In a replay of when the first U.S. bombs hit Baghdad, CNN anchor Bernard Shaw got the all-news station on the air first with news of the Northridge earthquake at 4:31 a.m. Monday.
“I woke up in my room at the Regent Beverly Wilshire looking at the ceiling shake,” said Shaw, who was in L.A. for the CableAce Awards and last week’s Superhighway Summit. “When the shaking stopped I called CNN headquarters in Atlanta and they put me on the air. It reminded me of Baghdad when the bombs were dropping and you had no control of what was going on.”
The Big Three network news machines all kicked in minutes later and went on to preempt their regularly scheduled fare throughout the day with continuous earthquake coverage.
The webs all relied heavily on reports from their respective LosAngeles-owned and operated stations. However, ABC News was forced to do business with Tribune-owned independent KTLA when O&O KABC temporarily lost power.
All the network news divisions went into emergency mode, crashing primetime specials. ABC turned its Monday newsmag “Day One” over to quake coverage. CBS and NBC put together half-hour specials for 8 p.m. Monday night.
Meanwhile, the Peacock web’s “Dateline NBC” and the Eye web’s “48 hours” scrapped their scheduled lineups for their respective Tuesday night editions and hustled to put together an earthquake special.
The networks dispatched their anchors to L.A. “NBC Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw and his “ABC World News Tonight” counterpart Peter Jennings arrived in time to do live reports for their Monday evening newscast. “CBS Evening News” anchor Dan Rather arrived in New York to do the Eye web’s 8 p.m. half-hour Monday night special.
CBS was the only one of the networks that decided not to go with an 11:30 p.m. earthquake special, opting instead to go with the regularly scheduled “Late Show With David Letterman.”
The quake unearthed one surprise correspondent for CBS News. Former “Evening News” anchor Walter Cronkite, who was in Los Angeles on business, filed reports for his alma mater.