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Brian Williams Anchors MSNBC Oregon Shootings Coverage In TV-News Scramble

Brian Williams made his second major appearance on MSNBC Thursday as he anchored the cable-news network’s live coverage of the shootings at Umpqua Community College Thursday in southern Oregon.  Williams’ efforts were just one of many by the big TV-news outlets to cover the horrific event.

Williams, who has appeared on MSNBC at other times earlier this week, began his coverage around 2:20 p.m. His efforts were augmented by Thomas Roberts, who normally anchors mid-afternoon coverage for MSNBC, and Kate Snow, the correspondent who has taken over late-afternoon duties on the NBCUniversal-owned network. Williams’ duties at the network are to anchor big breaking-news events. His first appearance in this new capacity – he had anchored NBC’s “Nightly News” for a decade – came last week as many TV networks covered Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States.

Many cable and broadcast networks interrupted regularly scheduled programming in the 2 p.m. eastern hour. Fox News Channel’s Shepard Smith broke in at 2:18 p.m. with live coverage. CBS News broke into programming with a special report at 2:27 with Jim Axelrod anchoring from New York. The network reported on multiple deaths the community college. CBS News Homeland and Justice Security Correspondent Jeff Pegues contributed. Scott Pelley broke into afternoon coverage at 3 p.m. with more details.  At NBC, Lester Holt anchored a 2:32 p.m. special report.

Among the earliest word of the shootings may have come from NBC News’ Breaking News app, which is operated by its digital unit. The app sent a proximity alert to people in Douglas County, where Umpqua is located, 22 minutes before the first national news org pushed the news.

At CNN, Brooke Baldwin, who normally holds forth between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays, anchored the network’s efforts. Fox News planned to preempt “The Five” at 5 p.m. eastern to go live with coverage from Shepard Smith.

Coverage is likely to extend into primetime at the cable networks. Fox News Channel  will present live coverage during “The O’Reilly Factor” and “The Kelly File.”  Contributions will be provided from Oregon by correspondent Dan Springer.

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