BREAKING 5:42 PM… REFRESH FOR LATEST: The TV news channels reported simultaneously “the suspect is in custody” just minutes before the Boston Police tweeted confirmatin. News crews on the scene said police and residents broke into spontaneous applause. In summary the news networks did a responsible and accurate job covering the 23-hour manhunt for the 19-year-old Boston Marathon suspect and his dead older brother. TV anchors are quoting Boston police as saying Suspect #2 is alive and has unspecified medical needs. “It is the end,” simply summed up CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
UPDATE 4:30 PM: Primetime is already abandoned on the East Coast. Because what may be the incredibly dramatic finish to the Boston bombing Suspect #2 manhunt is playing out live on broadcast and cable TV right now. But, once again, the Boston Globe got the major scoop. The nets are quoting the newspaper as reporting, “Suspect is pinned down”. Specifically a massive police presence has him cornered in a residential Watertown neighborhood in what is being called a standoff between authorities and the wounded suspect who reportedly has been hiding in a boat in someone’s backyard. In terms of the TV coverage, ABC cut to the police action and to Diane Sawyer first. CBS stayed with its syndicated programming Judge Judy before cutting to WBZ Boston a few minutes later. NBC stayed with the syndicated Ellen show until shifting over to MSNBC news and then Brian Williams. But right after a technical mishap ensued and voices could be heard saying, “You’re not listening? We don’t know. We don’t know shit.” The feed was swiftly cut – and Williams quickly came back on air to apologize for the four-letter word. CNN was first to alert viewers to gunshots in Watertown – and immediately all the news channels switched to coverage of the swarming police cars coming from everywhere. Fox News was first to report “Suspect is down” which wasn’t entirely accurate. The 19-year-old has not been captured and he has not been killed: he is hunkered down in the boat and refusing to come out. meanwhile, the Boston area lockdown was ordered back on.
PREVIOUSLY, 3:28 PM: The Boston area lockdown is lifted – so tonight’s movie-going should proceed as normal. The transit system is also now open and working again as well but citizens should remain “vigilant,” Gov. Deval Patrick announced at a press conference just now. All the networks broke into their resumed regular scheduled programming briefly to cover the press conference. However, despite the lockdown being lifted, major sporting events and the Boston Comic-Con remain postponed as Deadline reported before.
PREVIOUSLY, 12: 25PM: ABC and NBC cut away from Diane Sawyer and Brian Williams’ coverage of the Boston manhunt to go to local news today at noon. The local stations were covering the situation in Boston themselves. CBS, which had cut away to air The Price Is Right at 10 AM, continued their resumption of a network special report that came back on the air at 11 AM. As the lockdown in Boston continues through the day and mass transit has been shut down, sporting events are being postponed. “Tonight’s Bruins/Penguins game has been postponed and tentatively rescheduled for 4/20 at 12:30 p.m,” tweeted the Boston Bruins at 12:19 PM PT. This comes as the team’s last game on Monday was cancelled and the team pulled the plug on their practice this morning. The Red Sox will also not be playing tonight. “Tonight’s Red Sox game at Fenway Park scheduled for 7:10pm has been postponed to support efforts of law enforcement officers,” the team tweetedat noon Friday. The Boston Comic-Con has also been postponed as well as all events at the Hynes Convention Center have been suspended. The April 20 to 21 event was expected to attract 6,000 visitors. The Walking Dead’s Laurie Holden and Lauren Cohan were among the celebrity guest scheduled to appear at the Comic-Con this weekend. Organizers say the event will be rescheduled “in the not too distant future.”
PREVIOUSLY, 10:02 AM: CBS cut away at 10 AM from its special coverage of the manhunt in Boston to go back to its regular scheduled programming of The Price Is Right. Both ABC and NBC have stayed on the search in Boston.
