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Profile: Jack Womack

May 14, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Title: Executive vice president for the CNN News Group and key architect of the CNN Newsource syndicated news service. On April 30, Newsource began transmitting its feeds in a digital format. Digital and analog feeds will continue through May 30. Thereafter, the analog feed will cease to exist.
Stations: “At nine days out, 453 of the 650 stations that [receive the CNN Newsource service have] installed their digital receivers and are bringing in the five digital news channels.
“Our affiliate relations and sales staff are making phone calls daily to remind them that the changeover is going on now. They have to install IRDs [integrated receiver decoders], which enable stations to lock on a main feed while they switch to four others as needed. CNN is supplying two IRDs, a complete installation kit-including an eight-page guide, troubleshooting hotline number and quick reference sticker to put on a news producer’s PC-plus a satellite dish if needed.
“Their engineering departments have to find rack space and router space within the physical plant.”
Benefits: “The stations get more variety to choose from-and you don’t have to wait for things. Before going digital we would have to wait for a news feed to be completed to get whatever a station requested. Now the material is there all the time. And the technical quality of the picture-chroma quality in particular-is much better.”
Context: “The project is part of our top-to-bottom overhaul in getting material to our stations. We’ve also added new bureaus domestically, doubled the size of our staff at Newsource, and built a new Washington bureau three times the size with double the staff of our old Washington bureau. We added three multiple-path satellite news-gathering vehicles. There are more people to deal with regional requests and more regional editors to bring in more regional material.
“We also added a new live financial reporting service and built a service called Local Connect, a two-way fiber network that connects us to our affiliated stations. When we’re not getting material from them on Local Connect, the station groups can use it to feed material to other stations.”
Future: “We’re reviewing a next-generation asset-management system. Currently we have a proprietary product that we developed called Newsource on Demand. It’s great, but frankly it needs an upgrade.”