Of the big three networks, CBS was caught off guard by the death of Muhammad Ali last night. While NBC’s Lester Holt anchored a special report at 12:17 a.m. and ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas broke in at 12:19 a.m., CBS wasn’t on the air until 12:49 a.m. with a special report anchored by KCBS anchor Paul Magers from Los Angeles.
Making matters worse, several west coast CBS stations upcut the special, joining it in progress during CBS prime time. In the case of KCBS, Magers interrupted himself, in a taped promo for the 11 p.m. news.
In the Mountain Time Zone most affiliates were in the middle of their 10 p.m. newscasts. CBS affiliate KCNC reported Ali’s death at 10:25 p.m, more than 20 minutes before the CBS special report.
CBS News has invested heavily in the CBSN digital network which should have given the network the resources to report the news earlier, while not having to rely on their west coast station. Earlier in the day, Ali was reported to be in grave condition at a Phoenix hospital, allowing news outlets ample time to prepare. In the case of ABC, their special report ran more than 20 minutes.
TVNewser has more on how the news networks reported the death of Ali.