PREVIOUSLY, 9:29 AM: As the manhunt continues in Boston, ABC, NBC and CBS are staying on continuous coverage and pre-empting any regular scheduled morning programming. CBS say that anchor Scott Pelley will be hosting a primetime CBS News Special Report: Boston Bombers tonight from 9 to 10 PM ET in the slot where the drama Vegas usually airs. As it has several times this week, CBS will be broadcasting a one-hour version of the CBS Evening News. ABC will also have a one-hour expanded version of ABC World News and a special edition of 20/20 from live from Boston at 10 PM tonight in the newsmagazine’s regular slot and live coverage into the AM with Nightline. Tonight’s regularly scheduled Rock Center With Brian Williams will now be live from Boston at 10PM. The NBC Nightly News, which Williams has been hosting from Boston for most of the week, will be expanded to an hour again tonight.
PREVIOUSLY, FRIDAY AM: ABC and CBS have expanded their morning shows beyond 9 AM as the Boston area manhunt for the 19-year-old bombing suspect continues. NBC’s 9 AM hour of Today is focused on the breaking story. CNN International broke in to CNN/U.S. at 1:13 AM local time. MSNBC came on at 1:18. Fox News interrupted a re-air of “On the Record” at 1:24. All this according to TVNewser. It’s been riveting television as a night through morning on-air news frenzy beganon cable, switched to local affiliates for on-scene coverage, and expanded to the broadcast networks. Fast-moving stories like Monday’s Boston Marathon violence and today’s Watertown manhunt don’t just take lives but do take on a TV life of their own. This time around, the emphasis was on live action and little speculation as obviously chastened news channels made sure to pin down facts before reporting them. News anchors kept a careful lid for hours on personal info about the two bombing suspects and more recently the existence of their so-called accomplice. For example, MSNBC was interviewing one talking head overnight when the guest started to speculate about the brothers’ “Chechnya connection”. “I don’t know how much we can confirm,” Mika Brzezinski warned viewers. By morning, Fox News was quoting Suspect #2’s Facebook page calling himself a Muslim. CNN only much later began providing that intel.
Overnight, the small tube had help framing the fast and furiously unfolding story from authorities who wanted TV newsers to spread as much information as possible about the two armed and dangerous brothers. That had to do with public safety concerns before Suspect #1 was arrested and then killed from strapping on an IED, and after Suspect #2 escaped and is still at large. “We believe this to be a terrorist,” Boston Police commissioner Ed Davis told reporters at a hastily arranged press conference in the darkness. “We believe this to be a man who has come here to kill people. We need to get him into custody.” Finally, the chilling “T” word was uttered with passion by a top official on camera. (Because one officer had been shot and killed, and another injured.) Once the sun came up, authorities imposed on Boston area residents a citywide ‘shelter in place’ lockdown affecting one million – thus giving the media a fresh development to report throughout the morning.
All TV crews had to do was point and shoot the action unfolding in front of them – far from an easy job even in daylight – while reporters provided the backstory. They told of robbery, bullets, chase, explosives, shootout, and searches, bringing the live action stretching the few blocks from MIT’s Cambridge campus to the city streets of Watertown into living rooms around America. Many reporters used police scanners to keep track of news in real time as the night sped by and the dawn broke. In the morning hours they’re covering the door-to-door search for the so-called ‘terrorist on the loose’ – 19-year-old Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev.
Media-watchers keeping score announced this morning which news channel was first or lagged. (I couldn’t tell you because my Time Warner Cable service apparently kept starting and stopping all night long, dammit! But I do know The Boston Globe was first to report the arrest of Suspect #1. While both Fox and NBC were tied for identifying the terrorists by name and age and reporting that they were brothers.) But bragging rights matter less in situations like this than accuracy. I thought every reporter and anchor stayed refreshingly understated and saw TV news trying for responsible journalism. How restorative for both the medium and profession after the earlier mess of reported rumors.
Deadline’s International Editor Nancy Tartaglione reports that, thus far, the British and French broadcasters are sticking with regularly scheduled programming. But the 24-hour international news channels (CNN International, Sky News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera English) are all covering it non-stop.