MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — In working nearly a half-century in television, Mel Showers has seen a lot of changes in the broadcast news industry.
When Mel began working as a reporter in the early 1970s stories were shot on 16-millimeter film.
“The first camera I got was a Bell & Howell crank,” Mel recalled. “And that Bell & Howell used to provide me with video only!”
The station also had more advanced cameras that also captured audio. The film that was shot had to processed, with a strict 3:00 deadline to be able to get it back in time for editing for the evening news, that aired at that time at 5:30. The film processor was located a few blocks away from where the WKRG-TV studios were then, on St. Louis Street in downtown.
“We would hightail it up there to get that film in before the deadline, because if you didn’t, you were doomed,” Mel said.
In 1975, WKRG went to what’s called Electronic News Gathering – ENG – or “U-Matic” ¾ inch videotape, which unlike film, was re-usable
“That revolutionized how we gathered news,” Mel said. “You could go to a news conference and hit the play button and let it roll. You didn’t have to worry about ‘ is he about to give me a good sound comment?’
¾ tape would give way in the ’90s to Beta, and soon after Beta SP, and Beta SX, before going digital about 15 years ago.
Mel says another big early advancement was the “live truck” that allowed coverage live, from remote locations.
“That allowed us to enter a new era when we could say ‘we’re going live to the scene,'” he said.
Live trucks have now been largely replaced with small backpacks that allow reporters to “go live” from almost anywhere
In Mel’s early days, he would often shoot and report his story – a so-called ‘one-man band,’ now en vogue again, thanks to technology
“They do that now, but the difference is now, instead of carrying all the bulky equipment, you can do it with a cell phone,” Mel said. Some reports that appear on WKRG are now shot and edited on a cell phone.
An advancement that Mel Showers could never have imaged when he began working almost 50 years ago.
“Oh there have been so many improvements over the years,” he said. “And all of them for the better.”
Mel Showers will anchor his last regularly scheduled broadcast Wednesday, May 22