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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

Read more

‘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.

5 Questions With… José Díaz-Balart

coverJose Diaz-BalartCuban-American journalist José Díaz-Balart is among the very rarest of TV news anchors. He hosts shows on two networks, in two languages: in the mornings on MSNBC and in the evenings on Telemundo. Today’s announcement that the U.S. was beginning a process to normalize diplomatic ties to Cuba hits especially close to home for Díaz-Balart. He is the son of a former Cuban politician and has a brother in the U.S. Congress.

We caught up with Díaz-Balart before this morning’s news to discuss his recent interview with the president, his proudest achievements and the best Cuban sandwich available in the United States.

TVNewser: You were very busy last week. Bigger accomplishment: Interviewing President Obama or being congratulated on the House floor?

Díaz-Balart: I so appreciate both: I was surprised at the congresswoman’s recognition of my 30 years in the business. And interviewing the President, my tenth I believe, is always important. Both were extremely rewarding. Plus, I got a chance to catch my eldest daughter singing in her school choir… three great events.

TVNewser: What’s the proudest moment of your career, overall?

Díaz-Balart: Being named anchor of Noticiero Telemundo on December 15, 2009 (this week is my 5th anniversary), and most recently the host of “The Rundown with José Díaz-Balart” on MSNBC. Being able to reach audiences in two languages a day is truly a privilege.

TVNewser: You host shows on Telemundo and MSNBC. Seriously, when do you sleep?

Díaz-Balart: Sleep? I remember that!  Even though my work day is admittedly long (6am-10pm) I can honestly tell you that I love it so much I only wish there were more hours in the day so I could do more!

TVNewser: Best place to get a Cuban sandwich in America? Read more

Gretchen Carlson Speaks to Widow of ‘American Sniper’

SniperBeginning today on “The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson,“ Gretchen will talk to Taya Kyle, the real widow of the “American Sniper,” who is played by Sienna Miller in the upcoming film. Part two of the interview will air tomorrow at 2 pm ET.

Gretchen and Taya will discuss the movie, Jesse Ventura’s lawsuit against Chris Kyle’s estate and the trial of Chris’ alleged killer. “American Sniper” is directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Bradley Cooper, in addition to Miller. It hits theaters Jan. 16.

Last of ‘Murrow’s Boys,’ Richard Hottelet, Dies

HotteletRichard C. Hottelet, the last living member of Edward R. Murrow‘s team known as “Murrow’s Boys,” has died. Hottelet, who spent 40 years at CBS News radio and TV, died this morning at home in Wilton, Ct. He was 97.

In 1957, after years of war and post-war reporting, Hottelet anchored a 15-minute daily newscast for CBS called “Richard C. Hottelet with the News.”

“Richard C. Hottelet was the ultimate CBS News reporter,” said Jeff Fager, CBS News chairman and executive producer of “60 Minutes.” “He was one of the true gentleman reporters, a real ‘Murrow boy,’ an elegant combination of reporter and storyteller.” From the CBS News obituary:

Hottelet was the last to join the team when he presented himself to Murrow in London and was hired in January 1944 to help report the imminent Allied invasion of Europe. His first war reports for CBS were from the air; he is believed to have made the first recording for broadcast on a warplane while flying on a bombing mission over France in the spring of 1944. On D-Day, Hottelet was in a bomber again, this one attacked German defenses on Utah Beach and returned to London safely in time for him to broadcast the first eyewitness report of the Allied invasion. Read more

Dominic Di-Natale Sent Letter, Text Message Before Death

FNCDominic Di-Natale was suffering from post-traumatic stress and recurring seizures in the months leading up to his suicide earlier this month. Di-Natale covered the Middle East for Fox News, including its war zones, starting in 2007. The New York Times has uncovered a letter Di-Natale sent to a close friend. The letter sheds some light on Di-Natale’s state of mind at the time of his death.

Times editorial writer Ernesto Londono, who knew D-Natale personally, writes:

There’s an addictive aspect to covering war. It’s partly the adrenaline rush and partly a sense that you’re doing consequential work. But to a large extent, war became a lure to many of us because of the magnificent camaraderie that dark, dangerous places can create. In war zones, our vulnerability makes it easy to form strong, intimate bonds with colleagues quickly. The loneliness many of us felt when we returned home was jarring.

Di-Natale explained in the letter that his career, “afforded me professional integrity and social validity in others’ eyes. I had absolutely none prior to going to war. I wasn’t even a real man until then.”

The Times also reveals that Di-Natale sent a text message, instructing a friend where authorities could find his body. “I cannot live and diminish with this illness,” he wrote. “To my father, to you and to those I have hurt and inconvenienced, I am so very, very sorry.”

CNN, ‘Frontline’ Among 2015 duPont Winners

4038v2239 (1)CNN and PBS’ “Frontline” were among the winners of 2015 duPont-Columbia awards, announced this morning by the Columbia University School of Journalism.

“Frontline” gets two duPonts: one for “United States of Secrets,” described by the judges as the “inside story of how the U.S. government collected vast quantities of Americans’ private information and then hid its actions”; the other for “Syria’s Second Front,” which was one of the first inside glimpses into ISIS through “a groundbreaking, harrowing account of the factions fighting there.”

CNN’s “Weed: Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports” was honored for “parsing the science and politics of a divisive issue.”

The duPont judges noted that digital media is clearly impacting who tells stories, and how those stories are shared, with Netflix becoming the first streaming media service to win. Netflix’s feature documentary, “Virunga,” gets a duPont for being “a powerful immersive film that explores the conflict between global politics and environmentalism.”

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