New York Stations Scramble to Cover Death of Osama Bin Laden

On a night that the world learned about the death of Osama Bin Laden, TV networks and New York City stations poured in special coverage.

The first word came in at 10:45 p.m. last night that President Obama would make a major announcement from the East Room of the White House. He actually was scheduled to speak to the nation at 10:30 p.m.

The major networks all hit the air.

At the same time, Fox 5/WNYW broke into Sports Extra with anchor Sharon Crowley telling the audience that President Obama would speak shortly. Waiting, Fox 5 returned its regularly scheduled programming. Following Sports Extra, Crowley did have an extended 10 minutes leading up to Fox News Channel’s simulcast at 11:10 p.m. (Ironically, FNC had the graphic as their standard–“Usama,” while previously he was “Osama” on WNYW.)

Meanwhile at WPIX, Jim Watkins informed viewers of the breaking news at approximately 10:50 p.m., moments after the networks took to the air.    
Watkins had an impromptu discussion with veteran correspondent Marvin Scott. As the world waited to hear from Obama, Watkins said Channel 11 would carry the president’s remarks when it happens.

Sure enough, WPIX broke away from Two and a Half Men (seconds after starting) at 11:30 p.m.

The president would walk to the podium five minutes later. When he finished, Watkins briefly recapped the historic details with in-house with Scott, but reaction from reporters on live remotes.

At midnight, WCBS and WNBC left their respective networks to explore Bin Laden death’s in New York.

Weekend co-anchor Shiba Russell helmed the special extended 90-minute coverage (the longest non-cable station reporting). Although competent enough, it was surprising not to see Chuck Scarborough. The veteran WNBC anchor, one of the main voices on that fateful day nearly ten years ago, was clearly missed on this major news story (NBC, in the most “hands on deck mode, brought in every main correspondent, lead by Nightly News anchor Brian Williams).

As for Russell, she seemed to handle the pressure well, guiding viewers from reporters on the scene to asking questions of New York-based elected officials.

She also had a nice “personal” touch with reporter Tom Llamas in Times Square. After asking if he was in New York during 9/11 (and told Russell that as a 21-year-old he had just started at MSNBC), Russell related her own story working 9/11 (she was a reporter for Cablevision’s News 12 The Bronx).

One negative for Russell, though, she consistently mispronounced the street near Ground Zero —Vecey Street as Ves-see not the correct VEE-zee.

While Scarborough was a no-show at Channel 4, Bill Ritter joined with weekend anchors Sandra Bookman and Joe Torres. WABC stayed on from 12:05 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., then returning to ABC News. Given the urgent matter, it would have been nice to see Ritter take over the newscast. Unfortunately, though, this wasn’t logical with such a last minute story. While applauding Ritter’s inclusion, it had a “three-man booth” feel, as the anchors (especially Ritter) jockeyed for air time.

Time Warner Cable’s NY1, following suit of the other stations, as news began to trickle in, anchor Cheryl Wills hit the air at 10:45 p.m.  She alerted viewers that special coverage would resume when the president addressed the nation. However, just three minutes later at 10:48 p.m., NY1 returned to the story. Inside City Hall anchor Errol Louis joined NY1’s coverage, first on the phone, then in-studio with Wills. As NY1 its continued their exemplary wall-to-wall throughout the overnight, morning anchor Pat Kiernan started his day three hours early.

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