American Morning

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May 15th, 2009
11:26 AM ET

Meet AM: John Rappa – Technical Director

John Rappa sits at his switcher before the show starts.  The switcher is how he controls what goes on the show.

John Rappa sits at his switcher before the show starts. The switcher is how he controls what goes on the show.

Each Friday in “Meet AM,” we’ll introduce you to the people who get American Morning to air.

Today, we’d like you to meet John Rappa. John is our very busy technical director. Whether you’re seeing live video from a camera, great video from yesterday, or still graphics, John is the one who’s putting it there. So as you can imagine, he’s great at keeping his eye on everything! He’s been with AM for six years.

How did you end up doing what you do?
I went to school at SUNY Plattsburgh, which has a student run television station. I received a Bachelor of Science with a major in Mass Communication from there. We aired about 5 hours of programming daily, some of which was live. I always knew I wanted to do something on the technical end of media. I’m not a big fan of writing, so the editorial side isn’t for me. I started with ENG camera before I switched to working in the studio and eventually the control room. I’ve done most positions on the crew, from camera and stage managing to videotape and audio and then TD and directing. Since graduating, I’ve held several different jobs including NEWS12, WNBC and MSNBC before I came to CNN.

Describe your average day:
I come in the early morning and start loading and checking all the equipment. This is somewhat time-consuming because I have to interface with so many individual pieces of equipment. I have to make sure cameras on the fifth floor, graphics on the fourth floor and server clips from Atlanta are all in working order, and then send the program feed back to master control in Atlanta. The most important piece of equipment I use is called a production switcher which is essentially a router for all the video sources used during American Morning. All the studio cameras, remote cameras, prerecorded clips and graphics funnel into the switcher where I composite the images into the program you can see on television. After American Morning I work on other programming for CNN.

What's the hardest part of your job?
One of the challenging aspects of CNN is accommodating all the changes producers make while doing the show. Sometimes we’ll have something planned for hours in advance which can get changed seconds before we use it because of new information like breaking news or the sudden availability of a guest or event. Although difficult for me, this is a benefit to the viewer who gets the most current news we can give. However, the hardest part of my job is staying awake on the way home!

What do you like most about working at AM?
I take pride in the fact I’m part of a program which means something. It’s a quality program on a very respectable network. Earlier in my career I’ve worked on some shows (I won’t mention) which were just horrible. The day drags when you don’t believe in what you’re doing. Here I get to use state of the art technology, work with great people and I can learn something while doing it.

What do you do outside of work? What do you do for fun?
I like teaching my kids how to play baseball and taking them to the latest superhero movie. If a couple of friends can bring guitars over, I’ll play drums all day.

What else do you think people should know about you?
I’m happily married to my wife Erin, and have two boys, Robert (11) and James (7).

From CNN's Aparnaa Seshadri


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