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TV coverage of standoff hard to understand

It is hard to say what was tougher to explain -- why the man on the 190 Monday night was holding a gun to his head or why the three local news departments carried the standoff live when very little happened for about two hours and 30 minutes before he was captured.

This was easily a story that could have waited for regular coverage on the 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. news and also been covered with a news cut-in when it was resolved.

The man was driving a vehicle with Florida plates and he had nowhere to go after being surrounded by SWAT teams and other police agencies. The television stations also reported that the agencies would be in no hurry to resolve the standoff because their goal was to have it end without violence.

The standoff - which closed the Niagara Thruway on both sides - also seemed to be ideal to be carried entirely on the stations' Web sites rather than pre-empt coverage of the nightly national newscasts and preempt or delay popular entertainment programming.

At around 8:30 p.m., Channel 4 News Director Joe Schlaerth said he planned to stay with the story until police were in control or "God forbid, something else happens."

About then, Channel 4 co-anchor Don Postles was getting impatient, though probably not as impatient as fans of CBS' popular Monday comedies. He thought it was time for the man to come to his senses "and realize he's not going anywhere."

Undoubtedly, by then many viewers were hoping that the stations would come to their senses and shift the story entirely to the web.

After the man was charged, subdued and captured and the law enforcement agencies justifiably praised for resolving the situation without serious injury, Channel 2 was the first to quickly head to regular network programming and Channel 4 (which showed a replay of the capture) was the last.

What did you think of the stations' decision to carry the standoff live for so long?

--- Alan Pergament

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