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YNN news network celebrates 10-year anniversary today

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When the YNN news network was launched a decade ago, heavy video cameras with digital cassettes were used by videojournalists to produce the news.

Nowadays, streamlined technology has made producing stories easier and faster for reporters at the Syracuse-based network, which today is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The Time Warner Cable-owned YNN, the only 24-hour local news network in the region, has a coverage footprint that spans 25 counties in Central and Northern New York. In the north country, YNN — which stands for Your News Now — has bureaus in Watertown and Potsdam.

Last week in the Watertown newsroom, on Eastern Boulevard, Brian J. Dwyer demonstrated how his job as a videojournalist has been simplified by advances in technology.

When Mr. Dwyer started at YNN eight years ago, stories were edited using digital cassettes — a cumbersome process that took more than an hour — and making a blunder while recording a voice-over could be costly, he said.

“If you made a mistake, you had to do everything over,” Mr. Dwyer, 33, said, adding that the camera he uses today weighs less than half of the one he carried his first year on the job. “I keep all of the old stuff here to remind myself how much better it is.”

Hard-drive recording on computers eventually made digital cassettes obsolete at YNN. Mr. Dwyer now uses a 16-gigabyte graphics card to upload video recordings on a computer, and media software enables him to quickly combine video clips into a story. A microphone linked to the computer is used to record voice-overs, and mistakes can be edited out in seconds.

Stories are filed by reporters to YNN’s media system “on the cloud,” which enables employees from newsrooms in Syracuse and Albany to get instant access, Mr. Dwyer said. Stories filed by reporters at bureaus across the region are then compiled into a show recorded from the news desk at YNN’s Albany studio; weather segments are produced in Syracuse.

The network has six bureaus — Watertown, Potsdam, Utica, Ithaca, Binghamton and Corning. Those bureaus comprise 12 reporters, including three in Watertown — Dwyer and colleagues Elizabeth Jeneault and R.D. White. One reporter, Barry Wygel, is based in Potsdam.

YNN news director Ronald V. Lombard said the network has made major strides since it was launched 10 years ago.

“We’ve had a lot of changes,” he said. “We knew we were going to be in the Time Warner footprint, but the challenge was figuring out how we were going to provide coverage to such a large area and make it local news. But 10 years later, we’ve found out that we have a lot more in common as a region than we thought.”

The network’s coverage of Fort Drum is a case in point. In November 2010, Mr. Dwyer spent a week living with soldiers from Fort Drum’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Polk in Louisiana before they were deployed overseas. Soldiers took part in exercises that simulated combat conditions in Afghanistan, and Mr. Dwyer participated in the action as an embedded reporter. Based on video footage from that week, Mr. Dwyer produced a seven-part, weeklong feature series titled “Force on Force.”

“Everything was exactly the way it would be in Afghanistan, and I wore all of the military gear,” he said. “It helped (the soldiers) learn about how to interact with reporters.”

Creating local news that attracts viewers from the entire region is a challenge that differentiates YNN from other networks, Mr. Dwyer said. For example, a piece about a businesses opening at the Paddock Arcade in Watertown might interest Syracuse residents who are acquainted with similar downtown business ventures.

“A good story is a good story, and people will watch it,” regardless of where they live, Mr. Dwyer said.

Mr. Lombard said YNN doesn’t measure its success by Nielsen ratings, because it doesn’t attract viewers to specific newscasts. YNN’s goal is to provide coverage for decades to come, he said.

“We’ve been here 10 years and are a relatively good news organization, but we haven’t slain the dragon yet,” Mr. Lombard said. “Our motivation is to get better every single day.”

Part of that improvement is shown in the upward mobility of its journalists.

After graduating from Boston University, Dana M. Dean got her start as a videojournalist at YNN in 2006, working in the Potsdam and Binghamton bureaus. The 29-year-old Los Angeles native moved to St. Louis two years later to take a job as morning news anchor and reporter at KSDK News Channel 5.

“YNN gave me all of the tools I needed to be a reporter in St. Louis,” she said, adding that she met her husband, Ryan J., while he worked at YNN.

They couple were fortunate to be hired together by News Channel 5, where they’ve co-anchored a morning news show since June.

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