Remote control: CBS 2 tests emergency newscast from the street

Brad Edwards (March 24, 2020)

While all news media are practicing social distancing and adapting to working outside the office, WBBM-Channel 2 went a step further Tuesday. The CBS-owned station originated its entire 5 p.m. newscast away from its Loop newsroom, studio and control room.

“We are doing this as a test in [the] event we would not have access to our building due to COVID-19 or some other problem,” tweeted John Dodge, digital director and executive producer at CBS 2.

Just outside the station’s office and studio complex at Dearborn and Washington, news anchor Brad Edwards stood alone with a note pad on a music stand, as four CBS 2 news trucks parked nearby functioned as a makeshift production center, control room and satellite uplink.

“We are outside today as a practice — a dry run if you will,” Edwards told viewers at the top of the al fresco newscast. “If COVID-19 necessitates that we evacuate the premise and take the show on the road, that’s what we’re practicing today. The most important thing is that we continue to serve as a conduit for critical information to you.”

Although the half-hour local newscast at 5 p.m. was abbreviated by CBS News coverage of a White House briefing, the experiment came off without a hitch. Dodge credited news operations manager Rick Kramer and other “amazing people [who] worked very long hours.”

Reporter Megan Hickey documented the setup for the real-life drill in a Facebook Live post. (Here is the link.) “It’s a little bit louder and little bit more chaotic than the anchors and reporters in the studio are used to,” she said.

Earlier Edwards tweeted: “I work with exceptional people. @CBSChicago took a forever fossilized bricks and mortar newsroom and made it virtual, virtually overnight.”

CBS 2 Chicago (Photo: Dana Kozlov/Twitter)

Tuesday’s comment of the day: Scott Knitter: Thanks for the update on CBSN Chicago. I often fire up the CBSN channel on Roku to get a news update and wonder why Chicago isn’t among the cities that have a local version.