When defense attorneys in Fred Russell’s vehicular homicide trial pushed for a change of venue, they called on Cutaway Media.
The Spokane firm digitally records local TV newscasts and closed-captioning information and uploads the subtitles to a national, searchable online database that offers audience estimates for clips. Company Vice President Duane Regehr, a former KREM cameraman, testified in Whitman County court that programs mentioned Russell 1,241 times over a five-year period.
“It was a huge report that was supplied to them, and I had to go down to Colfax and sit in front of the cameras that I used to stand behind, which was horribly uncomfortable,” said Regehr, who operates Cutaway with his wife and company CEO, Lisa.
A judge initially declined to move the trial, but later acknowledged media coverage would make it problematic to find a neutral jury. It’s not clear how much Cutaway’s information swayed the decision, if at all.
Lawyers, public relations firms, local corporations and even parents of young athletes purchase clips or information from Cutaway, which the Regehrs operate from a South Hill home office. While new technology has enabled Cutaway to expand its offerings, it faces competition from larger players and streaming online news.
Lisa Regehr bought the business, then about five years old, in 1997 for $5,000. At first, she would rise early each day to hand-log programming from one of the three local news stations, while the others would send rundowns of their content.
Floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with hundreds of VHS tapes of newscasts still line one office wall. But the Regehrs are phasing out more than a dozen VHS recorders in favor of automated digital video recorder (DVR) equipment. It captures 14 hours of Spokane news each weekday, Lisa Regehr said.
Cutaway’s video archive spans more than a year, and it’s “just going to grow,” Lisa Regehr said.Last year the company affiliated with News Data Service Inc., a national corporation owned by businesses like Cutaway that contribute to the database. By searching it, the Regehrs can find Nielsen Media Research audience estimates and approximate public relations and advertising equivalency values for clips.
“It’s an amazing service,” said Tobby Hatley, senior account executive for Desautel Hege Communications. The Spokane public relations firm will e-mail clips to clients interested in seeing what aired about them, he said.
Duane Regehr edits clips, and in the case of some sports videos, he adds slow-motion or other special effects. Cutaway sometimes provides free video to news stations, which keep smaller archives, he said. For a subscription, Cutaway will update businesses regularly about their broadcast mentions.
Avista Corp., which recently switched from a national competitor, receives weekly reports from Cutaway about coverage in its service territory, said spokeswoman Debbie Simock.
“It’s just sharing with employees what kind of coverage we’re getting in the community in the media,” Simock said, adding it helps translate pubic relations work into “hard numbers.”
Other customers include Greater Spokane Inc., Coldwater Creek and local hospitals, Lisa Regehr said.
Clips cost $30 on VHS or DVD, or $45 to download them online. Both Chicago-based Cision U.S. Inc. and New York City-based Video Monitoring Services of America Inc. provide similar services, but Cutaway competes on price and by providing fast, local service, the Regehrs said.
VHS clips from Cision, for example, start at $73.50, and previewing a clip costs $25, said spokeswoman Mary Durkin.
Within six months, Cutaway should offer online, low-resolution clip previews for an additional fee, Lisa Regehr said.
Cutaway also has a roughly $6,000 DVR machine near the Tri-Cities to pick up news there and in Yakima, she said. The Regehrs overall have invested more than $100,000.
Working from home helps them juggle three kids, but they find it hard to break away from the business, they said.
“It’s just all day,” Lisa Regehr said. “I’d say we easily work 60 to 80 hours a week.”
Duane Regehr also shoots and digitally edits freelance videos. The U.S. Marshals Service recently employed him through Desautel Hege to film a bloody training exercise at the U.S. Courthouse.
Clip sales are “really slowing down” as more people watch news segments online, Duane Regehr said. He foresees adding sales staff, however, because the company is going in several directions.
“Every month is different, because our life is dependent on what’s put on the news,” Lisa Regehr said.