David Rhodes: Bin Laden News, with Lara Logan On-Air Led to “Extraordinary” Night for CBS News

By Alex Weprin 

CBS News president David Rhodes spoke to TVNewser earlier today about his network’s plans for covering the Osama Bin Laden news today and throughout the week, as well as his thoughts on how his network handled coverage last night.

Rhodes says that having Lara Logan on-air reporting on Bin Laden–the same night “60 Minutes” ran a piece on her assault in Egypt–made the coverage all the more important and impressive.

TVNewser: What does CBS News have planned for this story tonight?

David Rhodes: We are looking for a lot, the main thing we have going at this point is that we are doing an hour, instead of a half-hour, at 6:30. Katie [Couric] is going to be anchoring that, and that special edition of “Evening News” will all be on this one story.

“60 Minutes” will be doing something on Bin Laden Sunday, can you see expanded coverage on CBS the rest of the week?

The thing about “60 minutes” is that it was some reporting as it relates to that program that put us in particularly good position last night. Lara [Logan] was in the lead on this early on. She was part of the coverage when we joined the network at 10:45, along with the rest of the team. David Martin and Bob Orr and Chip Reid and company.

Then it was all the more dramatic because it was just last night that we ran the story of her ordeal in Egypt. In some cases we were even interrupting that program with reporting that included her on this program. That was a pretty big night.

It was a CBS News producer that first tweeted the news about Bin Laden, is that right?

I think that is right. I mean we did have sources that he had been killed. On the TV side we pushed back network programming twice after ten o’clock, the first one being that the President would be making remarks and that we would have it live on this station. The second time to say that those remarks would be about the hunt for Bin Laden.

We did Not say in that crawl that he was dead, because I don’t think we had that solid at that point. What we did have solid at that point was that what he would be talking about was Bin Laden. We had that from sources other than those that scheduled the event. We did those two pushbacks, and then we joined at about 10:45 PM, and we had that whole national security team in the field between then and when the president did eventually come out and speak.

What do you think are the biggest challenges in covering this story going forward?

One of the things that is emerging in the coverage is this question of who our friends are. We have been supposedly working with the Pakistanis since 9/11 to try and being Al Qaeda figures to justice, and there have been some successes along the way, but it is a little bit alarming to find that Bin Laden has been hiding not in the mythical cave, but in a pretty plain site in a compound in a town full of ex-military officers, that is also home to one of the country’s most important military bases.

You and CBS news chairman Jeff Fager are still fairly new at the top of CBS News Has this event taught you anything that you may apply to the news division going forward?

I don’t know. Each one of these is different, it is a breaking story, some things are the same every place. The reporting that these folks were doing behind the scenes was extraordinary, it put us in a really good position to be able to make those decisions tonight.