Wilma: Compelling Live On CNN

By Brian 

Between 7 and 8am, it was hard to turn the channel away from CNN. I checked in with FNC and the broadcast networks every few minutes, but their phone interviews and faraway live shots could not compete.

Around 7:30am, “severe weather expert” Chad Myers became lead anchor. He served as a ringmaster of sorts, as Anderson Cooper and John Zarrella documented storm surge at Marco Island, Miles O’Brien stood in the gusts in Naples, and Jason Carroll fed videophone images from Hurricane One.

Thanks to Cooper’s crew, viewers witnessed a storm surge first-hand. Cooper and Zarrella were standing in the sand as the water began to overwhelm the beach; minutes later, the water had swallowed the entire beach.

“I’ve never seen anything like this, just with this storm surge taking away this whole beach,” Cooper said.

For a while, CNN relied on a three-piece: One main box and two supplementary live shots. Then the control room switched to a four-square, with a shot of O’Brien, multiple camera angles of Cooper and Zarrella, and a radar.

Myers acted like the guardian. “Anderson, do you need to go to your fallback position?,” he asked. “No, i think we’re alright,” Cooper responded.

At 7:55am, Myers talked to O’Brien about the shifting winds, and asked: “Is this going to put you in any danger? Do I need to get you out of there? At 8:10am, O’Brien said he was in a wind tunnel, and Myers said “I need you to get around another corner if you can.” “We’re going to find a safer place and we’ll get back to you,” O’Brien responded.

> Carroll’s mobile broadcasts were stunning. He measured the floodwaters in downtown Naples with his body: “Almost knee-length.”

> Myers asked O’Brien if he had eye protection. He said yes, but he didn’t know where it was. “It might have blown away,” he said…