John Seelmeyer

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April 2, 2012
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KRNV breaks ground with interactive video

As she hosted the noontime news on Reno's KRNV News 4 last week, Melissa Carlson sought the opinions of a quartet of viewers from around the world.

What, she asked, did the viewer in the United Kingdom think of new school uniform rules in Brazil? What did the viewers in Reno and Canada think of President Obama's performance at a press conference?

The real-time interactive news programming launched by the Reno station is among the first of its type in the world, although a handful of broadcast news organizations are beginning to follow the lead of KRNV.

The technology at the heart of the interactive discussion, explains Carlson, are the "hangouts" available on the Google Plus social network.

In those hangouts, as many as 10 people can video chat with one another. Participants in the KRNV News 4 interactive chats have included Carlson in a Google Plus circle.

The journalism school at the University of Missouri was the first to use Google Plus hangouts in a live broadcast. That caught the attention of Mary Beth Sewald, general manager of News 4 and a graduate of the University of Missouri.

Carlson began using visits on Google Plus hangouts in a 20-minute Internet-only news program last summer then incorporated them into the broadcast news program beginning in February.

The response, she said, has been strong from viewers around the world who aren't content to merely watch the presentation of the daily news.

"They want to talk about it as well," Carlson says.

Journalistically, she says the inclusion of voices from outside the walls of the traditional newsroom indeed, voices from around the world provides a greater depth to the station's coverage.

But Carlson says she continues to learn how to manage the interactive conversation.

Topics that are likely to generate a flock of participation on the Google Plus hangout include news about applications for digital devices or the occasional oddball story such as the British woman who wants the government to pay for weight-loss surgery.

Less popular, Carlson says, are mainstays of traditional news reporting sports or the Republican Party's primary battles.

The station's news staff posts some possibilities for interactive Web discussion each morning.

On a big day, the Google Plus hangout will be more than full as Carlson juggles as many as 15 participants through the 10 available slots. On a slow day, only a couple of folks show up.

The technology requires some nimble-footed moderation from Carlson.

"We're hoping people are going to be respectful," she says. But the anchor these days spends much of her energy these days keeping the conversation moving and posing questions to hangout participants.

While KRNV is one of the first news entities in the nation to use Google Plus hangouts live in its programming, Carlson says some stations are venturing cautiously into use of the technology to gather man-on-the-street features that can be edited as part of more traditional coverage.

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Northern Nevada Business Weekly Updated Apr 2, 2012 12:00AM Published Apr 2, 2012 12:00AM Copyright 2012 Northern Nevada Business Weekly. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.