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Thursday night's show was not what we had planned. We did one hour straight — no commercials — of breaking news. In many ways doing breaking news is easy: You simply follow the story along with the viewers as it happens. Just like you, we have no idea where the story is going for certain — we just cover it as it happens.
Last night's breaking news was easier on us knowing that so many people (about 98 passengers) survived the Southwest flight sliding off the runway at Chicago Midway. But we also knew that there might be some casualties in the car the plane hit. I was hoping — as was everyone else — that the car's passengers had miraculously survived, even though from the pictures we were getting, it seemed unlikely. And yes, this morning I woke up to learn a 6-year-old child in one car has died. It is hard to face the fact that the child was killed — especially under these circumstances. Children in cars just don't get hit by planes.
Since I fly often (and thus know lots of airports and different aircraft) and since in my earlier career days I have been involved in airline crash litigation, this breaking news was not a fresh or complicated topic for me. I also grew up in the Midwest and have flown a million times in that area and know what the weather conditions there can mean. While each accident is different, this breaking news is not like the tsunami where I had so much to learn in such a short time.
More importantly, I have a very talented staff in the control room, who have experience doing breaking news. They always had a place for me to go during the hour — in other words, they always had an expert or guest for me to go to as the story developed. As the hour progressed, and as I interviewed people, my producer would get in my ear and say, "We have aviation consultant Carl Rochelle available." Of course it did not hurt that I know Carl very well — we were colleagues at CNN years ago and I am well aware of the wealth of his knowledge and felt very comfortable interviewing him. Likewise, the former NTSB chairman who joined us throughout the hour is someone who is extremely experienced, so I knew that I had a guest who is very knowledgeable on airline crash/incident investigations.
While I was not in the control room during the show (I was on the set doing the show), I know the staff was making calls and getting guests lined up to discuss the incident. There is no ability to plan breaking news... the staff simply gets into high gear and books and plans the show as it goes. An anchor on the set is very dependent on the staff under these circumstances and they get all the credit for great coverage. It helps to have a big rolodex and lots of experience so that the staff can immediately locate the right guests. If your staff is the best — ours is — you get the smartest and best guests. We did. It makes my job very easy.
In addition to the guests to present to you, I wanted some research. I remembered that a Southwest flight had overshot a runway in Burbank, California a few years ago and wanted to know more about it in case it became relevant. I realized that snow was not an issue (California) but was unsure whether rain might have been a factor or not. I had my assistant quickly research it and she brought me a NTSB report on that incident, just seconds before we went on the air. I quickly scanned it. Likewise I was reading the wires and doing research on the 737 in case there was something peculiar to that plane which might be relevant.
In summary: Much is going on during breaking news behind the scenes that you might not realize. We are investigating the story with you and we are also supplementing it with guests, and research. All this is done with no planning. It is just done.
What happened to our planned show? No doubt some of the staff was assigned to cancel guests or notify guests who were scheduled but now bumped by breaking news. It is not a fun job to call someone at a remote studio and tell that person that he or she is not needed but guests understand under the circumstances. Jim Hammer was in New York City with me last night and was scheduled to be on the show and so it was a simple task to tell him. Right before I took over from Alan and Sean's breaking news coverage, Jim was in the studio with me and we were talking about flying (Jim had just landed an hour earlier in New York City and he was happy to beat the snow that has not hit New York City this morning.) As an aside: Laura Ingle is also in New York and Jim and Laura and my husband and I met after the show to talk. I have spent so much time covering stories with Jim and Laura that we are now old friends.
Now for something on the lighter side:
As you might imagine, every news organization gets guests who people who work for the network want to meet. Guests at cable news networks, in general, are quite varied and can include fascinating newsmakers, powerful politicians, entertainers, etc., and thus are fascinating to meet.
Thursday afternoon was an exceptional day for our show in the New York bureau greenroom and many passed by to meet our guests. The guests, about 39 in number, were not ordinary in any way. The guests had fur, claws, beaks, scales, feathers, big teeth, poisonous glands, etc.
Yes, the guests were animals and came with Jack Hanna. We spent more than an hour taping Jack showing us the animals. I am not sure when you will see this tape, but I assure you, if you love animals, you will love this. I hate to play favorites, but I am particularly fond of the jackass penguins, who earned their breed name by the noises they make. Oh yeah, and the baby gibbon was adorable — and I am not wild about the furry poisonous scorpion.
