RENO, Nev. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬” Amid the retail stores, eateries and salons at Reno’s Meadowood Mall, a glass-fronted establishment stands out. It has no merchandise, no clerks. Just a slick assortment of computer terminals, television screens and scurrying bodies. At first glance, the facility looks like a high-end home theater store. But a closer look reveals the […]
RENO, Nev. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬” Amid the retail stores, eateries and salons at Reno’s Meadowood Mall, a glass-fronted establishment stands out.
It has no merchandise, no clerks. Just a slick assortment of computer terminals, television screens and scurrying bodies.
At first glance, the facility looks like a high-end home theater store. But a closer look reveals the truth:
This is a television station, home to local newscasts at 6 p.m. on KAZR Channel 46 and 10 p.m. on KREN Channel 27. The facility is designed so the public can see a television studio in action.
“A key word for us is transparency,” said Leo Ramos, general manager of the stations. “We’re about letting the entire process be totally available to people who walk by our facility. We’ve had school tours coming in here, and we’re always happy to kind of show off the place.”
The studio once was a 7,000-square-foot Sam Goody music store. Pappas Telecasting refurbished the space, adding a balcony that provides an additional 1,500 square feet.
Though 8,500 square feet is small for a television studio, Ramos said the use of high-tech digital equipment allows the stations to streamline production and deliver a signal with fewer employees and more compact gear than normally needed.
“The idea was to take a room full of spaghetti and make it into a neat, clean presentation and operation,” he said. “What we are doing here is testing equipment and technical applications that are going to be commonplace in TV stations for the next 10, 15 years. And, as we perfect our system, we are deploying this technology to other Pappas Telecasting companies.”
In that sense, KREN and KAZR are guinea pigs for the rest of the company. Ramos said that presents challenges, but it also means his crew gets to work with state-of-the art equipment.
“It makes Reno a pretty exciting place to be if you want to be part of the 21st century broadcast world,” Ramos said. “We have people who have come here from all across the country to work with us because they recognize that the equipment that’s being used here and the training that they’re getting here is without peer and they have access.”
Along with moving to new digs, KREN and KAZR have invested in local news. KAZR, an independent, had been producing a prerecorded Spanish language newscast for the Reno market for years, but in October, the station began broadcasting a live 6 p.m. newscast in high definition.
Since that broadcast originates at the Meadowood Mall studio, shoppers can watch through the window as it’s beamed to viewers around the city.
On the English language side, KREN, the local CW outlet, kicked off a locally created 10 p.m. news broadcast shortly after Christmas.
KREN’s 10 p.m. news hasn’t been on long enough for the station to see ratings results, but Ramos said he is hopeful, especially since the CW network had good ratings in Reno during the last period.
The news operation at KREN and KAZR is unusual in that the Spanish and English language broadcasts share reporters.
Vanessa Vancour’s job at KREN is her first since graduating from the University of Southern California with a degree in broadcast journalism.
“I hadn’t found another place yet, at least in my job search, that offered the opportunity in both languages,” she said. “That’s why I took it. I’ve wanted to do that more than anything, but I thought coming out of college I had to do one or the other. So finding that I could do both in one job was awesome. It was phenomenal.”
In some cases, Vancour will present the same story in both languages, and in others she will limit a story to one newscast or the other.
“Our challenge is always to come up with material that is relevant and timely for the Latino community and then also for the general market community and then find those areas where it’s of interest to both,” Ramos said. “The newscasts are very different and distinct from one another.”
Another unusual element to the KREN and KAZR newscasts is that Pappas has developed a partnership with Reno’s ABC affiliate, KOLO Channel 8, allowing the stations to assign reporters differently than they might otherwise.
The agreement between the stations allows for a video pool, so footage shot by KOLO can be used by KREN and KAZR and vice versa.
“They’re obviously a news leader in this marketplace and we’re the new kids on the block, and we’ve been able to forge a relationship of mutual benefit,” Ramos said. “We share video. The trick is that we have to write and create our own stuff, but the raw video is shared.”
For newsroom employees, life at KREN and KAZR is unusual. Most broadcast journalists are used to doing the off-camera portion of their jobs in relative privacy. But the glass walls at the Meadowood facility make that impossible.
“We’ve joked about putting signs up on the glass that say, ‘Don’t feed the anchors,'” Nielsen said. “This is journalism outside the black box.”