California drama cuts into speech coverage
In this image taken from video provided by KABC-TV, the cabin in Big Bear, Calif. where ex-Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner is believed to be barricaded inside is in flames Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/KABC-TV) MANDATORY CREDIT: KABC-TV
NEW YORK (AP) — The California standoff involving fugitive Christopher Dorner shortened television's previews of President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday but did not interrupt coverage of the speech.
CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC had set aside the hour before Obama spoke to discuss the annual Washington ritual but instead spent most of that time showing aerial footage of a cabin burning in southern California, marking the apparent end of Dorner's effort at targeting police officers — even as information on what was actually happening was sketchy.
Fox at one point showed a split screen of the burning cabin on one side with anchor Bill O'Reilly talking to analyst Charles Krauthammer about Obama on the other.
MSNBC stuck with the California story the longest before turning its attention to Washington as Obama began making his way to the podium.
The State of the Union address is "still the big national story," MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews said. "But this one certainly challenged it. This was a saga."
ABC briefly mentioned the Dorner drama before shifting into a discussion of gun violence being on the minds of many attending Obama's speech. CNN's sister network, HLN, presented full-time coverage of the Dorner story when the main network presented the State of the Union.
Following the speech, CNN immediately shifted to Anderson Cooper reporting that Dorner had apparently died, before returning to Washington for a pundit panel on the State of the Union. ABC also briefly reported the Dorner story following the speech.
But no equivalency — or split screen — was given to the California story while Obama spoke on the cable news or broadcast networks.