Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Bin Laden death reporting frenzy: "It's like 24!"

In the race to report the death of Osama bin Laden, rolling news channels everywhere were falling over themselves to get as much detail on air as quickly as possible, which to be fair, is kind of their role.

But it's during these huge international news stories that the 24 hour news channels really come into their own - presenters thinking on their feet, correspondents drafted in at short notice and ending up on air in their pyjama bottoms, and backroom producers called upon to report on 'what we know' (ie whatever's coming in from news agencies) - and looking a little bit terrified.

In the first few hours of the story, not all reporting was as restrained as the BBC - its policy to 'second check' everything means there's no place on air for speculation.

But elsewhere, the reporting of the story can often be as dramatic as the story itself.

Over on Sky, not only was there a bit of drama, but the whole thing felt quite lively.

There was speculation, swoopy graphics, possibly unverified footage from the scene and interactive maps that reporters could draw on in electronic felt-tip, while in-house journalists would begin reports with lines like, "Well this is just like something out of 24!"

But, perhaps understandably, none of the coverage matched the fevered approach taken by some of the US channels, and on Fox News, the excitement even led to the presenter momentarily confusing Osama with Obama - possibly the only story that, at that moment, would've been even bigger than the death of 'America's most wanted'.

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