CNN: Rovers to Reduce Physical in-Studio Needs

Cable news network expands on plans to create 10 one-person U.S. offices.

CNN will create a new type of reporter -- APJ, for all-platform journalist -- that over the long term will reduce its need for physical studio space as more content comes in from roving journalists on the fly, a CNN executive said in a Wednesday interview.

That’s an implication of its plan to establish 10 one-person U.S. offices that will broaden its on-site newsgathering reach, CNN/U.S. senior vice president of newsgathering Nancy Lane said.

The studio-space attrition “is not going to happen for a while,” Lane added. “There will always be the traditional news shows with the traditional journalists. But the world is changing. We have a lot of viewers on TV and the Web that are very forgiving. They don’t care if material is highly produced or not.”

APJs will each have specially equipped cars to pursue newsgathering, and their video coverage will be streamed internally for eventual broadcast via Samsung’s wallet-size BlackJack II personal-digital-assistant handheld device. APJs will create content for TV, radio, Web sites, blogs and streaming.

CNN said it employs 4,000 journalists worldwide.

“We’re going to get the ‘real stuff’ this way” from parts of the country not easily serviced by CNN’s 14 U.S. satellite trucks, Lane added. “Our affiliates have asked us for more local items because they’ve gone hyperlocal themselves.”

The APJs will be based in Columbus, Ohio; Denver; Houston; Las Vegas; Minneapolis; Orlando, Fla.; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; and Seattle. CNN announced the city expansion Tuesday, augmenting existing bureaus in 10 bigger cities.

The first four new stations are scheduled to open by year-end and the remainder by the end of March. Lane said using the word “bureau” for the APJ stations is probably a misnomer because these offices won’t have large centralized equipment.

CNN’s staffing won’t significantly increase, and nine CNN employees at its existing 10 bureaus in big cities are being asked to relocate. With equipment costs and hiring of some supervisory staff in Los Angeles and Atlanta to monitor the APJs, “there is a significant cost to get this up and running,” Lane added, declining to provide dollar figures.

APJs will also be equipped with CNN’s digital portable newsgathering/transmission kits that won a technical Emmy Award earlier this year.

APJ video is rough and isn’t presented full-screen. “It’s smaller and we put a graphic around it” when used now, she said.

Lane added that all of the feedback within CNN is positive and she’s heard no grumbling that the jack-of-all-trades APJ jobs are not prestigious. She attributed the positive response to the recognition that digital technology is revolutionizing newsgathering. APJs are a new third category of newsgathering journalists at CNN, joining general-assignment reporters and show-based correspondents.

CNN is studying whether to co-locate one-person offices at some of its 850 TV-station and newspaper affiliates, or else radio stations or well-equipped universities. Some of the 10 APJs may end up working out of home if co-locating options are not suitable, Lane said.

The new bureaus join CNN’s existing 10 U.S. news bureaus in Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; Dallas; New Orleans; Los Angeles; Miami; New York; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C.