Newtown 911 Tapes Released: ‘This is an Extraordinarily Difficult Story to Cover Today’

By Merrill Knox 

The cable news networks are proceeding with caution as they decide whether to air the 911 tapes of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which were released at 2pmET after a lengthy court battle.

“This is an extraordinarily difficult story to cover today. The release of the 911 tapes obviously extremely sensitive,” CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin, who covered the shooting from Newtown, said at the top of the 2pmET hour. “We are fully aware of that at CNN. Behind closed doors right now, our editorial teams are evaluating whether these 911 calls are newsworthy for airing on television, which portions we will choose to air for you today.”

On MSNBC, Tamron Hall said NBC News is “choosing not to air them out of respect for the families and the sensitivity of the issue.” On Fox News, Gretchen Carlson said the tapes were being reviewed “to decide whether they are appropriate for air.”

In a strange twist of events, another school shooting — at West Orange High School in Winter Garden, Fla. — was reported during the 2pmET hour. Shepard Smith reported on the ongoing situation from the Fox News Deck moments after Carlson reported on the release of the Newtown 911 tapes.

>More: Fox News aired a portion of the recordings at the top of the 3pmET hour. “Fox News will not be airing the most gut-wrenching moments from those calls,” Smith said. “…We and our managers have listened to all the recordings that came in that day and out of respect for the victims we will be very sensitive with we do put on Fox News Channel and across all of our platforms throughout the day and in the days to come.”

On CNN, national correspondent Deborah Feyerick described some of the moments from the recordings.

ABC News and NBC News guidance for airing the recordings is after the jump.

ABC News will not air the 911 calls on any of its platforms.

The NBC News standards department concludes “it is for all programs and the website to report on the controversy related to the release of the tapes and include quotes or information from the tapes, but without audio.” The memo from NBC News president Deborah Turness sent to staffers this morning is below:

The families of the victims of the Newtown shootings made it public that they did not want the 911 tapes to be released. Unless there is any compelling editorial reason to play the tapes, I would like to respect their wishes. We must listen to the tapes when they are released and make our final decision. But for the avoidance of doubt, no NBC News network outlet online or on TV should use the tapes until that decision has been taken. Using the tapes could cause distress and we must therefore proceed with great sensitivity and respect, particularly as the first anniversary of the shootings approaches.

Thank you.