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TV News Tests Different Coverage Strategies for Florida Shooting

Anchors at NBC’s “Today” show were half a world away from Parkland, Florida, this morning, but that didn’t keep them from covering a horrific tragedy unfolding there as if it were in the next town over.

Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie have been holding forth from Peyongchang, South Korea, where the parent of NBC News, Comcast Corp., is spending billions of dollars to cover the 2018 Winter Olympics. Because of the time difference, Guthrie and Kotb reach their morning U.S. audience when it’s still night where they are. The scene behind them is dark, not light. And one of their most notable interviews Thursday morning wasn’t with an athlete with close proximity to their temporary studio like Mikaela Shiffrin or Shaun White, but rather with a high-school student named Samantha Grady, who had been grazed by gunfire in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. As the interview progressed, the distance between the anchors and their interview subject faded.

The nation’s big broadcast networks employed different strategies for their coverage of the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida, a signal of how varying corporate mandates can sometimes shape news product. NBC News has people on the ground in Florida, but the anchors most likely to travel to the scene of a crisis – “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt and “Today” co-hosts Guthrie and Kotb – are in South Korea as part of the company’s multi billion dollar Olympics initiative.

Meanwhile. ABC News dispatched George Stephanopoulos, who has primary responsibility for covering big national events as the network’s “Chief Anchor,” to Parkland, where he was on the ground talking to students at the school and their parents for ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Jeff Glor, anchor of the “CBS Evening News,” traveled to Parkland overnight and co-hosted the network’s “CBS This Morning” with anchors already scheduled to be in New York – a move that allows CBS to promote its evening-news program while giving viewers the morning-news routine they have come to expect. “World News Tonight’s” David Muir was part of a special report anchored by Robin Roberts during “GMA.”

The cable-news networks have made the shooting the main focus of their ongoing coverage. At Fox News Channel, Shep Smith took over the network’s mid-afternoon coverage and gained notice by reading a list of school shootings that have taken place since the 1999 tragedy in Columbine, Colorado. Fox News correspondents on the scene include Phil Keating, Steve Harrigan,and  Ed as well as Fox News Edge’s Caroline Shively. CNN has dispatched anchors including Anderson Cooper, Alisyn Camerota, John Berman, Dave Briggs and Brooke Baldwin to Parkland, Florida, along with HLN’s Mike Galanos and CNN en Espanol’s Juan Carlos Lopez and Jose Manuel Rodriguez. NBC News said Gabe Gutierrez, Tammy Leitner, Catie Beck, Kerry Sanders and Maya Rodriguez are on the ground in Florida.

Coverage is expected to continue. Megyn Kelly opened the 9 a.m, hour of “Today” with a monologue about the shooting and an interview with a student in Florida. Both Muir and Glor are expected to anchor “CBS Evening News” and “World News Tonight” from Florida this evening. Chuck Todd, anchor of NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” has been anchoring NBC News special reports on Thursday.

 

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