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How Scott Pelley Made It to Cuba Just in Time for ‘The CBS Evening News’

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 7.24.46 PMThey gambled, and it paid off. On the day President Obama announced he would move forward with talks aimed at normalizing relations with Cuba, “CBS Evening News” anchor Scott Pelley stunned many observers when he appeared–looking crisp in a suit and tie–in Havana, the only evening news anchor on the island Wednesday night. “Everyone is so happy here,” said one CBS News insider about the hectic hours of work by dozens of “Evening News” staffers to make that liveshot happen.

On air, Pelley may have made it look effortless, but it wasn’t. Not at all. The decision to go for it was made shortly after the Cuba story broke. CBS execs decided it was worth the risk of having Pelley absent from the newscast on a major news day–Norah O’Donnell was slated to fill-in on the anchor desk in New York–for the chance to make a bold statement by having Pelley in place in Cuba.

Pelley started the day in Washington, where he attended last night’s White House media holiday party. Once the decision was made, Pelley and his team scrambled and headed directly to the airport.

In New York and Havana, producers, coordinators and fixers worked through the day to make sure that if Pelley’s travel went as hoped–entering the country is hardly without unexpected problems–there would be a live location waiting for him. The best case scenario was that Pelley would land, drive to the camera, mic up and go live.
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CNN’s Patrick Oppmann: ‘My Cuban Friends Reacted With Joy…Some Cried Tears’

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CNN correspondent Patrick Oppmann used to cover stories like the debut of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and Occupy Seattle. But his move from the Pacific Northwest to Havana gave him a truly one-of-a-kind beat–a bureau that dates to 1997, when CNN became the first U.S.-based news organization in nearly 30 years with a bureau in Cuba.

“I have lived in Cuba for the last three years as the only American TV correspondent based here,” Oppmann told TVNewser, not long after President Barack Obama and Cuba’s Raul Castro announced plans to begin talks on normalizing relations. “Despite being 90 miles away from the U.S., it is like covering a country on the other side of the world.”

In November, Oppmann–along with CNN’s Ray Sanchez and Elise Labott–reported that it was not out of the question to think of a possible break in relations between Cuba and the U.S. “Senior administration officials and Cuba observers say reforms on the island and changing attitudes in the United States have created an opening for improved relations.”

That historic process begins now. And what a story to cover. “Many Cubans have had little exposure to Americans,” Oppmann said. “Most of what they read in the Cuban state press is negative and stuck in a Cold War time warp. Still Cubans have treated me, my wife and our two young children with incredible warmth. Today my Cuban friends reacted with joy at the idea of a normalized U.S.-Cuban relationship. Some cried tears. I can only hope – despite their years of struggle – a better future awaits them.” Read more

Neil Cavuto’s Tribute to Producer Who Died of Cancer: ‘You Left Us Speechless’

GoodmanCavutoAnnie Goodman, a former Fox News producer for “Your World” and “Forbes on Fox,” died this morning after a three-year battle with triple negative breast cancer. She was 33.

In a tribute on “Your World” this afternoon, anchor Neil Cavuto described her as “always funny, always blunt, always fighting, never quitting.” (Video after the jump.)

“Annie knew her odds, but she also knew she wasn’t going down without a fight,” Cavuto said. “When I asked her about how it felt to be the face of the disease, leave it to Annie to zing back: ‘I’m just sorry I couldn’t offer a pretty face.’ She was pretty wrong.”

Goodman had worked for Fox News for more than a decade in a variety of positions, most of them on Cavuto’s show. (Annie was a friend and colleague with whom I worked for three years at Fox.) She was diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer at the age of 30 and underwent several years of chemotherapy and radiation as the disease spread to her ovaries, lungs, and brain. Read more

Flying Home From Cuba to the U.S., Alan Gross Got to Watch a Lot of CNN

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Flying home to the United States after five long years as a prisoner in Cuba, Alan Gross caught up with his wife, Judy. He also caught up on the news, and White House photos reveal his first exposure to American news after leaving Cuba was CNN–first “New Day,” and then later, “CNN Newsroom.”

16045383805_c6a487862f_zThe government jet that made the trip from Havana to Joint Base Andrews–complete with the presidential seal–appears to have had cable news on throughout the flight, but only CNN appears in photos. In the past, it’s been said that the president doesn’t watch cable news, and on one occasion he joked with voters in an Ohio bar about changing the TVs away from Fox.

In one White House photo, CNN’s Carol Costello is flat-out ignored by Gross as he spoke by phone with President Obama. So CNN was on, but there’s no guarantee anybody onboard the flight was actually watching.

TV Jobs: Fox News, NBCUniversal, CCTV America

This week, Fox News is hiring a producer for On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, and NBCUniversal needs an assignment editor. Meanwhile, CCTV America is seeking a digital producer and a guest producer. Get the scoop on these openings below, and find additional just-posted gigs on Mediabistro.

