Late afternoon thoughts on Aaron Brown, IFBs, control rooms and the pandemic
Aaron Brown wasn't sure who was in his ear.
"We have, um, one of our producers on the phone, and I didn't get the name, so, why don't we just go ahead," said Brown as he anchored live coverage of the World Trade Center attacks.
"Are you there?"
Brown's ear had in it what in the television news game is called an IFB. IFB stands for interruptible foldback. It's a kind of earpiece that delivers a one-way audio feed into the head of the TV reporter. It is a medium used to deliver cues and information to the reporter from the TV control room. If you've ever seen a live reporter touch or motion to her or his ear to get a better handle on the incoming information, you have seen an IFB at work.
That second, Brown, as one of the Twin Towers still stood behind him like giant chimney emitting smoke from hell, was in silent contact via IFB with the CNN control room. Someone, the director, a producer, maybe, was telling him that another producer, Rose Arce, was on the line and was ready to go live with the latest account of the mayhem. This is what a control room does. It is the brain in TV news. It is (or was, it's been a few years) where unseen-to-the-viewer personnel decide what shots you see on the screen, who you hear from, when the anchor speaks, when it's time for a commercial and from where all the rest of the decisions are made to keep the show flowing.