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Archives: December 2006

Saddam: “An Overnight Death Watch, and Then Images of the Hangman’s Noose”

saddamdec31.jpgHighlights of Alessandra Stanley‘s coverage recap:

> “Throughout the night, cable news anchors repeatedly assured viewers that for deep-rooted cultural reasons, the Iraqi public would need to see a videotape of Saddam Hussein’s execution — as if implying that left to their own devices, the anchors would prefer to just flash a photocopy of the death certificate.”

> “After devoting his entire hour on CNN to the impending hanging, Larry King asked, ‘Is there something ghoulish about this?’ Mr. King looked a little let down when he had to sign off before the execution, promising viewers, ‘It is really imminent now.’”

> “Before the first pictures arrived, some anchors fretted on air about whether they could be shown. CNN’s Anderson Cooper seemed most worried about the content… Fox was much less squeamish, pumping up the Friday night vigil with graphics that promised ‘The end is near!’ and ‘Date with Death’ and urging viewers to stay tuned to Fox News.”

> Also: More Saddam coverage recaps: Variety and The Hollywood Reporter

(Photo via ICN)

Saddam: Broadcast Nets Show Still Pics

The AP sums up how the broadcast nets showed the Saddam execution:

  NBC News, both on the Saturday ‘Today’ show and on the MSNBC cable channel until about midday, aired only video taken before Saddam was hanged. NBC News President Steve Capus then approved the use of one still photo of Saddam’s body.

‘I didn’t want them to rush into it,’ Capus said. ‘I wanted them to be cautious. I didn’t think there was anything to be gained by being first with the pictures of the body.’

CBS News aired four separate images of Saddam’s body on ‘The Early Show.’ ABC, keeping in mind the hour of the day, decided to show only a still picture of the body, one without the blood stains.

‘We decided to isolate a freeze frame that clearly identified it was him but didn’t dwell on it and didn’t have some of the more macabre aspects of his head,’ said Bob Murphy, ABC News senior vice president.”

2006: The Cable Year’s Best Quotes

> Jun. 26:

“Our gimmick is news.”

Jon Klein, to Bill Carter

> May 1:

“The president makes decisions, he’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know — fiction.”

Stephen Colbert, to the White House press corps

> Jul. 11:

“Because of his personal demons, Keith has imploded everywhere he’s worked. From lashing out at co-workers to personally attacking Bill O’Reilly and all things Fox, it’s obvious Keith is a train wreck waiting to happen. And like all train wrecks, people might tune in out of morbid curiosity, but they eventually tune out, as evidenced by Keith’s recent ratings decline. In the meantime, we hope he enjoys his paranoid view from the bottom of the ratings ladder and wish him well on his inevitable trip to oblivion.”

–FNC spokesperson Irena Briganti, talking about Keith Olbermann

> Jan. 9:

“Perhaps Jeff Zucker should think twice about tying his future, not to mention the reputation of General Electric, to an unstable ratings-killer like Keith, who uses an NBC property for his personal attacks.”

–FNC spokesperson Brian Lewis, to David Bauder, also talking about Keith Olbermann

> Feb. 25:

“The median age of viewers of this program is 58.7. The median age of viewers of Mr. O’Reilly’s program is 68.6. So if you want to be concerned about ‘well-being,’ Bill, be concerned about the odds of your viewers living into next week.”

Keith Olbermann, talking about Bill O’Reilly

> Nov. 30:

“Everyone has an agenda. All reporters are biased. Why not be open about it, transparent? We shouldn’t pretend. The audience is looking for honest opinions, for opinions they can relate to.”

–An unnamed senior cable news exec, to Ken Auletta

> Jan. 4:

“I’m not smart enough to debate you point to point on this, but I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap.”

David Letterman, to Bill O’Reilly

> Oct. 4:

“I hate to say this, but if I got run over by a bus today — and this will really irritate our detractors — it wouldn’t matter at all. There are enough good young people in place to keep this going forever and force the rest of the media to pay attention to fairness, and that’s all I ever wanted to do anyway. So we’ll be fine without me.”

Roger Ailes, to Rebecca Dana

> Jun. 10:

“The tide of history is going from television to the Internet. It’s like manifest destiny. Finding ways to capitalize on that migration is the most important issue facing the news industry today.”

Bill Wolff, to George Winslow

> Jul. 25:

“Can’t wait to see what people say about us in the next 10 years”

–A message from Fox News on a tape shown to TV critics at the TCA press tour

2006: The Broadcast Year’s Best Quotes

> Oct. 5:

“They wrote some lines and taught me a style, put a happy face on the script where I should smile, And the key demographics went right off the chart…”

Bob Schieffer‘s country ditty about a TV anchorman

> Apr. 10:

“This is a time of amazing change for all of the evening newscasts. The last one has been a year unlike any we’ve seen across the industry in 20 years.”

Rome Hartman, to David Bauder

> May 24:

“I believed Elizabeth and Bob were the right people at the right time. Unfortunately, some insurgents in Iraq had a different idea.”

David Westin, to Matea Gold

> Jan. 4:

“What’s scary right now is the average age of the network news viewer is 60 years old.”

Les Moonves, to Neil Cavuto

> Jan. 7:

“They’re talking about giving Katie Couric $20 million. I say take that $20 million you could buy 40 reporters, 40 new reporters.”

Andy Rooney, to Larry King

> Apr. 3:

“Couric shouldn’t leave NBC. Doing so would be a terrible mistake… It’s clear that while Couric is very good at a lot of things – and she has to be, to be at Today – the CBS Evening News isn’t a good fit.”

–NY Daily News TV critic Richard Huff

> Jul. 24:

“Alert the media — they’ve come up with the secret formula. It’s called New Coke.”

