Unlike its network rivals, CBS News did not break into its programming for a special report on former President Ford’s death, instead running a printed “crawl” at the bottom of the screen with the news.
NEW YORK (AP) — Unlike its network rivals, CBS News did not break into its programming for a special report on former President Ford’s death, instead running a printed “crawl” at the bottom of the screen with the news.
CBS said Wednesday it is bringing Katie Couric home from an overseas vacation to anchor the “CBS Evening News” on Thursday and any ceremonies for Ford over the weekend.
News of the 93-year-old ex-president’s death broke shortly before midnight on the East Coast, and during prime time Tuesday in the West. Terry Moran, already at work on ABC News’ “Nightline,” anchored a special report, and the news program continued with that story. NBC News had a two-minute special report simulcast on MSNBC and anchored by Bill Fitzgerald.
“We have contingency plans for these kinds of things and discuss them well in advance,” said Bob Murphy, ABC News senior vice president. “There really was never a question that for a former president you would do a brief interrupt.”
On cable, CNN’s Anderson Cooper expanded his program by an hour to cover the story. MSNBC, which normally reruns its earlier evening fare from midnight to 2 a.m. EST, stayed with the story live for two hours.
A CBS News executive was not available to discuss the decision-making process, spokeswoman Leigh Farris said.
“CBS News reported the news of President Ford’s death as soon as we had confirmation, and provided extensive coverage during the network’s overnight broadcasts and `The Early Show,'” she said. The morning show featured clips from a never-before-seen interview with Ford and an obituary narrated by Bob Schieffer.
Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Washington-based Project for Excellence in Journalism, said he was surprised by the decision, but that it also fits what is going on in broadcasting.
“It’s a longer-term trend in which broadcast networks no longer see providing a record of major events as central to what they do,” he said. “They leave that increasingly to cable.”
In 2004, a CBS News producer was fired for breaking into “CSI: NY” for a special report on Yasser Arafat’s death, which caused fans of that show to complain. In that case, specific instructions left to handle Arafat’s death with a “crawl” were ignored.
On the East Coast, news of Ford’s death broke during a rerun of David Letterman’s “Late Show.” In the West, a special report would have interrupted the end of an “NCIS” repeat.
“Generally speaking, you don’t want to be the only network that didn’t do something when the others did,” Rosenstiel said. “It’s better to be the only network that did something when the others didn’t.”