Is CBS Missing the Story of the Year?

By Ralph Hipp

I think we've all been amazed by the astounding video of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last Friday morning.  It has hit me in the pit of my stomach ever since I heard the network radio news at midnight Friday, and alerted Amanda Lanum that this was going to be huge.  After the protests and warfare in Egypt and Libya, and whatever may happen over the next nine months, there's no doubt what we're witnessing now is the story of the year for 2011.

I must give congratulations to CNN for their remarkable wall-to-wall coverage of the quake.  While MSNBC came out that early Friday morning with the best (unbelievable) video of the tsunami engulfing the Japanese nation, CNN is right on the mark with continuing coverage.  Most of us can't get enough of it.  I couldn't believe Fox going off on their discussions of politics and the budget.  For the financial networks, the worthy angle is how the Asian markets calamities will continue to sink our markets here.   This week, it's all being overshadowed by the frightening developments of the meltdown of some of the nuclear plants, and the radiation being spread over Northeast Japan.

ABC flew Diane Sawyer to Japan where she injected herself into almost every shot of the network's video coverage of victim rescues on Monday.  She anchored from the scene, while Katie Couric and Brian Williams remained at their anchor desks.   Harry Smith's been filing radio and TV reports from Japan and doing his normal excellent job.  It seems the smart journalism professors and watchers agree; the anchors are not the experts on Japan.  The Asian reporters and Far East beat reporters are the experts, and should be given the right to cover this story.  Liz Trotta, a former NBC correspondent who is a very astute TV news watcher still, criticizes the network anchors for flying out to the scene of turmoil and tragedy (Egypt, Libya and Japan) getting their standups recorded in the middle of the chaos showing they are there.. and flying back to New York.  Grandstanding, and not necessary.

My final point is that with all the highly-rated hit programs CBS offers every week (and just now one-fourth of the NCAA Basketball Tournament) our fine network won't be able to do one very good thing ABC did.  Offer up one-hour prime time specials with comprehensive quake coverage that could match CNN.  NBC and ABC would do well this month to produce an hour long report every night for the next two weeks.  No one would miss most of their 9:00pm shows.  Sunday night at 6:00 or 7:00 is excellent for NBC to produce Japan coverage under the "Dateline" banner.  ABC could also do late-night with "Nightline" coverage each night.  CBS won't be able to do that.  I'd watch basketball.. but I'd watch what's happening in Japan right now, too.   I'd love to read your opinions about the cable and network coverage, who's good and not so good.     Ralph

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