Touring a Television Station: A Family Trip

Ever wonder what it takes to put on a nightly newscast? Get the answer by taking a tour of a television station. Not only is it fascinating and educational, but it’s FREE! I was a local television news anchor and reporter for 10 years, prior to making the decision to stay home and raise my daughter. During my time working at various stations around the country, I gave many tours, showing children (and parents) what goes on “behind-the-scenes.”

An average studio tour features a number of behind-the-scenes demonstrations. Including learning how images–like weather maps–appear behind meteorologists. Or how anchors and correspondents look like they are standing next to local landmarks when they are actually in the studio.

You will also get the chance to visit the control room: the epicenter of activity during a newscast. This is where you will find the producer and director calling the shots on which anchor you will see, when. This is also where you will often hear producers telling anchors to “wrap” or “stretch” depending on the time remaining in each show. There is a lot of controlled chaos that goes on in this room—something you don’t see on-air.

The studio is where the anchor desk is located and in most stations it is also home to the weather center, where local meteorologists put together weather maps and other timely information that you will see as a part of their weathercasts. You will also get to see the teleprompter, a device mounted to the studio cameras. The screen is in front of the lens of the camera, and the words on the screen are reflected to the eyes of the anchor or reporter using a one-way mirror. It gives the illusion that anchors have memorized what they are saying, when actually they are reading scripts off the teleprompter.

Most tours also include visits to the newsroom, where news directors, producers, assignment managers and reporters are working on the stories you will see in that night’s newscasts. You may even get the chance to look at the photographer’s room, edit bays (where video is edited for air), the make-up room, and the sports center (where sports anchors and reporters work on their stories). There is a lot that goes into getting the news “on-air” and many people who work hard to get it done.

If you would like to take a tour of your local television station, call ahead first. Most groups book well in advance. They consist of everyone from Boy Scout troops to families who home school their children. But, you can also make it a pit stop on your next family vacation. You will have more success getting into smaller market television stations (like Mason City, San Antonio, and Milwaukee) than larger markets (like Los Angeles, Philadelphia, or Chicago). It’s a great experience for the entire family and you will be talking about it long after the trip is over.

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.