“A Slow Moving Car Wreck of a Story…”

… is how NBC Nightly News’s Brian Williams describes the oil spill off the coast of Louisiana, writes the AP’s David Bauder in a piece about how the nightly network newscasts decided which major news event — Times Square bomb attempt? oil spill? — their star anchors would (live, on-the-scene) cover last night. “The network anchors essentially were choosing for backdrops between one story where the visual action had long since passed, to one where the impact is only anticipated,” Bauder writes.

Williams anchored from Venice, Louisiana last night, the “15th time he has come to the region since Hurricane Katrina in 2005,” writes Bauder, while “[c]ompetitors Diane Sawyer at ABC and Katie Couric at CBS had far shorter trips — to New York’s Times Square.”


CBS weighed whether to send Couric to Louisiana on Monday, but kept her home instead. The attempted bombing is “still a story of extensive interest” given Times Square’s symbolic meaning as a crossroads, said Rick Kaplan, the CBS Evening News executive producer.

“We really thought long and hard about it,” Kaplan said. “It’s not a money issue.”

The oil story is still likely a few days away from when the true extent of its impact will be clear, he said…

“For us, as important as the (oil spill) story is for weeks and probably for months to come, the attempted bombing of Times Square seemed to be more urgent,” said Jon Banner, ABC World News executive producer.

It feels kind of quaint, all this caring about what the three nightly network news anchors do. But they do still have some 20 million viewers.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.