Bowden Feels Tuned In With Washington Tv Channel

July 21, 1991|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff writer

FINKSBURG — Nestled among a myriad of television screens, the producer checked the huge clock that hangs ominously over the newsroom.

As the seconds before the 5:30 p.m. broadcast ticked away, she yelled, "four minutes to air time."

In a darkened cubicle, across from the producer, Jack Bowden and a videotape editor frantically tried to match pictures to sound segments.

They were experiencing technical difficulties. Pictures were not lining up with corresponding dialogue.

After filming and interviewing for several hours in Carroll County, Bowden had returned to his desk at WJLA Channel 7 in Washington, where he has worked since January.

He carefully selected the perfect shots from each videotape. He jotted down the numbers as the time-coding machine noted each scene's exact placement on the tape.

With the numbers in hand, he drafted his own script and then taped it. In the half-hour before the newscast, all that remained was a little merging. After a few minutes,the piece would be ready to roll.

"Something's wrong," said editor Jo Bradford.

Within seconds, she realized the time-coding machine had been way off and began working furiously winding and rewinding four separate tapes.

Time was running out as Bowden looked over Bradford's shoulder, trying to remember where each segment was located on which tape.

"That churning sound from a tape on fast forward isjust how a writer feels, when something goes wrong," he said.

Theproducer had no time for delays and little regard for technical glitches. She had a show to do.

"You guys going to be ready?" Jayne Lucas called across the newsroom.

"It's going to be tight," replied Bowden. "How about a little more time?"

Five minutes into the broadcast, he heard just how much more time was available.

"You have four more minutes before we show that tape whatever form it's in," shouted Lucas.

"We're good," said Bowden with a sigh. "That's enough time."

Within minutes, the news anchor was introducing the story as Bowden and the rest of the staff broke into smiles.

The veteran newscaster daily condenses several hours of work into two-minute newsstories. Every day doesn't wind down as tensely as this one, he said.

After more than 30 years in the business, the 58-year-old Baltimore native knows the rough spots far outnumber the smooth ones, though.

The business has been good to him, he said, and given him "a small part in local broadcasting history."

Bowden has made his home here since his 1979 marriage to a former co-worker, Susan White. The couple met while working together at WMAR-TV. For three years, they anchored the Baltimore station's noon newscast on Channel 2.

"We did our own writing, reporting and producing," he said. "The show was very successful and I often wondered why management stopped it."

After 21 years at the station, Bowden figured he would retire from there eventually, but "management had other ideas."

He left in 1988 after a contract dispute. His wife followed soon after.

He spent time free-lancing stories and teaching a class at Western Maryland College, but he found he missed reporting the news.

The three-year hiatus was long enough. He accepted the job with the Washington station and he felt at home right away. Brad Bell and Prunella Neely, two colleagues from Channel 2, also work at WJLA now.

"I am working in D.C., but I'm still primarily covering Maryland," he said.

The only drawback, he said, is the 75 minute drive from his 90-acre farm here.

"I have books playing on tape and catch up on reading as I drive down Route 97 to the station," he said.

He told his new editor he would like to do stories on Carroll County, where Channel 7 is carriedon cable.

"This county is becoming more metropolitan," he said. "People in Washington are paying attention to it."

Susan suggested the TARGET story, he said, the first of what he hopes to be many on the county.

He left home Monday planning a short feature story on the Winchester Inn in Westminster. TARGET Inc., an organization for the developmentally disabled, runs the Winchester Inn.

He and cameraman Cardozar Worthy met at the inn about 10 a.m. The pair set to work, touring the rooms and grounds and interviewing the staff.

Bowdenstepped right into the fray as the staff prepared lunch for the visiting Gov. William Donald Schaefer and about 50 other guests.

Estella Williams, executive innkeeper and program coordinator, introduced him to a few clients and chatted into the camera as she ladled muffinbatter into pans.

As frequently happens, Bowden said, the story expanded. The more he learned about the TARGET program, the more he wanted to cram into the story.

"This is the maddening part about TV," he said. "There's never enough time to tell the whole story."

Hedecided to give it a try, though. If the story turned out, the station might allot him a little more time, he said.

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