As we were preparing to travel to Washington for the trial, I asked engineering if they thought satellite coverage would be possible.  Engineering felt it was beyond WTVT’s capability, and other than Roy Leep’s weather satellite receiver, there wasn’t any satellite equipment.  But in the grand tradition of Big 13’s news department, we decided to try anyway.  WTVT News had a long history of tackling technical projects within the confines of the department. Call it progressive or stubbornness, we tried to break new ground and utilize new technology when others weren’t so keen.  

WTVT's original ENG unit.  Engineer Bill Napier adjusts
the microwave dish while Harvey Jurin assists.

    In fact, Jule McGee, along with Bill Napier, Duane Martin, and the engineering department, spent many, long months building and equipping our first ENG truck from the ground up. It was a unique creation with all wiring in conduits and many improvised solutions. There were several personnel adept at electronic news in engineering, among them Duane Martin, who also doubled as news photographer.  By the 1980’s most of the film equipment had been phased out and replaced with ENG equipment all operated by News Department personnel.  

Video tape editing replaced film at WTVT

To create the receiving station for the ABscam story, we borrowed a home satellite dish (on a trailer), along with a receiver, and parked the rig behind the newsroom.

So off to the nation's capital Duane and I went.  We carried our camera,  a portable 13GHz microwave system, and a meager bit of knowledge of the Washington, D.C. satellite systems.

Duane Martin shoots artwork outside of
Washington, D.C., courthouse


    The first live shot from Washington was the day before the Abscam trial was to get underway.  We had planned to interview the newly elected Senator from Florida, Paula Hawkins, the so-called “Housewife from Maitland”.  We borrowed the Senate offices of Howard Heflin of Alabama.  Heflin's office had a window facing the direction we needed for the microwave hop to the Washington D.C. bureau for KOMO (Seattle), who graciously was sending our signal to the D.C. teleport.  We bought an hour of satellite time and fired up the equipment for the interview. Just one problem: they couldn’t see the signal back in Tampa.  We tried in vain for an hour to figure out why.  I repeatedly called the uplink center which said all was well on their end; they could see the Senator chatting with Duane. To his credit, Duane kept Hawkins talking for an entire hour while I was trouble-shooting on the phone. To this day, somewhere in the Universe there is an hour-long chat between Paula Hawkins and Duane Martin beaming into space.

    Later, after the news had ended, we discovered the dish back at the station had been positioned on the wrong satellite.  So…the next day, try again.