Behind the Scenes at WTTW Chicago News Station

Behind the Scenes at WTTW Chicago News Station



Chicago’s WTTW public television station provides educational and entertainment programming to their audience. The station has many components that make it run smoothly.

On Channel 11, from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. CT, educational cartoons are aired for children ages 2-11. The shows are meant to grab the minds and attention of youngsters using vivid imagery and songs.

After 6:00 p.m., programming geared toward adults are broadcast daily. These shows are often aired live. For instance, “Chicago Tonight” is a popular show that airs between 7-7:30 p.m. Hosts include Phil Ponce, Carol Marin, Elizabeth Brackett, Eddie Arruza, and many others.

There are many production rooms at WTTW. One of them is called the video room. It contains a treasure trove of video editing equipment necessary for the production of a first-rate live TV show.  Additionally, the room features four different clocks which are used to time shows from beginning to end. According to one employee, “Timing is everything,” when it comes to TV. “Nothing can be a second early or a second too late.”

Another suite at the station is called the audio room. Here, just as in the video room, there are hundreds of buttons and switches. However, these buttons control the sound that is fed into the live TV broadcast.

There is also makeup room, which is decorated with wall-to-wall mirrors. This allows guest to see all angles of themselves while they are being made-up for television.  In the makeup area, one of the artists jokingly said to St. Agatha’s News School group, “How you look on camera is the most important thing.”

There are several cameras in the room where the actual filming of live television broadcasts take place. These cameras are able to catch all angles of the production chamber. There are also dozens of lights to illuminate the set. Here is where makeup plays a huge role in filming. The makeup artist previously mentioned in this report intimated that “The camera catches everything; every pore, pimple, and blemish.”

Another important area of the station is where live audiences are filmed for feedback. They provide the laughter heard in the background of live WTTW broadcasts.

There are three floors in the building the station occupies. On the second floor, there are numerous pictures of famous characters that have appeared since the station first signed on the air in 1955. Pictures like Fred Rogers from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and characters from “Sesame Street” are creatively placed throughout halls.

There is another room at WTTW that has multiple televisions anchored into the walls. These TV sets help provide the latest news and information to production managers and producers. In this room, workers are so busy that often they do not have time to take a lunch break, according to the station’s assignment manager.

WTTW does not have commercials, which means that they do not get paid for their programming. Instead, in order to generate enough money to run the station, it sponsors regular pledge drives. These pledge drives are usually a three-day event. To donate money, people can call the station or go to the WTTW website.

Donations are accepted year round.

Written by Trinity Oglesby
Edited by Cathy Milne


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Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Gricelda Chandler – Used With Permission