Ever since the fighting begain in the Persian Gulf, Maria Smith Moore has faced the impossible task of fitting an unpredictable war into a predictable television schedule.
As station manager for Salt Lake City's KUTV, Moore is playing a key role in determining what hundreds of thousands of Intermountain area viewers know about the war and when the know it."There has never been a war like this," Moore said "We're doing something brand new here."
Daily she and her staff confront an "information overload" and decide whether develpments warrant bumping regular programming and then what to do with bumped programming.
Meanwhile, viewers are calling to object to the interruption of a favorite soap opera or playoff game; the station's departments contend with specific agendas; NBC is applying pressure; canceled syndicated show and commericials are forcing delicate renegotiations; the budget is hemorrhaging...
"In normal times, these conflicting needs sort themselves out, but in a crisis, it is all exacerbated," Moore said. The sorting is left to her, and she responds with what she terms "extreme compromises."
moore learned of the outbreak of war against Iraq while attending a national convention in New Orleans, which hampered her ability to coordinate the station's response.
But once back in Salt Lake City, she was in the thick of it. "There was tremendous emotionalism at the station tremendous excitement at being the first what was happening."
Her biggest concern now is that viewers may be starting to "tune out the war." Americans like things to happen quickly, and a long, drawn-out war many not hold their interest, she said.
"We are sensitive to that and will try not to overwhelm our viewers, but we're not going to back away from our responsibility to inform those who want to be informed."