With many reporters and crews risking their lives at ground zero, the news networks marked the most brutal attack ever on U.S. soil with wall-to-wall coverage from the World Trade Center and the Pentagon Tuesday and
The networks reported the results of a Gallup poll that found that 80 percent of
Americans called the attacks "the most tragic news item in their lifetime."
Coverage moved from capturing the surreal images Tuesday morning of the World
Trade Center collapse and fleeing commuters to the search-and-rescue Tuesday
evening, then expanded to the aftermath and the hunt for the terrorists
responsible for the tragedy Wednesday.
The World Trade Center attack destroyed a broadcast tower on top of one of
the towers, knocking out the over-the-air broadcasts for Fox station WNYW-TV,
WABC-TV, United Paramount Network station WWOR-TV, The WB Television Network flagship WPIX-TV and PBS
Among the television-industry personalities killed in
the attack were Barbara Olson, a frequent news-network commentator who was
aboard the flight hijacked from Dulles airport; and David Angell, a creator of NBC
News Channel reporter Rick Leventhal and a crew captured video outside of the
World Trade Center shortly after the airlines slammed into the twin towers,
and at one point they directed Emergency Medical Technicians to a wounded commuter.
On MSNBC, Ashleigh Banfield described how she and an MSNBC crew broke the
glass door of an apartment building as they sought shelter from an overwhelming
dust cloud near the World Trade Center after it collapsed. At 8:50 p.m.,
Banfield described the horrific scene of body parts strewn around the World
Trade Center site after a police cruiser drove her past ground zero.
On Cable News Network, former ABC reporter Aaron Brown and former FNC anchor Paula Zahn marked their CNN debut by leading the coverage from
New York as CNN executives debuted the new talent months before they were
expected to begin on-air work.
In addition to all of the news networks showing repeated shots of the second
airliner crashing into the south tower of the World Trade Center, MSNBC
repeatedly ran a shot of a businessman in a double breasted suit, still carrying
his briefcase, walking from the scene after the World Trade Center collapse
while covered head-to-toe in dust.
"The World Trade Center is essentially gone," a grim FNC anchor told
The networks also ran images of victims jumping from the top floors of the
World Trade Center.
All the news channels ran constant scrolls on the bottom of the screen,
with news headlines and phone numbers that viewers could call to report
suspicious activity, donate blood or inquire about the missing.
Media companies simulcast the news network coverage on other channels. MTV: Music Television
picked up the CBS feed; FX, Fox Sports Net and Speedvision picked up FNC's feed;
Turner Network Television, TBS Superstation and CNN Headline News simulcast CNN's feed; and ESPN
carried ABC News coverage.
Home & Garden Television and The Food Network suspended their regular
schedules, running solemn music a graphic that said, "Our thoughts go out to the
victims and their families."
News outlets shared their video footage, with most channels picking up CNN's
videophone images from Afghanistan at about 6 p.m. of what commentators
initially thought was cruise-missile retaliation from the United States on
terrorist sites. The explosions turned out to be part of a civil war in
Afghanistan, and not related to the attack, CNN later said.
Networks covered simultaneous news conferences, sometimes in split screens.
At 7:30 p.m., the networks cut from a Pentagon briefing to a press conference
with House and Senate leaders on the Capitol steps, which saw the leaders join
hands and sing God Bless America in one of many emotional moments.
"We said after Pearl Harbor, `Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition'. We're
now reduced to saying, `Praise the Lord and let's get some information,'" Dan
Rather said on CBS while interviewing a guest at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
BBC World repeatedly ran video of an interview with one victim, whose head
and face were covered in blood, and who was helped by FBI agents moments
CNBC, which replaced its stock ticker Tuesday with 800 numbers and other
information related to the attack, reported at 9:18 p.m. Tuesday that the stock
markets in Asia had dropped at least 6 percent after opening for trading early
Also during the 9 p.m. hour, Larry King Live and Dateline NBC
ran interviews with victims who were in the World Trade Center during the
NBC News sent several producers around the streets of Manhattan with digital
camcorders to interview stunned witnesses, and one MSNBC producer captured a
staggering image of one of the towers collapsing with a camcorder he bought from
At 10:30 p.m. on MSNBC, Brian Williams held up a charred file folder that he
said had blown four miles from the World Trade Center to Brooklyn.
At 1 a.m., Tom Brokaw signed off at NBC, and the network switched to a
simulcast of the MSNBC feed.
Dan Rather remained at the CBS desk until 2