Monday, May 02, 2011

Major Props to Brian Williams

I give major props to NBC and Brian Williams for his frequent flying over the course of the past few days. Whlle all the networks sent their anchors to London for the Royal Wedding, NBC made the call for NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams to leave for Tuscaloosa, Alabama almost immediately as soon as he landed in London, England.
As I left New York for London last night, I was haunted by one thing: the radar image I had seen on the Weather Channel before departing. It showed an active tornado over the top of Tuscaloosa, Alabama—just one cell in this active, sprawling weather system, which for the 4th night in a row was firing off brutal, monster intensity storms. We talked about it in the newsroom before I left—about how it would take hours before we knew anything.[...]

Rather than driving from Heathrow all the way into Central London, we decided to get off the highway and park in the residential neighborhood of Chiswick. We symbolically aimed the car back toward Heathrow. We watched as people left for work and school, people walked their dogs and collected the trash, some pausing to notice the idling car with passengers in it, talking on the phone. Our NBC News staff in London was just awakening to the news from home. Minutes later, NBC News President Steve Capus made the call: He said I should go home. We both agreed the tragedy would dominate our newscast and our coverage. I never got to see our infrastructure in London, or any of my colleagues beyond the confines of my car. We had a magnificent setup—the result of months of planning—to cover the big day in London, and we still will, live and wall-to-wall. But for now, for us, for this story, one of us had to go back and lead a separate coverage team—as the death toll grows.

NBC made the right call on this one. Disaster in the south was more important to cover than the royal wedding.

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