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What is electronic news gathering?


How Electronic News Gathering Changed the News

Although it had been around since the 1950's, videotape technology improved throughout the 1970s and '80s. It originally used large 2-inch-wide tape and required bulky equipment. Then came the Sony U-matic in 1971, which used 3/4-inch tape, and then finally the Sony Beta in the 1980s that used 1/2-inch wide tape and became the industry standard. This also resulted in smaller video cameras.

Videotape did not have to undergo the cumbersome processing of film. Although at first, editing videotape was just as difficult as editing film, this too was solved by advances in tape decks throughout the 1970s and 80s, which allowed simpler electronic editing. And, as opposed to film, videotape was cheap and reusable. Videotape also resulted in more thorough news reporting because it meant crews needed less time to process and edit, giving reporters more time to cover a story.

By the time videotape technology advanced, the capability for microwave transmission was well established (and used in the 1960s by the BBC's ill-fated Mobile Film Processing Unit). But the convenience of videotape finally allowed crews to more easily use microwave links to quickly send their footage back to the studio. It even made live feeds more possible, as in the police shootout with the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974. Also in 1974, KMOX, a station in St. Louis, Mo., was the first to abandon film and switch entirely to ENG. Stations all over the country made the switch over the next decade.

ENG technology also faced dramatic advancements during the digital age of 1990s and 2000s. Videotape was gradually abandoned in favor of digital video recording, which made editing even easier and even allowed journalists without special technology training to edit the footage on a laptop. TV crews also began using digital signals for their microwave transmission instead of analog. Perhaps most significantly, however, is how crews began using satellite links to transmit their feeds instead of land-based links. Because a view of the sky establishes a line of sight for the microwaves (see sidebar), this allowed video feeds to be instantly sent half-way around the world. For more on this aspect of ENG technology, read "What is digital satellite news gathering?"


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