many on social media who think it is) and tv unit in my basement.

When it’s my turn to anchor, I flip a switch on the Dejero, and make sure the feed is going out. Then I have to power up my camera, microphone, and lights, do an audio check, and we’re good to go.

It is a very bizarre feeling to be reading the news from my basement. And it comes with some different challenges than a typical day. My commute is 27 steps from my kitchen, including 12 stairs. My wife Britt is helping keep the kids (3 and 6) quiet while “Daddy is on tv.” As amusing as some of the clips of people being interrupted by their kids while working from home are, we’re doing our best to make sure I don’t end up on a blooper reel.

Since I’m also responsible for running the “studio,” when my lights die, which has happened, I’ve scrambled for backups, in some case while still reading the news! It’s a good thing hydro rates were lowered yesterday as I’m charging batteries around the clock as well as powering the various devices for hours at a time.

The good news is technical support is just a phone call away. Truth be told, I’m not the savviest guy when it comes to technology. But when I’ve had questions, help has been fast.

One thing I really miss is the face to face interaction with my friends at the station. We have a great team at CP24, and I miss the debates, conversations and laughs that we have together everyday. While we can connect via text and email, as all of us are now getting used to this new normal, its not the same as in person interactions.

As I’m writing this I’m watching my Live at 5 co-anchor Stephanie Smyth anchor from her house too. It’s another sign of how CP24 is ready to keep the news going so the city, and wider community can stay informed in such a crucial time.

Image credits: Nick Dixon @NewsguyNick

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