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7News/9News helicopter-sharing agreement finally official

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The January 5 blog "Rocky Mountain News Jumps the Gun on Shared-Helicopter Story" offered the anatomy of an announcement that was premature in more ways than one. On December 30, a Channel 7 rep sent out a press release about a pact between 7News and Channel 9, its longtime rival, to share a single helicopter, rather than each carrying the growing expense of keeping their own contraption in the air. Almost immediately thereafter, the release was recalled because, according to 7News general manager Byron Grandy, the details of the deal had not been finalized. On January 5, however, the Rocky essentially reprinted the nearly week-old release, complete with an incorrect January 1 start date for the chopper-share program.

Now, however, the arrangement is in place, and while it makes perfect sense from a cost-saving perspective, it's got journalistic drawbacks. In the latest press release, Grandy and 9News general manager Mark Cornetta, plus Jeff Harris and Patti Dennis, news directors for 7 and 9, respectively, all emphasize that each station will maintain editorial independence -- which means they can decide to use or not use footage without consultation. But on big stories, when any news operation would want to screen live aerial video, there will no longer be any real difference between what channels 7 and 9 offer. Either the shots will be identical, in the event that only one camera operator is on board, or they'll originate from the same place. The competition to see who can capture closer, better, more compelling images will be all but over, at least when it comes to these outlets -- and don't be surprised if Channel 4 and channels 2/31 reach a similar accord before long. After all, old-fashioned media rivalry can be mighty expensive, particularly in an economy like this one.

After the jump, read the press release -- which hasn't been recalled.

GANNETT'S KUSA-TV AND McGRAW-HILL'S KMGH-TV ANNOUNCE HELICOPTER NEWS GATHERING AGREEMENT

Denver, CO - Byron Grandy, General Manager of 7News and Mark Cornetta, General Manager of 9News announced today a unique news equipment-sharing agreement to share helicopter usage in covering news from the air. 9News and 7News will share one helicopter and videographers in a shared arrangement, while continuing to maintain strict separation of each station's editorial decisions and reporter assignments.

Grandy said, "Equipment sharing is not necessarily a new idea but this is a new type of pooling resources to allow both stations to provide extensive news coverage from the air. You will see other stations following the lead of 9News and 7News as a way to control costs while providing more extensive news coverage."

According to Cornetta, "Obviously there is an economic benefit to flying one helicopter and it's not unlike sharing pool footage of a political event. Our news departments will each maintain their complete independence, while sharing the use of our most effective newsgathering tool."

9News Director, Patti Dennis, said of the new arrangement: "This is an innovative partnership that brings great benefit to our audience. We'll be working with more information from two quality organizations to employ the helicopter in the right and relevant situations."

Jeff Harris, News Director of 7News said, "Each station will continue its traditional, strong editorial independence within this agreement. The pool sharing of the helicopter as a news gathering tool will allow both stations to concentrate more resources on continuing to provide the best and most impartial news coverage on Denver television."

The helicopter sharing agreement will take effect on February 1, 2009.

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