Now for some randomly chosen e-mails:
E-mail No. 1
If I were the Holloways, I would keep up with the boycott and I would sue the Aruban government for the loss of their daughter and a botched investigation.
E-mail No. 2
If I were Beth, and Dave Holloway I would keep pushing for boycotts in more states, they were patient in the beginning. Now the only thing they have left is to keep telling their story of this cover-up and hope Aruba is hit hard in the pocketbook. What's up with Joran's father filling a wrongfully accused lawsuit? If anyone in this fiasco should file suit it's the two black men who were immediately arrested. They probably never will for fear of being threatened, or ending up missing like Natalee.
E-mail No. 3
Beth and Dave need to carry on, look for other possible avenues. They have been such wonderful parents and voices for a daughter who can no longer ask for justice for herself. Where is our State Department? Has anyone in the Federal Government expressed dissatisfaction with the way the case has been handle or asked for an improvement in the manner in which this case has been handled? Would it be so difficult for this to be communicated to the American people? Is Natalee a sacrifice to international treaties and policies? This is such a blatant cover-up. The Aruban government is hoping to make this disappear during the holidays and we can't let this happen. As Americans we frequently bear the brunt of the actions of our government. So to, the Aruban people will have to bear the brunt of the actions of their government, i.e. a boycott. I would volunteer to do anything the family needs to help. Get me some "Boycott Aruba" bumper stickers, what ever. This is the saddest situation I've ever seen. My every day begins and ends with a prayer for Natalee and her family. I want to thank you and FOX News for keeping this event alive.
E-mail No. 4
If I were Beth and Dave at this point I would try to stay in the public eye and also go back to hiring private agencies to help find Natalee since it has become quite obvious that the Uruban government is more interested in hindering the investigation than trying to solve it. I would also keep asking my Representatives for help to try and keep pressure on the Aruban government. Since the Arubans aren't going to help Holloway/Holloway-Twitty find Natalee they are going to have to do it themselves. I know they must be exhausted but I hope they continue to fight until they find their little girl. Good luck to them.
E-mail No. 5
The Holloways and Twittys should sue the Aruban government for the loss of their daughter and mental anguish. Surely if Paulus van der Sloot can sue, so can they. I find it amazing that the police chief is blaming them for problems with the investigation — why did it take him so long to arrive at that conclusion, when the botch occurred in the first few days of June? Maybe they can sue for incompetence as well!
E-mail No. 6
If I were Dave Holloway, I would continue to do exactly what he's doing: Maintain a low profile, stay the course, get the Aruban authorities' attention by persistently and deliberately chipping away at them with valid points and questions. He's a remarkable man in my opinion. His grief for his daughter is evident but, above all, he's a gentleman.
If I were Beth Holloway Twitty I would take a step back and reflect on my behavior that has elicited such a backlash from not only the Arubans but many Americans as well. Perhaps I'm wrong but it seemed that Jug and Beth, particularly Jug, were definitely on the offensive from the beginning with a damn the torpedoes, full bore ahead attitude, publicly embarrassing themselves and the Arubans with an "ugly American" attitude. Our laws are different, our cultures are different, and there are good and bad police departments EVERYWHERE. It's unfortunate that they ever allowed a 17-year-old girl to go off on such an "adventure," especially since she was obviously unprepared to deal with the consequences of fast living — like so many immature teenagers. I admit to these feelings about Beth and Jug but do feel that "there's something decidedly rotten" with the legal system in Aruba — judges and the police department.
E-mail No. 7
I just have to write to say that we enjoy Ted Williams so much. He is such an honorable decent man. You can know that just by listening to him. He has great compassion yet an equal amount of foresight into all your cases in debate. If we were ever in need of a great attorney; he would be our first choice. Don't ever lose him. All your contributors are very knowledgeable; but Mr. Williams holds a special place in these retiree's hearts. I just wanted you to know.
Marge and Phil Hinckley
Bayonet Point, FL
ANSWER: If Ted reads this e-mail, we will never hear the end of it!
E-mail No. 8
If the guy that was shot by the air marshal had a bomb in his carry on luggage, why wasn't that picked up when he went through the check in security? Last time I was in an airport all carry on luggage was x-rayed before allowed to be taken on board. While watching coverage on this this morning I couldn't help but notice not one anchor asked about the pre-boarding check in.
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