–An NBC spokesperson, reacting to ABC’s decision to drop the “Tonight” from “World News Tonight.” ABC responds by saying NBC Nightly News is “losing its fizz”

> Jun. 17:

“Among the places he had sought solace… was in ‘Good Night, and Good Luck,’ George Clooney’s homage to Edward R. Murrow and the CBS News of old, a film that Mr. Rather said he had seen five times in theaters, most recently alone.”

Jacques Steinberg, writing about Dan Rather

> Oct. 30:

“We’re like a franchise football team that went out and got a superstar and brought in some big hitters and we expected to be 8-and-0 at this point, and we’re not.”

Byron Pitts, to Peter Johnson, talking about Katie Couric

> Nov. 29:

“To be honest with you, I think it’s a political statement, not a news judgment.”

Rome Hartman, to Rebecca Dana, referring to NBC’s “civil war” stance

> Sep. 26:

“Brian is back where God wanted him to be, at No. 1″

Bob Wright, referring to Brian Williams‘ success after Couric’s premiere

2006: The Year’s Top Stories

December: Iraq Study Group report comes out; Ford dies; Saddam is executed

November: Saddam guilty; Midterm elections

October: New York City plane crash

September: TV nets remember 9/11/01

August: Terror plot in UK; Returning to the Gulf Coast a year after Katrina

July: Middle East conflict

July: North Korean missile launch: CNN “pounces,”MSNBC asleep

June: Al-Zarqawi killed: ABC first on TV; MSNBC first on cable; first on the web

May: Immigration rallies

March: Third anniversary of Iraq war; “Operation Swarmer” gets overblown

February: Torino Olympics boosts ratings for MSNBC and CNBC

January: Miners trapped in WV; CNN owns coverage; “only one made it out alive,” resident tells Anderson Cooper; later, critiquing and defending the media

Saddam: CNN & Fox News Show The Tightening Of The Noose


Arlen from The Daily Background provides this summary of the execution tape broadcast:

“CNN International was the first.

CNN’s international channel broadcast footage of Saddam’s hanging which it ripped from an Iraqi State television station. CNNI showed a one minute and two second long clip, beginning with the former dictator being led forward by masked guards, up until he had the noose around his neck.

They cut away with a fade back towards the CNN hosts discussing the event (they had been talking over the footage which had no sound, presumably because the Iraqi broadcasters had been narrating it), just as the bright orange noose was tightened around Hussein’s neck.

Fox followed up shortly after CNN, and showed a little more of the videotape, including the noose being tightened twice by one of the guards. The guards then stepped away in the Fox tape, and the tape ended (cutting to the beginning of the segment, which was apparently on a loop). Fox News host Gregg Jarrett indicated that the videotape broadcasted on Iraqi state television stopped right before the trap door opened.

It’s clear that the two networks cut off the tape before the actual hanging happened (they had to — the original video broadcast on Iraqi state TV didn’t show the actual hanging). But the question is, would they have shown more if the Iraqis chose to show more?”

> FNC replayed it continuously, Eat the Press says…

Midterms: O’Reilly Thinks Press Is Understating The Execution’s Importance?

The AP’s Lynn Elber reports:

“If Iraqi TV viewers were glued to their TV sets, as one channel reported, the broadcast networks apparently felt that the news bulletins would hold U.S. viewers for now: All switched back to regular programming Friday, although ABC followed the story on news magazine ’20/20.’ MSNBC, Fox News Channel and CNN stayed with Saddam coverage.

Fox’s Bill O’Reilly might have taken issue with the broadcast network’s brief reports.

Saddam’s execution represented a ‘big moment, much bigger than the press in America is portraying it,’ O’Reilly said…”

Saddam: MSNBC Turns To Tape At Midnight

msnbctapeddec30.jpgTwo hours after Saddam Hussein was executed, MSNBC aired a Headliners & Legends special about the Iraqi dictator. It aired again at 1am, again at 2am, and again at 3am. After a cut-in at 4am, Headliners & Legends resumed at 4:10am. These viewers weren’t happy…

Saddam: Conflicting Reports Fueled Cable News On Friday

Bill Goodykoontz summarizes a confusing day on cable:

“Late Friday afternoon, networks began reporting that the execution would take place by 8 p.m.; after a day of guessing, it was almost a relief to have some idea of at least a time frame. The anchors and reporters grew a little more relaxed and assured, a welcome change from the often-contradictory information reported earlier.

At one point, CNN was reporting as breaking news that Saddam had been turned over to the Iraqis, while Fox News was reporting as breaking news that he was still in U.S. custody. MSNBC, for its part, was at that moment reporting on Britney Spears’ New Year’s Eve plans.”

Saddam: In-Depth On 20/20 & Nightline

nightlinedec30.jpg“ABC has had the most extensive coverage of the broadcast nets,” an observer notes. A second viewer agrees: “ABC’s coverage was by far the best from the broadcast networks.

For the second time this week, ABC benefited from the fact that big news broke during a regularly scheduled ABC newscast. (It also happened with Gerald Ford on Wednesday.)

The second half of 20/20 was focused on the death of Saddam, with Elizabeth Vargas tossing to reporters in Baghdad and the U.S. (“The West Coast version of 20/20 will include a look at the rise and fall of the former Iraqi dictator,” ABC adds.)

All of Nightline was devoted to the execution, too. Cynthia McFadden anchored from NY, with contributions by Jake Tapper, Terry McCarthy, and NYU professor Noah Feldman will appear to put the execution into context and discuss the potential ramifications.

> Also: “ABC News Now is carrying BBC News 24′s Saddam coverage,” an e-mailer said at 12:15am…