Find more great TV jobs on the TVNewser job board. Looking to hire? Tap into our network of talented TVNewser pros and post a risk-free job listing. For real-time openings and employment news, follow @MBJobPost.

How ABC’s Jim Avila Broke the News of the Release of Alan Gross

AvilaJimMore than 20 trips in nearly 20 years of covering Cuba paid off for ABC’s Jim Avila this morning when he broke the news that American contractor Alan Gross would be released from a Cuban prison.

But it didn’t stop there. Gross’s freedom, in exchange for the release of the remaining so-called “Cuban Five” was the key to re-starting diplomatic relations with the island nation just 90 miles from Key West.

“I was told early on that this was not just going to be a prisoner exchange,” Avila told TVNewser from Havana, where he’d just arrived.

“We had information that Gross would be released this week, for about a month,” Avila says. “We held it back at the request of both the White House and the attorney representing Alan Gross for fear that it would cost him his life. That’s why were were able to break it first.”

Avila, a White House correspondent for ABC News, has been closely following Gross’s case. He’s made two trips to Havana in an effort to speak to him. Those requests were denied, but Avila saw something big on the horizon. Read more

The Scoreboard: Tuesday, Dec. 16

25-54 demographic (Live +SD)

  • Total day: FNC: 247 | CNN: 142 | MSNBC: 82 | HLN: 75
  • Primetime: FNC: 389 | CNN: 181 | MSNBC: 126 | HLN: 97

4p: 5p: 6p: 7p: 8p: 9p: 10p: 11p: 12a:
FNC
Cavuto:

205

TheFive:

342

Baier:

298

Greta:

242

O’Reilly:

514

Kelly:

430

Hannity:

222

O’Reilly:

196

Kelly:

250

CNN
Tapper:

126

Blitzer:

169

Blitzer:

188

Burnett:

168

Cooper:

242

Special:

148

Tonight:

152

Cooper:

151

Special:

134

MSNBC
Wagner:

59

EdShow:

81

Sharpton:

100

Matthews:

145

Hayes:

124

Maddow:

152

O’Donnell:

102

Hayes:

98

Maddow:

75

HLN
Now:

5

WWYD?:

18

Files:

17

Special:

29

Grace:

88

Dr.Drew:

52

Files:

150

Files:

220

Files:

249

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‘The O’Reilly Factor’ Plans ‘Killing Lincoln’ Preview Show

5O'Reilly BillFox News Channel will air the film “Killing Lincoln” on Tuesday, Dec. 30 at 9 pm ET. The film is based on Bill O’Reilly‘s 2011 New York Times best-seller by the same name, so it makes sense that FNC will have a little cross-promotion.

Prior to the film, a special edition of “The O’Reilly Factor” will air, previewing all-things “Killing Lincoln” at 8 pm ET. Co-author of the book Martin Dugard, Glenn Beck, FNC contributors Juan Williams and Mary Katharine Ham, FOX Business Network’s Don Imus and “Factor” correspondent Jesse Watters will be guests on the special.

The film is narraterted by Tom Hanks and was National Geographic Channel’s first original docudrama, drawing 3.4 million viewers. “Killing Lincoln” documents the events leading up to April 14, 1865 and delves into the mind of John Wilkes Booth and what led him to assassinate the 16th president of the United States.

Ronan Farrow Investigates the VA in New On-Going Series

RFRonan Farrow Daily” will launch a special investigative series of special reports on the VA beginning tomorrow at 1 pm ET. Over the next few months “Inside the VA” will delve into various unresolved issues affecting veterans served by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The series is a collaboration between “Ronan Farrow Daily” and the NBC News Investigative Unit.  The effort began after allegations surfaced earlier this year that some VA medical facilities had manipulated patient appointment data to conceal backlogs and delays in care, leading to multiple investigations and the departure of top VA officials.

The first report is a follow-up to an NBC News Investigative Unit report from 2009.  That report examined how the VA notified more than 10,000 veterans that there was a possibility they could have been infected with viruses during routine colonoscopies – because mistakes in cleaning and configuring equipment may have exposed them to previous patients’ bodily fluids.  Read more

Bob Schieffer ‘Stunned’ Cuba News Wasn’t Leaked: ‘This is Just a Bombshell’

SchiefferCubaBob Schieffer says he’s not only “stunned” by the news that the U.S. is normalizing relations with Cuba, but by the fact that no news organization saw it coming.

“I’m as stunned as everybody else is around here,” said Schieffer during CBS’s special report. “Washington is not good at keeping secrets, but this is a secret that obviously held. The few people who knew this was going on certainly held it to themselves and it did not leak.”

“I came of age when Fidel Castro was the enemy,” said Schieffer who’s been with the network since 1969. His first big story came at the age of 26, as reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, covering the assassination of Pres. Kennedy.

“This is just a bombshell. I’ve never seen something quite as unexpected as this happen in a long, long time around here,” said Schieffer.

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