NEW YORK — The big broadcast news anchors will soon wing their way westward to cover the Oct. 7 recall election — and all are prepared for a bumpy ride.
Coverage of election night is proving to be as chaotic as the race itself, making it impossible for execs at ABC News, CBS News and NBC News to know exactly when they will break in and for how long.
All three news orgs plan to interrupt regularly skedded programming when the polls close in California at 8 p.m. PT, almost latenight on the East Coast, where it will be 11 p.m. ET. Depending upon how the voting unfolds, they also could break in at various points earlier in the evening.
Up in the air
Even when the polls close, election officials have warned news orgs that results are likely to be slow in coming, meaning anchors might not have much to say, at least not right away.
And so, broadcast news nets aren’t sure how long they will stay on the air immediately after polls close.
At the same time, no one in the TV biz is about to miss out. The broadcast and cable news nets will be ramping up their coverage over the weekend, devoting many thousands of dollars and assigning teams of correspondents and producers to blanket the unprecedented recall race.
“This is a major story, and we’ve been covering it since the beginning. It has all the elements,” said Steve Capus, exec producer of NBC’s “Nightly News With Tom Brokaw.” “We fully expect that we may well not know who the next governor is when we sign off that night. It is going to be a long, frustrating night for those of us who like to report who has won before we finish the broadcast”
News execs also said it’s not just a regional story.
NBC News is dispatching Brokaw to L.A. the end of the week. He’ll spend the weekend reporting pieces, and then anchor “Nightly” from L.A. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Peacock also is sending CNBC anchor Brian Williams and “Today” co-host Katie Couric to Los Angeles to help headline election coverage. Williams — Brokaw’s heir-apparent — will file continuous election stories and anchor the Sunday edition of “Nightly” from L.A., while Couric will co-anchor “Today” from there Monday and Tuesday.
On “Dateline Sunday,” which airs at 7 p.m. ET, Brokaw will report on his travels throughout the state over the previous weekend.
At ABC News, “World News Tonight” anchor Peter Jennings will spend the weekend reporting in the field, then anchor “World” from L.A. on Monday and Tuesday.
Election Day, ABC will rely on latenight news prog “Nightline” for coverage. Show, which airs at 11:35 ET, will provide coverage of results, and will do an updated live broadcast at 2:35 ET.
“It’s so historic and it’s so unusual to have a governor recalled, that it begs our viewers’ attention,” said Jon Banner, exec producer of “World News Tonight.”
Like its competish, CBS News is sending “Evening News” anchor Dan Rather to California. He’ll anchor the newscast from L.A. early next week and do reporting in the field. Weekday morning program “The Early Show” is sending co-host Harry Smith to anchor from Los Angeles.
As with any round-the-clock story, the cable news nets don’t face the same obstacles, since they have all the airtime they need. CNN, Fox and MSNBC are all sending teams for special election coverage.
NBC has the advantage of being able to redirect network news coverage to its cable sister, MSNBC.