Streamlining News Archive Management at WJLA

By Ernie Ensign, Director of Engineering, WJLA
Originally published in TV Technology magazine, December 2015

WJLA logoWJLA is the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C. and is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the largest and most diversified television broadcasting companies in the country. Sister station NewsChannel 8, a regional 24-hour cable news network, is also housed in the same building. The two stations share news gathering resources and produce over 130 hours of live news each week.

A long-term news archive solution was needed for WJLA and NewsChannel 8. With the high volume of valuable material we are producing, it’s crucial that the content be reliably archived, easily searchable and quickly available for retrieval at a later date, enabling journalists to rapidly incorporate it into new productions. In addition to storing the media assets, it was critical for the selected system to archive the news scripts as well. It was also essential that the system be easily scalable to expand with our long-term archive needs.

Sinclair selected Masstech’s newsroom media management solution to meet the needs of the group’s stations. Our Masstech system was deployed at WJLA in June 2015 and was initially integrated with our AP ENPS newsroom computer system (NRCS) and our Imagine Communications Nexio playout servers, alongside Velocity for editing. For storage, the solution features a Spectra Logic LTO tape library. The installation process went very well, taking place in the background completely transparent to our ongoing news operations. Masstech’s support team was very attentive in keeping all stakeholders in the loop at every step of the process, ensuring the system performed as expected, and accommodating our training needs.

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Seamless Integration is Key

Masstech’s integration flexibility was crucial when we subsequently switched our NRCS from ENPS to Avid iNEWS at the end of the summer. The Masstech software integrates seamlessly with both platforms, enabling users to access its functionality through the NRCS user interface and acting as a transparent bridge for our archived content. When searching and retrieving content for re-use, our journalists don’t need to think about whether the video and story were archived from ENPS or iNEWS – the Masstech software automatically takes care of the technical details.

Our previous archive had been detached from our newsroom computer system. In contrast, Masstech’s plugin integration with iNEWS puts all of our archived content in one place and makes it easily searchable, with users just clicks away from any potentially needed asset.

Masstech has helped streamline our newsroom operations by not only putting archived content at producers’ fingertips, but also integrating content from other news stations in the group. With just a few clicks, producers can pull content into our internal workflow from any Sinclair station across the country and add that material to their shows, saving time while enabling more content-rich productions.

We archive between 450 and 500 stories a week through the Masstech solution by simply indicating in iNEWS which stories we would like Masstech to process. It works unassisted in the background to automatically archive all of the content we may need at a later date, without disrupting our production workflow. Newsroom personnel don’t need to perform additional tasks to accommodate the archive process.

The Masstech system at WJLA is currently managing around 80,000 assets totaling over 15TB of content. That number will continue to grow rapidly as we archive new content and bring in more of our legacy archives, which spanned spinning disks and more than 2500 Blu-ray discs.

In terms of ROI, the implementation of the Masstech solution will pay off significantly, both operationally and by minimizing the capital costs to expand the system in the future. Masstech has exceeded our expectations, and we are now considering additional opportunities the Masstech system can enable for the station and the group.