Breaking News with Geraldo

All three cable networks are currently offering nearly nonstop coverage of the Binghamton, New York shootings. Both CNN and MSNBC are making extensive use of zoomed-in Google Earth images, affiliate reports, and phone interviews with on-the-ground witnesses. Their coverage manages to be at once dramatic and restrained.

Fox, however, is complementing its coverage—the images, the reports, the witnesses—not with additional information, but rather with an additional sense of spectacle. The network has been interrupting its feeds from Binghamton with dramatic-verging-on-chaotic pans of its (dramatic-verging-on-chaotic) newsroom as its journalists work to get the story. We’re brought along as a Fox camera operator zooms through a maze of desks laden with multiple computer screens, strewn papers, and, in one case, a large container of Clorox wipes. We’re halted mid-zoom as the camera stops at one of the reporters who’s just hung up a phone. A microphone is thrust before him; seeming slightly baffled at the interruption, he mentions that he and his colleagues are “following some scanner traffic that there is a suspicious person in the area.” (That lead, apparently, turns out not to be true.)

At one point, the camera trains its gaze on Geraldo Rivera, perched on the edge of his seat before a desktop computer screen and with a gaggle of other reporters gathered around him, as he reads aloud—and with an edge of giddiness in voice—a statement from New York Governor David Patterson. Later, Fox’s image feed will cut again to Geraldo, looking oh-so-journalist-y as he takes notes on a white reporter’s notebook.

Getting the story: good. Making the story about yourself: not so much.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.