As New Yorkers Celebrate Bin Laden’s Death, WNBC Provides Unrivaled Local Coverage

By Andrew Gauthier 

Following the dramatic announcement late Sunday night that the U.S. had killed Osama bin Laden, New York’s WNBC stayed in breaking news mode long after Brian Williams signed off for NBC, as impromptu celebrations sprouted up across the city.

Shiba Russell, who joined the station in February, led WNBC’s coverage of the historic occasion as Ida Siegal reported live near Ground Zero, where thousands of New Yorkers had gathered to celebrate the death of a man who, nearly ten years ago, drastically altered life in the city.

The networks scrambled to cover the news on Sunday night, providing some memorable moments as well as a few intriguing sidebars for TV newsers. NBC seemed by far the best prepared for the event, with Williams quickly assuming his anchor chair and leading the network’s starting lineup of Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd, and Richard Engel. Katie Couric, who recently announced that she’s leaving CBS, was noticeably missing from the network’s coverage Sunday night as Lara Logan appeared with anchor Russ Mitchell shortly after her moving “60 Minutes” interview aired. Over on ABC, George Stephanopoulos was at the anchor desk, leaving one to ponder exactly what time he gets to work everyday for his “GMA” job.

In the end, though, it was WNBC’s coverage that was the most memorable as the NBC flagship was the only network affiliated station in New York to provide live, local coverage of the news that obviously bears special significance for the city.

CBS was the first major network to go back to regularly scheduled programming following Obama’s speech. ABC stuck with network news until 1:00 a.m. [see update below] while NBC switched to local news in many markets along the east coast.

As a crowd of thousands waved American flags and chanted “U-S-A” near Ground Zero, WNBC stayed on until 1:30 a.m., giving local viewers reason to celebrate even if they were just sitting on the couch.

>Update: Our sister site FishbowlNY has additional coverage of how NY stations handled last night’s breaking news, including WABC’s three-person anchor team of Bill Ritter, Sandra Bookman, and Joe Torres, who appeared for a short time following Obama’s speech.