The Day the Lights Went Out


It was a slow news day until a historic power outage hit New York and other cities in the Northeast around 4 p.m. Thursday, sending the cable news networks scrambling to report on the blackout and droves of commuters trying to make their way home.

Cable News Network, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and CNBC quickly picked up the feeds of various local broadcast news outlets in New York, and some anchors questioned how many viewers would have electricity that would allow them to watch the newscasts.

CNN reported early in its coverage that smoke was pouring out of a Consolidated Edison Inc. power plant in Manhattan, prompting anchors to wonder if the blackout was terrorism-related. But New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg dismissed that notion later in an interview with CNN, telling viewers the blackout was caused by an overload of the Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. grid.

While some networks showed video of calm commuters walking home, CNN correspondent Maria Hinojosa caused a bit of a stir when she held up a long line of commuters waiting to use a payphone that she was using to file a CNN report. “They were so frustrated that they came up and hung up on me,” Hinojosa told viewers later.

CNBC had some strong coverage, as it explored the economic impact of the blackout and questioned whether deregulation of the energy sector was one of the problems.