Those who claim broadcast newscasts resemble an NBA Finals game, with robotic cameras and HD graphics roaring across the screen, are vastly underestimating the world of live sports television. So says New York-based associate director Manny Cabral, who has worked in both arenas—sports and news—for what is now his 25th year with ABC. Cabral has been in the ABC-TV-3 control room, which longtime news director Roger Goodman once called the most powerful in the world. And he’s worked such world-shaking events as 9/11, Princess Diana’s funeral, and even the earthquake-interrupted 1989 World Series in San Francisco, which he remembers transforming from sports to news in 30 seconds.
“Our graphics operator, Nancy Ross, had lived in California,” Cabral remembers, “and when the quake started she told everybody to get out of the truck. I was like, ‘What do you mean, get out the truck, we’re on the air!’ We did live news until our baseball window was over. Then we supported local news, Nightline to the East and West Coast, and finally Good Morning America the next day.”
Cabral began his career in 1984 with ABC Sports and moved over to the news side in 1991. He worked as a director on America This Morning from 2003 to 2007, and is now an associate director on the same show, where he hunkers down in the control room with a cluster of stopwatches, “keeping producers honest,” letting them know time-wise if they are “heavy” or “light” throughout the show.
Cabral’s first exposure to oddball scheduling (his current shift runs from 3:30 a.m. until noon) came 20 years ago while covering the Professional Bowlers Tour. “We always had a car ready to whisk [broadcaster] Chris Schenkel to the airport immediately following each telecast. One time, in 1991, [a bowler] threw a gutter ball in the final frame to lose the tournament, and Chris went into the locker room to console him, at the risk of missing his flight. It was an act of human kindness that has stayed with me.”
Despite the constant assault of broadcast news by cable, Internet, mobile blogs, and other alternative sources, Cabral admits he still gets goosebumps covering a breaking event. “I often think about the six hours I was in the director’s chair when they moved Pope John Paul II’s body [prior to his funeral in 2005],” he says. “I was raised Roman Catholic, and to witness that was a very intense experience.”