CNN Behind The Scenes In Utah

By Chris Ariens 

In a CNN ‘Backstage Pass’ taped before last night’s tragedy in Utah, correspondent Gary Tuchman took viewers behind the scenes of the media coverage of the mine rescue.

You can see it here…

>More from an emailer: “Gary Tuchman’s phoner on Anderson Cooper last night was real interesting. You can tell that this story is really affecting those covering the story. It sounded like he was getting emotional as he says being at the scene this long, you start to get to know or at least recognize faces, some that are missing.”

>Update: Greta Van Susteren blogged about her two hours of live coverage. You can read it after the jump…

Behind the Scenes covering the miners’ breaking news
by Greta Van Susteren

I had planned to post a very different blog this morning….one about our planned special on Princess Diana. I will perhaps post that later today….I have some pictures I want you to see before you see the special. At this point I don’t know what we are doing tonight at ten pm.

But for now….I want to blog about last night’s show. It was not what we planned. As you may know last night we did commercial free breaking news for 2 hours – not our planned 1 hour show with commercials. It was not until a short time before 10 (some time between 9:30 to 10pm time) that my executive producer told me that we were going to “start” with the breaking news that there were ambulances at the mine.

At that time we had no idea what it meant that an ambulance was there (one person a bit sick? or a catastrophic problem? or something in between?) If it were simply one person a bit sick, the coverage we would do would be a few minutes. If it were more? Then of course we would do more. We were scrambling to assess the magnitude of the news.

As time marched on close to ten pm we learned it was more than one ambulance – which of course was the first signal there was something profoundly wrong. Then we heard medical helicopter. Yes…we “started” with the miners’ story and did not stop for two hours because the story turned to be catastrophic.

To say the news is heartbreaking understates it. The initial story about 6 miners trapped is horrendous…it only gets more heartbreaking when brave souls risk their lives to save others (like those injured and killed last night.) The rescuers knew from the beginning they were risking their lives – but they were determined…determined to get the 6 trapped. Who can’t have immense admiration for these men?

Since we had planned a different show than non stop breaking news, Bernie Grimm and Ted Williams (the legal panel) were on the set last night – but you never saw them. They had arrived at the bureau as usual for our show….they were seated with me on the set at ten pm…but then we went to breaking news at 10pm and did not stop. They quietly sat there for the first hour watching what we all watched – the miners’ story unfold.

We were so busy handling the breaking news that none of us thought to tell them that they could leave (that we were not going to get to any legal stories.) Sometime towards 11pm I saw out of the corner of my eye someone inside our studio sneak up to the side of the set and quietly signal them they could leave. They took their microphones off their lapels and quietly left the set avoiding the camera so you never saw them. I never said a word to them.

The decision how long breaking news coverage continues is always made by someone other than the anchor. The anchor is busy doing the show and so discussions and decisions have to be made without consultation with the anchor. With breaking news anchors don’t even have commercials to discuss matters with others. To give you an example, after two hours, and within 90 seconds of midnight I still did not know if we were going to continue for a third hour. I learned our coverage would end when it did probably about 45 seconds before the coverage did end. So at midnight I surrendered the responsibility for any news that might arise to my colleagues who stand by in NY bureau.

I have to say something about the Fox team on the ground in Utah – they have worked non stop to get you the information and news about this mining disaster. But more than that, I want you to know the type of people they are. Here is an example – yesterday, hours before last night’s catastrophe, and coincidentally, I emailed my colleague Alicia Acuna and told her how much, as a news viewer, I appreciated her coverage. I added that she must be exhausted since I saw her on our air late at night and very early in the morning. She graciously thanked me in her reply email but pointed out that her fatigue was nothing compared to what the 6 miners and their families were going through. So…she was certainly not thinking of herself….she was thinking of the others….that gives you a bit of an insight into her character and those who cover these tragedies.