April 16, 2007–The news networks are sending anchors, correspondents and producers to Blacksburg, Virginia to cover what many describe as the deadliest shooting spree in American history.
CBS's Katie Couric and NBC's Brian Williams were among the high-profile news anchors en route to the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, where a gunman opened fire and killed at least 31 people on campus Monday morning.
All three news networks are devoting their entire evening newscasts to the massacre. CBS expanded “Evening News” to an hour, while NBC and ABC planned limited commercial interruptions to extend the time available to news coverage.
ABC's “World News” is being sponsored by a single advertiser, Pfizer, which is adding an extra 5 minutes to the newscast. NBC's “Nightly News” is eliminating one commercial pod from the newscast for additional reporting.
The shooting began in a co-ed dormitory shortly after 7 a.m. and then continued in Norris Hall, an academic building where most of the deaths occurred. Efforts are made to establish a timeline for the shooting and if law enforcement did enough to warn students after the first shooting.
Some of the first images of the campus with audio of the crack of gunfire came from the cell phone of student Jamal Albarghouti, who was outside Norris Hall when the second round of shootings occurred, and had no idea there had been an earlier shooting.
Coverage of the shootings dominated cable news throughout the day and the networks broke into their daytime schedules repeatedly to update viewers. NBC and ABC planned to use their newsmagazines to extend coverage into primetime and latenight.
NBC's Brian Williams was to anchor a special live edition of “Dateline NBC” from the Virginia Tech campus at 10 p.m., while ABC planned a one-hour “Nightline,” anchored by Terry Moran from the scene.
ABC's Charlie Gibson is anchoring from New York tonight and plans to fly to Blacksburg on Tuesday. Weather and the remote location hampered many news organizations as they tried to get personnel to the scene.
Many relied on Washington, DC-based anchors, producers and equipment, a five-hour drive away. CNN national correspondent John King was on the Acela from DC to New York when the shootings were first reported.
His producers stopped him in Baltimore, where he turned around and headed to Blackburg where he will anchor a special edition of “Anderson Cooper 360.” CNN also scrapped Larry King's planned interview with Oprah Winfrey to do an hour on the shootings.
Fox News dispatched Greta Van Susteren, Geraldo Rivera and Shepard Smith to Blacksburg. Smith was to anchor a special “Fox Report” from Blacksburg, while Van Susteren was prepping a two-hour version of “On the Record” from the scene and Rivera a two-hour “Gerald at Large” starting at 12 a.m.
All the major ayemcasts sent anchors to the scene. Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira and Tiki Barber were sent to Blacksburg to anchor “Today,” CBS's “Early Show” sent co-anchor Harry Smith, and ABC's “Good Morning America” sent Robin Roberts and Chris Cuomo.
CNN sent its new “American Morning” duo John Roberts and Kiran Chetry to Blacksburg; Geraldo Rivera was to anchor an extended version of “Fox & Friends” for Fox News Channel.