Straight Arrow News, a digital news start-up based in Omaha, NE, is dedicated to providing an unbiased approach to its reporting. The recently launched company is having no trouble making that happen efficiently with Clear-Com wireless intercom systems.
The digital-first media outlet is the brainchild of Joe Ricketts, founder of the financial services firm TD Ameritrade and a well-known businessman and philanthropist. His goal was to develop an outlet for news and commentary that goes “beyond the day’s headlines, offering context and perspective to make the news make sense.”
Straight Arrow News is using the Clear-Com Eclipse HX Digital Matrix System, LQ Series of IP Interfaces and the Agent-IC Mobile App as its new programming schedules and production workflows continue to develop.
The production team is initially focused on pre-recorded segments such as studio shoots with its anchors and morning news updates, all produced through their main facility and control room in Omaha. Later in 2022, Straight Arrow expects to significantly expand its workload, adding live shows, remote productions, and streaming to Facebook Live and other online platforms.
As they progress along that path, the team is confident in their Clear-Com systems’ ability to expand with them.
“We’re not building for now, we’re building for the future,” said Chris Childs, director of technical operations. “What we have right now is more than we need, but we wanted something that could scale with us as we grow. We’ve invested a lot to get this site off the ground, so the last thing we want is to go back to management in two years and say we need to upgrade our equipment. Eclipse HX is highly scalable, and it will easily accommodate our communications needs as they grow in complexity.”
Straight Arrow has installed a Clear-Com Eclipse HX system, drawn to its ability to interface with any 2-wire, 4-wire, IP (Dante, AES67, or native) and wireless communication device. They also included an LQ device to ensure future system expansion as well as enhanced communications with SIP telephony and mobile apps, such as Agent-IC.
For now, the Eclipse HX system is mainly used for in-studio productions, handling the communications among the control room and three camera positions within the Omaha location. The team also uses the system for mix-minus feeds to and from its news bureaus in New York and Washington, DC, where the morning show interviews are recorded.
“They [Clear-Com] are a huge help in making sure everything is in place during rehearsals and script read-throughs,” said Rusty Havener, senior production specialist. “We can talk to everyone at once, or easily set up private channels for side conversations.”
The next phase of Straight Arrow’s growth includes more live programming, which will give the team an opportunity to put the Agent-IC mobile app to use. Agent-IC is a cost-effective, easy-to-deploy solution that allows the core intercom system — in this case Eclipse HX — to be accessible from anywhere on a user’s smart device over 3G, 4G, 5G, LTE, or Wi-Fi.
During one of Straight Arrow’s first tests with Facebook Live, the Agent-IC app allowed their Steadicam operator to maintain communications with the control room without being tethered by headset cables, and to move freely between three pedestal-mounted cameras.
“We didn’t want to wire him up any more than was necessary,” said Havener. “This [Agent-IC] is a great resource for field shoots. It provides communication among camera operations as well as reporters and producers regardless of where they are geographically. Clear-Com continues to deliver quality products to meet, and exceed, our needs here at Straight Arrow News.”
Childs and Havener are targeting mid-2022 as the critical months for Straight Arrow’s expansion, including regular Facebook Live shows, live in-studio content, pre-recorded segments from their satellite news bureaus and original programming such as panel-type talk shows with a rotating guest line-up.
With the spontaneous nature of news programming, the team noted that the flexibility of the Clear-Com equipment will serve them well, helping them adapt to breaking stories by doing seamless cut-ins and remotes and giving them the freedom to plan and evolve at their own pace.
“We found the right system that provides a great foundation for the future,” Childs said. “Even as we grow, we likely won’t use our Eclipse HX system to its maximum capacity. I don't know that we'll ever find the end of what it’s capable of — that’s how much scalability it can truly handle.“