ABC News Research and News Desk Tour Summary

2003 Special Libraries Association Annual Conference
News Division Session

Thursday, June 12, 2003

The staff of ABC News Research hosted about thirty News Division members for a tour of the library, tape archiving offices, and studio. The tour began with a phone call from Bill Blakemore, who covers the Pope and is one of the library's regular customers. Even though Bill had just landed at an airport in London while traveling on assignment, he still took the time to tell us how he uses the research staff and what resources and information he finds particularly valuable.

Six information specialists and five support people staff the library. Everyone on staff is a generalist; they do not cover specific beats.

Although they're physically close to the news writers, they do much of their communication through e-mail. They even use e-mail discussion lists for major breaking news, like 9/11 and Iraq. The library's foot traffic has been declining.

The research staff contributes to story ideas and does selective dissemination of information (SDI) through a service called Story Watch. It began with them circulating news articles to about 30 producers and now has a readership of almost 120. They do not do any research for the public.

The library has approximately 30,000 volumes. There is a security system to prevent lost materials. They collect some tabloids and have an index of them. The news staff often uses them for graphics and to ask people about stories. Until about five years ago, they clipped publications.

Deadlines factor into research priorities. They charge the cost of searches back to departments. They also keep statistics about how long they worked on a question.

They participate in daily production meetings through a speakerphone so that the entire staff knows what the upcoming news stories are.

The staff also contributes to ABC's intranet.

The tape archiving operations and staff are separate from ABC Research. Tape librarian Ana Villnueva explained the process of archiving video tapes. They use two tape storage facilities: one in New Jersey and one in New York. The tape librarians act as liaisons between the production and storage facilities. About half of the 6,000 tapes from all over the world they receive each month are tapes they don't keep: blank tapes, reporters practicing, and graphics.

When cataloging the tapes, they make a shot list, sometimes watching live during important news events and indexing every few seconds of tape. About 10% of the tapes they receive already have shot lists. They use MARS--Media Assets Retrieval System--to catalog the tapes. The system has full-text searching capabilities, remembers recent searches, allows bookmarking of searches, and has fields for limiting searches.

Air history tapes are due back in the library within 24-hours, but all other tapes have no check in time. Everyone throughout ABC has access to MARS. The tape librarians encourage people to search for their own tapes.

News Division Program, SLA 2003 Annual Conference
SLA News Division Home

Last Updated: 09/05/03
Jessica Baumgart