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First Minutes of Terror in Sydney Captured Live on ‘The Morning Show’

Seven Network, one of Australia’s main TV channels, was broadcasting “The Morning Show” not 50 meters from the Lindt cafe in Sydney’s Central Business District when a gunman stormed the cafe, and held dozens of people hostage for 16 hours. “The Morning Show,” which airs from 9am-Noon, as well as “Sunrise” which airs directly before it, originate from the Martin Place studios.

“Here at Channel 7, all of the staff here are being told to get away from the windows,” said host Kylie Gillies, who anchored the first minutes of coverage with Larry Emdur.

Police eventually ordered a newsroom evacuation. The TVTonight blog reports staffers scrambled to an alternative location in Sydney while Seven’s sister stations in Melbourne and Perth anchored some coverage.

On Tuesday morning’s “Sunrise,” just hours after the siege ended, anchor Natalie Barr learned the sad news of the death of one of the two hostages while she was on the air. 38-year Katrina Dawson, a wife and mother of three, was a lawyer who worked just around the corner. Dawson’s brother Sandy, also a lawyer, has done work for Channel Seven.

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Hostage Standoff at Sydney Cafe Ends

After 16 hours, a hostage situation at a Sydney, Australia cafe has ended with police storming the Lindt chocolate store. As many as 30 hostages had been held by a gunman identified as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian refugee. Australia’s TV networks, ABC, Seven, Nine and Ten, have been providing non-stop coverage since the siege started Monday morning. U.S. cable networks ramped up coverage this morning when it came to an end around 10:15amET, or around 2:15am Tuesday in Sydney. NBC News also broadcast a network-wide special report at 10:30am and ABC produced a special at 10:54am.

16 Million Tune in to Cable News For Ferguson Grand Jury Announcement

CuomoFergusonThe news surrounding the grand jury’s decision in the Darren Wilson case gave cable news channels a ratings surge Monday.

While the decision had been reached by mid-afternoon, news channels had 7 hours to consider the result as it was not announced until the 9pmET hour, when daytime viewership peaked. During that hour, FNC, CNN, MSNBC and HLN drew a combined 16.406 million viewers. For comparison, 15.27 million were watching the night’s No. 1 broadcast show, “Dancing with the Stars,” as well as an ABC News special report on the Wilson case, at 9pm.

Fox Business Network, Al Jazeera America and Fusion also produced special coverage while the big four broadcasters interrupted with special reports.

On cable, Fox News led in total viewers for the hour, averaging 7.256M, while CNN led in the younger demo with 3.155M. On Fox News, Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity both had all-time ratings highs.

CNN, which devoted the most resources and the most coverage to the run-up to the decision and its riotous result, earned rare ratings wins: for total day and primetime demo viewership. Fox News took total viewership wins in daytime and primetime. Last night, CNN more than doubled its mid-term election night coverage, when it averaged 2.1 million total viewers and 909,000 in the demo.

Coverage continued late into the night with CNN topping its cable competitors in the hours following Pres. Obama’s remarks (approximately 10:19pmET) in both total viewers and the demo.

  • 11/24/14: 7pm–1amET | Total Viewers / A25-54 demo

FNC: 4,385,000 / 1,399,000
CNN: 4,365,000 / 2,332,000
MSNBC: 1,301,000 / 423,000

Those Surreal Split Screens: Even the President Can’t Control This Message

split screen

It’s an accepted fact that President Obama, like all American presidents, has near absolute power to control his own public image. The president’s every public appearance is meticulously planned and stage-managed, from the clothes the president wears to the backdrop that awaits the president when he steps before the cameras to speak. Nothing is by chance, and every decision is made in support of the White House’s media message of the day.

Last night, we saw one example of something even the President of the United States can’t control: a split-screen. When President Obama emerged after 10 p.m. ET to make remarks about the Ferguson grand jury’s decision, his tone was measured, his words were chosen carefully. He wanted to make clear that the anger felt by many in Ferguson and across the country would be addressed. “Communities of color aren’t just making those problems up.”

But as the president spoke, the split-screen revealed violence had begun.

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Grand Jury Decision Leads to Night of Violence in Ferguson

Obama Ferguson PoliceAs Pres. Obama called for calm, angry protestors tried to flip a police cruiser in Ferguson, MO.

The president delivered a brief statement from the press briefing room tonight following the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s announcement that police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

“There is inevitably going to be some negative reaction and it will make for good TV,” said the president as cable news double boxes showed the damage already being done. “But what we want to do is to make sure that we’re also focusing on those who can offer the kind of real progress that we know is possible.”

“You have a small number of knuckle heads causing the problems,” CNN’s Van Jones explained, just before he and CNN anchors Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon were overcome by tear gas fumes.

Cruiser FergusonIn his remarks about the grand jury’s decision, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said the media hasn’t helped the situation. “The most significant challenge encountered in this investigation has been the 24-hour news cycle and its insatiable appetite for something, for anything to talk about. Following closely behind were the nonstop rumors on social media,” said McCulloch.

Less than an hour after the president’s remarks, that police cruiser was on fire. Police told CNN correspondent Jason Carroll and his crew to leave the scene as live rounds in the cruiser started going off.

Update: 10:57pmET: FNC correspondent Steve Harrigan‘s camera was knocked to the ground.

Update: 11:29pmET: A protestor approached the live position of Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo and shouted “Fuck CNN.” “As we said at the top of this broadcast, we don’t know what’s going to happen. So we apologize for that,” Lemon said.

