Anchors are tied to stories at home
NEW YORK - ABC, CBS, and NBC haven't sent their top news anchors to the Middle East to cover Israel's conflict with Hamas, even though each network did so in 2006 when Israel fought a war with Hezbollah.
The networks said their decisions had nothing to do with economics, even though they came as the news divisions are making retrenchments in overseas coverage. Rather, they said it had more to do with a busy news period and restrictions placed on coverage of the fighting.
CNN sent its top personality, Anderson Cooper, to Israel for the story. He returned to the United States yesterday after two days in Israel, in part because of access questions.
Sending a top anchor out into the field is how TV news organizations traditionally define a major story. ABC's Charles Gibson and NBC's Brian Williams both anchored evening newscasts from the Middle East in mid-July 2006 when Israel invaded Lebanon. CBS' Bob Schieffer, predecessor to Katie Couric, spent two days there.
July is often a relatively quiet period for news. But now the United States is two weeks away from inaugurating a new president, the economy is in crisis, and progress is being made in Washington on a stimulus package, said Jon Banner, executive producer of ABC's "World News."
When Gibson goes on location, it generally means the bulk of the broadcast is devoted to that story. There's too much going on right now to do that, Banner said.
With Israel not permitting print or TV correspondents to enter Gaza to see the conflict, CBS figured Couric wouldn't be able to accomplish much by being there. Any interviews she gets could easily be done by satellite, said Paul Friedman, CBS News senior vice president. Better access would make it a tougher decision, he said.
"It's just not value-added," he said. "It's just not worth it."