Score this hunt for the Fox.
That’s if you were searching for the best local TV news coverage of the best news America’s gotten in years on the night we finally got it last Sunday.
You found it on KVVU-TV, Channel 5, exploiting the most Vegas angles on Osama bin Laden meeting the violent fate he more than richly deserved.
“I was at the grocery store when (assistant news director Jennifer Hardy) called me,” says Fox-5 news director Adam P. Bradshaw. “I immediately headed to the station and we immediately started cranking out as many local angles as we could. We really felt the need to make our coverage parallel the magnitude of the story.”
Parallel accomplished. While the other three stations at 11 p.m. largely stuck with predictable network feeds, politician statements and knee-jerk Strip interviews — all that penetrating insight into how passers-by thought it was “wonderful” – Fox-5 out-hustled ’em on its first-blush, 10 p.m. newscast.
Advancing the story locally rather than parroting national coverage, Doug Johnson at local VFW No. 10047 interviewed post commander Joshua Wills, and Matt DeLucia at a local mosque spoke with Khalid Khan, president of the Islamic Society of Nevada. In studio, anchor Elizabeth Watts chatted with Lt. Col. Scott Cunningham of the Nevada Army National Guard and political analyst Mitch Fox and did a live phone interview with Rep. Joe Heck — a round-the-horn approach not attempted by the others (though KSNV-TV, Channel 3 played a canned interview with Heck) – plus the standard statements.
Forging a solid 20-minute block topping the 10-10:30 half-hour, then returning to pre-empt some of Fox-5’s “Sports Plus” at 10:30, it was robust coverage assembled on a dime that, on a local level, hit on multiple cylinders from a military viewpoint to political analysis to politico reactions to a Muslim perspective, skipping all those Strip-strolling, fanny pack-toting tourists from Detroit and Biloxi.
Acquitting herself decently overall, anchor Watts did stumble a bit, occasionally stuck for words — “terrorist sympathist” might land easier on the ear as “sympathizer” — and twice asking guests a rather oddball question: “What do you think were the last things bin Laden saw and heard?” (Just a guess: A gun barrel and “bang”?)
Spurring Fox-5’s efforts may have been the fact that unlike its competitors that could coast on plentiful footage from their networks, they receive little asssistance from their own. “Because they have (cable’s) Fox News Channel as their outlet, they didn’t have to do the same kind of special report ABC, NBC and CBS did,” Bradshaw says. “We have to carry the ball there a little bit.”
(By the bye: Gotta love NBC first cutting into, then segueing back from America’s president announcing this momentous news to America’s clown hosting “Celebrity Apprentice.”)
However well-handled, though, local news couldn’t match network/cable because the night was as much about emotion as information. Sustained coverage of a party pinballing from the White House to ground zero to Times Square amplified our national catharsis — America’s unified shout of “YES!” — in a way local newscasts in relatively sedate Las Vegas couldn’t.
Still, given a responsibility to Vegas viewers, the Fox won the hunt.
Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.