The view from the control room
“Frack. Frack frack frack. Frack me.” It’s a little less than an hour before showtime, and anchor Brian Vines is warming up in preparation for an upcoming segment on hydraulic fracturing and its impact on Brooklyn. He’s one of a rotating cast of hosts on BK Live, Brooklyn Independent Media’s hour-long news show that tapes live at BRIC Arts | Media House every Monday through Thursday at noon.
An interdisciplinary team of producers, technicians, journalists and directors is responsible for putting together BK Live, covering Kings County in all its variety—everything from community news and politics to culture and sports. “Our audience is all of Brooklyn,” explains TV news director Gama Ramos. “We have to be as diverse as the borough itself.”
BK Live hosts and guest from a previous show
Today’s show is as diverse as they come—there’s no shortage of stories to tell about Brooklyn. In the control room, where crewmembers bustle around a bank of computers and screens, the clock is ticking down the milliseconds to noon. In the adjoining studio, Vines and cohost Greg Johnson are going over the day’s stories with Ramos. Behind a soundproof window, sundry Brooklynites bustle through the lobby and order coffees from Hungry Ghost.
When the clock strikes 12, the show gets underway. First up: Nathan Tempey, the deputy editor of Brooklyn Paper, discussing the results of the primary elections. They talk about recent BK Live guest Zephyr Teachout, who ran against Cuomo in the gubernatorial race on a shoestring budget and garnered a surprising 35 percent of the vote. “I think she really sent a message that people are unhappy with Cuomo’s policies,” says Tempey.
Next on the bill is a group of anti-fracking activists, or “fracktivists,” discussing hydrofracking’s impact on Brooklyn. Though the contentious energy practice doesn’t happen in the city itself, ramifications are felt in the Rockaway Gas Pipeline, which runs down Flatbush Avenue.
Bodybuilder Irhasette McClean strikes a pose
While a clip from B-Side (Brooklyn Independent Media’s live music show) airs, Vines takes a break in the control room, and sports reporter Michael Bellamy steps up to the desk. He’s interviewing a pair of professional female bodybuilders: lightweight Irhasette McClean and heavyweight Pauline Nelson. While Nelson schools Bellamy on the bodybuilder diet (six meals a day!), a bikini-clad McClean moves through a series of poses with names like “the double bicep.”
Brian Vines, Eugene Mirman, and Greg Johnson in the studio
The show rounds out with local funny man Eugene Mirman, whose upcoming Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival is about to have its seventh run in Brooklyn. Mirman discusses this “accidental tradition”—which will include both a pig roast and a bouncy castle with a therapist inside—plus his run on Fox animated sitcom Bob’s Burgers. (“The secret to my Method acting is a little yelling,” he says.)
That’s a wrap, and director Gamaliel Ramos takes the team through notes: There was a small sound issue at the beginning, but otherwise everything went smoothly. They’ll meet up again in an hour and a half for a daily editorial scrum, in which the BK Live staffers are invited to throw ideas around for upcoming shows.
It’s an all-hands-on-deck effort, and people wear multiple hats. When the hosts aren’t hosting, they’re booking segments or hunting down new stories. “We have a young staff, and it’s my job to guide them,” Ramos says. “A lot of them have not worked in the newsroom before. While we work in the live show, we still have to learn the trade. We get more professional every day.”
The BK Live staff trades ideas at the post-show editorial scrum
And every day will be different—as varied as Brooklyn. Other recent topics of coverage have included Soca dancing, post-Sandy recovery in Coney Island, high-school football, and the work of LED artist Jason Krugman. “Big things are coming. We want to include people more,” says Ramos. “We want to be more out on the street—make our presence known. Let them know that we are here and they can participate.”
Ultimately, it comes down to the community. BK Live is all about Brooklynites covering Brooklyn news, and interacting with people as directly as possible. And according to Vines, they certainly interact. “People watch and people care. And it’s Brooklyn, so they tell you exactly what they think. Cab drivers yell at me from cars! What’s the use of watching if no one is interacting with you? People talk to us, and I don’t think that happens to Matt Lauer. So, thank you, Brooklyn.”
Watch BK Live Monday-Thursday from noon-1 p.m. online or on Brooklyn Independent Media (Time Warner 756, Cablevision 70, Verizon 46).