Reflections on Early Earthquake

By kevin 

LA Times’ Matea Gold covers the multitude of challenges the cable and broadcast networks faced trying to cover the tragedy in the first hours. “Haiti is not an easy place to get to on a good day,” ABC’s VP of news gathering, David Reiter, told Gold. “We’ve tried a lot of different ways, over land and in the air, and we’re considering sea options.”

Gold writes, “Aside from the coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the story appears to be drawing the biggest U.S. television news deployment to an international crisis since the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami.”

The initial hours were certainly the most chaotic for the networks with limited footage and information. CNN was wall-to-wall, while Fox News and MSNBC had live reports mixed with their taped evening programming. FNC’s VP of news gathering, John Stack, told Gold of the decision to air the Sarah Palin interview, “It was a tough call for our programmers because we had an interesting guest, but the news always takes priority,” and “If they had something beyond the actual report, we would have interrupted.”

NBC News president Steve Capus said that “when there was a lack of pictures, it was hard to know the full scope,” but added that he was “very happy with programming once they got going.”

On day two, the reporting was in full swing for everyone. The NYTimes’ Brian Stelter wrote last night, “By Wednesday evening, about 24 hours after the earthquake, two of the nation’s three network evening news anchors were live on television, barely, in Port-au-Prince.”