Network anchors take shows out of studio; NBC’s Williams’ trip to Louisiana a personal one

Monday, May 3, 2010

NBC’s Williams back in Louisiana for oil spill

NEW YORK — All three evening news anchors left their studios for onsite coverage of big stories, but it was a trip with particular personal meaning for NBC’s Brian Williams.

Williams anchored NBC’s “Nightly News” from Louisiana on Monday, after spending part of his day with the shrimp boat “Storm Watch.” It is the 15th time he has come to the region since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the 27th evening news broadcast he has anchored from there.

Competitors Diane Sawyer at ABC and Katie Couric at CBS had far shorter trips — to New York’s Times Square — site of an attempted car bomb attack Saturday. The network anchors essentially were choosing for backdrops between one story where the visual action had long since passed, to one where the impact is only anticipated.

Williams said he was entering a plane to New Orleans this weekend and a man thanked him for his reporting there.

“I’m enormously proud of that,” he said. “If you have to die and be known for something, having been linked to these folks during that story (would be it).

“This is a totally unfair swipe at this region,” he said.

Williams said he hoped through he reporting Monday to convey what the oil spill meant to the shrimp industry.

“They want to work,” he said. “They may have their shrimp beds taken away by this. No one knows what to tell them — 10 days or 10 years. This is what they do. It’s all they do.”

The spill has been a “slow moving car wreck of a story,” with the explosion and death of oil workers dominating the early days and the spewing oil now the subject of most concern.

All three networks planned extensive coverage of both stories in their newscasts. Sam Champion of ABC and CBS’ Jeff Glor are among the network on-air staff already in place.

CBS weighed whether to send Couric to Louisiana on Monday, but kept her home instead. The attempted bombing is “still a story of extensive interest” given Times Square’s symbolic meaning as a crossroads, said Rick Kaplan, the “CBS Evening News” executive producer.

“We really thought long and hard about it,” Kaplan said. “It’s not a money issue.”

The oil story is still likely a few days away from when the true extent of its impact will be clear, he said.

Most of the Broadway plays are off on Monday night, making for a less crowded Times Square than the Saturday night of the attempted bombing.

ABC’s Sawyer is on familiar turf; her broadcast was from the Times Square studio where she worked at “Good Morning America” for a decade.

“For us, as important as the (oil spill) story is for weeks and probably for months to come, the attempted bombing of Times Square seemed to be more urgent,” said Jon Banner, ABC “World News” executive producer.

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