By Alan Pergament
Some quick thoughts from a dial-switcher about the media coverage of the Boston Marathon horror:
To show how far “CBS This Morning” has come in the last few months, I turned to Channel 4 this morning to catch its coverage of the Boston Marathon tragedy. That's a first in the past 20 years. I'm usually a "Today" watcher, as is most of Western New York.
I switched to CBS partly today to see the usual strong job done by Kenmore’s Jeff Glor, who routinely is assigned big stories and was in Boston to cover this one with "CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O’Donnell. Back in the studio, co-host Charlie Rose established just the right tone as usual for the emotional story.
O’Donnell interviewed reporter Jonathan Elias, who was covering the race in Boston live for CBS affiliate WBZ at the time of the explosions and therefore had a unique perspective.
The Boston explosions were such a big story that all the local affiliates bailed out of their 5 p.m. newscasts Mondays to run their network coverage for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, the nets didn’t have too much information so I wasn’t terribly surprised when Channel 4 was the first to bail out to carry its local news instead of CBS. Channel 2 waited until the 6 p.m. news to drop NBC’s coverage.
NBC dropped an original episode of NBC’s “Revolution” Monday night to carry an hour-long special anchored by Brian Williams at 10 p.m. “Revolution” is one of NBC’s few hits so the programming move illustrated NBC’s commitment to news. You also wonder if some of the content of "Revolution" might have felt inappropriate on Monday night.
NBC’s White House correspondent Chuck Todd appeared on the Williams special to note how frustrated the Obama Administration was about the lack of details about who was behind the explosions and what the motive was for doing it.
I thought the still pictures depicting the horror of runners and spectators after the blasts were much more effective than the impact of any live video.
The one good thing – and perhaps the only good thing – about the fact the authorities hadn’t announced a suspect was that whoever is responsible didn’t get the massive media attention he or she undoubtedly craves and the focus was on the victims and heroes. Once someone is caught, the story unquestionably will shift partly to the suspect.
Western New York has a large running community, so as would be expected the local TV stations scrambled to find the reaction of WNYers who were running the marathon. Thankfully, they all appeared to be safe at this writing.
WGR carried ESPN Radio’s coverage, which Monday night included some moving and informative interviews with former Boston Red Sox star Curt Schilling and former New England Patriot star Tedy Bruschi. Bruschi was watching the race with his family near the finish line because he has a team
that races for charity.
WGRZ anchor Scott Levin tried to become part of the story by telling viewers that he is from the Boston, Mass. area before interviewing his brother Gregg, who was at the race with his family. Levin can be excused because everyone in the media was looking for some local angle. However, the interview with his brother played like a bit of stretch since Gregg just said he and his family missed the explosions by less than 30 minutes. “We had a great time,” said Gregg Levin. "Luckily, we were on the way home. We were right there. It was kind of scary. We’re just processing it right now.” The interview sounded more like something that the Levins could have dealt with privately but as I said everyone was looking for some news angle.
Finally, I’m told that Channel 2 sports anchor Ed Kilgore wasn’t going to be on the 6 p.m. newscast Monday, as it appeared the station might be reevaluating when he will be leaving after taking a job with a company owned by Buffalo Sabres Owner Terry Pegula and hosting a Pegula press conference on Saturday. However, the 6 p.m. sportscast was dropped anyway because of the station’s extensive coverage of the marathon.