Behind The Mic With Dan Raviv

The job of an on-air radio correspondent can be described in one word: multi-tasking. (Well, I guess that's a compound word, but you get the idea.) After spending part of the "Morning Drive" shift (a pretty important one for radio audiences) with CBS Radio News Washington correspondent Dan Raviv, it seemed reasonable to expand that description a bit to give you an inside look at what it's all about.

You can take a look at one chunk of what transpired within about 30 minutes of Raviv's morning by clicking on the video player on the left (don't worry, the whole thing is just under three minutes.) I caught up with him just after the 7 a.m. hourly newscast – five minutes of the top news that hour. Historical sidebar: According to Raviv, CBS Radio News has done an hourly newscast every hour for about the last 75 years.

When I arrived, Raviv was getting ready to do a live spot for the 8 a.m. World News Roundup, the 10 minute broadcast of the morning's top stories. The spot was a "bounce" piece -- a story that expands on something that's already been reported. This one was on the big news that morning that bird flu may have been transmitted human to human within a family in Indonesia. Raviv's spot looked at how the US was preparing for that possibility.

From New York City, the show's producer lets Raviv know through the intercom that they've got some material on tape from health officials and some natural sound (otherwise known as Natsound in the business) of family members crying. Raviv notes there's also some usable sound from medical correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin's "Evening News" piece on a lab in Iowa that is preparing for bird flu.

So, based on wires and other news reports along with Kaledin's piece, Raviv puts together a script, which he reads aloud as he's writing (I thought he was addressing me at first, but he wasn't. I got used to it.) Once all that was together, he started recording the spot for Newsfeed – CBS Radio News' outlet of news material for affiliates. The spot isn't live, it's recorded on a closed-circuit line and affiliates can do with it what they wish. That's basically how it works for CBS Radio News distribution – the content is provided to about 400 affiliates who can use it as they choose.

Raviv records the spot and edits it himself, retrieving the soundbite from Kaledin's piece from the server where all the radio sound is stored. He notes that he's "very picky" about sound quality, because "it's the only thing we have" to tell the story on the radio, he said. Television generally doesn't pay that much attention to sound quality, "because they have pictures," he said. "Some [producers and editors] are great at paying attention to sound, others don't seem to care, which is understandable."

The video above begins with a look at Raviv recording that spot for Newsfeed.

Next up, you'll see him checking sound levels (it's radio, people -- gotta have good sound) with the World News Roundup anchor Nick Young, and shortly after, he does the spot – this time for the live show.

And next, as is the nature of radio it seems, he turns to an entirely different topic: rollercoasters. The interview, with a rollercoaster creator and a rollercoaster enthusiast, was set up a while back and is intended for the Weekend Roundup, a show Raviv anchors that looks at various stories from the week in more depth. National Geographic has a documentary on "Supercoasters" coming up next week, and a publicist had pitched him the idea. With everything else going on, there isn't a ton of time for Raviv to refresh his memory on the "Supercoasters" story. "You have to be a quick study in this business," he said. "Everything is very immediate. Once something is done, my focus immediately moves on and moves on and moves on to the next thing."

With that, he moves on to a two-way conversation with a local affiliate in Charlotte, N.C., to offer some analysis on the immigration debate and Congressman Jefferson, followed by a call to Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, to see if he can get some more information on tape about the bird flu story for the 9 a.m. newscast. Fauci was supposed to be available at 8:30 a.m., but when Raviv calls, he is still in a meeting.

As time ticks by, it looks like with nothing new to add for a live report on bird flu, Raviv won't be on the 9 a.m. newscast. Instead, the program leads with a report from correspondent Dave Cohen in New Orleans and anchor Frank Settipani notes the latest on the bird flu story later in the broadcast.

Our time with Raviv ends shortly after he does another interview just after 9 – this one with the mayor pro tempore of Pass Christian, Miss., who discusses how his town is recovering from Katrina and preparing for the next possible hurricane. The interview was intended for an upcoming radio special on hurricanes, but it turned out well enough that Raviv said he'd probably use it as a piece on the Weekend Roundup as well.