Update: 11:34pmET: MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and his guest Pastor Michael McBride leave their location as the sounds of gunfire are heard nearby. “That’s gunfire…. Alright…. We’re being told to fall back.”

Window Washers Rescued from One World Trade Center

Drama unfolded on live TV this afternoon when two men were trapped on scaffolding dangling above the 69th floor of One World Trade Center. TV footage focused on the dangling rig that was hanging at an extremely dangerous angle with two window washers trapped on board.

The major cable news networks all went live to the dramatic event, which ended when the two men were rescued through a hole made through the building’s window. One World Trade Center home to publishing company Condé Nast among other employees, opened for business just last Monday.

Check out a Vine of the rescue workers breaking through the WTC window:

Canada’s CBC News Shows What Thoughtful Breaking News Coverage Really Looks Like

MansbridgeFor hours this afternoon, Canada’s CBC News covered the breaking news of at least three shooting incidents in Ottawa. Led by veteran anchor Peter Mansbridge, the rolling coverage was smart, careful, and absolutely un-American.

As Andy Carvin noted, Mansbridge set a respectful, careful tone, calling out interview subjects who had unconfirmed or contradictory information. “So much we could learn from his delivery today,” Carvin told me on Twitter.

On screen, CBC News kept a ticker scrolling, a “Breaking News” bug in the corner, a “LIVE” bug at the top right, and three boxes showing video and live pictures. Mansbridge rarely appeared on camera, even as he took pains to ensure information was correct before reporting anything–particularly the news a soldier shot at Ottawa’s War Memorial had died of his injuries.

As I watched via the network’s live stream in New York, I never heard a second of dramatic music, never saw a full-screen wipe with a catchy graphic like TERROR ON PARLIAMENT HILL, and never, ever heard Mansbridge or any of the CBC’s reporters dip even a toe into the waters of self-promotion.

Compared that to the American cable news networks, where we’ve come to expect that every prime time newscast will begin with urgent music and BREAKING NEWS–complete with multiple on-screen reminders that this is BREAKING NEWS of great importance. CBC’s coverage was, well, very Canadian. And to the nervous system of an American observer of TV news, it was decidedly strange to experience.

Mansbridge, in sharp contrast to the frenetic, breathless delivery we’ve come to expect from American news anchors in times of breaking news (including stories of far less significance than the attacks in Canada), was thoughtful, took his time, and seemed at times to pause, and to consider his words before speaking. Just. Imagine. That.
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First Ebola Patient In U.S., Thomas Eric Duncan, Has Died

Duncan 2This morning, Thomas Eric Duncan, the first confirmed person diagnosed with Ebola in America, died.

Duncan had reportedly contracted the virus in Liberia weeks ago after helping a pregnant woman stricken with Ebola. He then traveled to the U.S. to be with his fiancee. Once in the U.S., he started showing symptoms. At Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, Duncan was sent home despite having high fever and telling doctors he was recently in Liberia. Only after his family contacted the Center for Disease Control was he hospitalized.

CBS News cut in at 11:24amET with Jim Axelrod anchoring in New York and Dr. Jon LaPook contributing. NBC News cut in at 11:34amET with Erica Hill anchoring in New York, Ron Mott reporting from Dallas and Pete Williams from Washington, DC. ABC News did not provide broadcast special report.

MSNBC’s Tamron Hall broke the news at 11:15amET. Fox News’ Shannon Bream first reported the news at 11:16amET. CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen reported the news at 11:19amET.

Networks Cover Secret Service Director’s Resignation

GeorgeBroadcast networks provided special coverage this afternoon after Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned in the aftermath of an armed intruder hopping a fence and running into the White House on September 19. More revelations surfaced this week that another armed man—with a criminal record for assault and battery—was able to get into an elevator with President Obama on September 16.

ABC News cut in at 3:20pmET with George Stephanopoulos anchoring, senior justice correspondent Pierre Thomas reporting from Washington, DC, and chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl reporting from the White House.  CBS News cut in at 3:28pmET with Scott Pelley anchoring and chief White House correspondent Major Garrett reporting from the White House. NBC News didn’t provide special coverage.

All three cable news networks went wall-to-wall with the news along with airing the afternoon press briefing with Press Secretary Josh Earnest, who answered questions on Pierson’s resignation. Joseph Clancy has been named the acting director of the Secret Service.

Cable News Covers Wayward Plane with ‘Unconscious and Slumped Over’ Pilot

ScottCable news networks have been covering the story of an unresponsive single-engine turboprop plane that eventually crashed near Jamaica.

Two F-15 fighter jets scrambled over the Atlantic Ocean trailing the plane, which U.S. officials said was being flown by a pilot “unconscious and slumped over” in the cockpit. The plane departed Rochester, NY this morning heading to Naples, FL. It was last heard from at 1oamET, flying off course and into Cuban airspace, ultimately crashing in the ocean just north of Jamaica.

Fox News’ Jon Scott, a licensed pilot, first reported the news at the top of “Happening Now” at 1pmET. Scott went to former pilot and Fox News correspondent Leland Vittert for a report on the plane, later talking to another former pilot, correspondent Trace Gallagher. Wolf Blitzer first reported the news at 1:14pmET, speaking with Aviation Correspondent Rene Marsh. Ronan Farrow reported the news at 1:20pmET. Scott also first reported the plane’s crash at 2:37pmET. Joy Reid reported the news at 2:46pmET; Brooke Baldwin reported the crash at 2:51pmET. The cause of the crash is unknown at this point.

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