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What Happened With The 'Evening News'?

If you watched the first feed of last night's "Evening News," you no doubt noticed a pair of technical snafus in the broadcast. The first involved Elizabeth Palmer's piece on a potential diplomatic summit involving Iran, Iraq and Syria. Shortly into the taped portion of the piece, small blocks appeared on the screen and glitches developed in the audio and video. Anchor Katie Couric quickly broke in. "Apparently, we're having some technical problems with Elizabeth Palmer's report," she said and moved on to the next piece.

The second problem occurred at the end of the broadcast. Couric's introduction of Kelly Cobiella's piece on giving went smoothly, but when the piece ran it did not have any sound. After about ten seconds, Couric broke in, once again mentioning technical problems. She then ended the show. A long version of the credits ran, followed by a pair of CBS News promos. After that, because there was still time left in the broadcast, viewers once again saw a wide shot of Couric and the "Evening News" set. The shot, accompanied by nothing but music, lasted for a minute or so, until programming began for the 7 pm Eastern Time hour. (Here it is on Youtube.)

Vice President of News Operations Frank Governale explained what happened in an e-mail. The source of the Palmer piece's problems seems to have been relatively simple. "The tape machine had difficulty playing back the piece since the tape seems to have been creased," writes Governale. "This resulted in bad video (blocking errors caused by unreadable bits on the tape)."

The problem with the Cobiella piece is a bit harder to explain without some technical jargon. "The lack of audio was traced to the audio console in one of our control rooms," writes Governale. He explains that "[w]e found the audio board's configuration file to be corrupt and believe there was a glitch/hit sometime during the broadcast that made the audio console's program crash. After the problem was encountered the audio engineer rebooted the console and all mappings were normal, and all channels played back normally."

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Translation? The machine that controls audio – which was working fine in other parts of broadcast – suddenly went belly up and had to be reset. Think of it like a computer suddenly freezing up and needing a reboot. By the time the control room was able to reset the console, it was too late to run the piece.

The Cobiella piece did air on the later feed of the broadcast, and it will air tonight in those markets where it failed last night. (The "Evening News" usually runs two feeds, with the first, at 6:30 Eastern, airing in most Eastern and Central time zone markets.) "We had two tech failures," says "Evening News" Executive Producer Rome Hartman, "and we wish it hadn't happened."

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