As a massive wildfire extended its reach in Colorado Springs over the weekend, KKTV, the market’s CBS-affiliate, began providing nonstop coverage of the natural disaster. And the station hasn’t stopped.
So far, as of this posting, KKTV, which is owned by Gray Television, has provided nearly 100 hours of continuous breaking news coverage and, with the fire doubling in size Tuesday night, there doesn’t appear to be a break in sight.
“When we first broke in just before 2 p.m. on Saturday, we had no plan as to how long we’d stay on,” KKTV news director Liz Haltiwanger told TVSpy today via email. “We just knew our viewers needed clear information, live images, and weather forecasts right away.”
“That first night, sometime after midnight, as we realized we were the only station planning to stay on overnight, the sheriff himself called our newsroom with new information,” recounted Haltiwanger. “So we knew our viewers needed us to be on, even at that time.”
Since the weekend, the KKTV news team has been splitting the days into long shifts and taking things one daypart at a time.
Rival stations have also been providing extended breaking news coverage since the weekend. KRDO, the market’s ABC-affiliate, ramped up its live coverage on Saturday and, excluding a break for primetime programming on Monday, the station has provided continuous coverage since early Sunday morning. For their part, when KOAA and KXRM have gone to regularly scheduled programming this week, they’ve provided viewers with a breaking news scroll.
The stations’ coverage has become increasingly important in the last 24 hours as the fire spread through residential neighborhoods and officials continued to update evacuation plans.
Tied to all of the breaking news coverage is the very real threat those reporting on the fire may lose their homes. Many local journalists have had to evacuate and Haltiwanger said that one member of the KKTV news team believes that his home has been destroyed.
Just before 2:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, KKTV took time out of its round-the-clock coverage to give viewers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of its news operation.
Phil Tenser, KKTV’s director of new media, gave a tour of the station’s studio, newsroom, and control room. Using Skype, he explained how KKTV has adjusted its operations to deliver continuous news coverage (similar video here). With the studio lights running 24 hours a day, additional fans had to be brought in to cool the space, and that night an editor was manning the phone lines.
“We’ve been doing shifts at least 12 hours apiece,” Tenser told viewers, “and we’ve been doing it because this is our community too.”