The mean season
Our 2:30 editorial meeting was just breaking up... the first participants had risen and were making their way to the door... when someone looking at a computer screen said so all could hear it, "2,000."
We knew what that meant. After confirmed word of a soldier's death today, at roughly 3 p.m. eastern time, 2,000 American fighting men and women have now died since the invasion of Iraq. And I will say just as quickly: while we will cover this milestone, and while it is indeed a milestone, it will not be our lead story. Having met families who have lost a loved one to this effort, as I pointed out in the after-meeting just now, they would all have just cause to write me and ask why we didn't lead the broadcast with the death of their particular son or daughter, father or mother, sister or brother. As one veteran's group so effectively reinforced today, every death means the loss of someone's whole world...and no single death carries greater importance than any other -- especially in a conflict where the milestones are decided upon by the media. We will use this number as a way of looking at the status of the war effort, hearing the words of the President today, and looking perhaps at the mood of the nation.
We'll have comprehensive coverage tonight of what the hurricane left behind in Florida. Robert Bazell has an interview with the Secretary of HHS, and has filed for tonight a rather scary piece on bird flu. Here's a preview: an outbreak here in the U.S. would rather instantly leave emergency rooms crammed with the dead and dying. It is infinitely clear, according to Bob's reporting, that this threat, combined with the sagging (that's being kind) U.S. vaccine production capacity, will require real leadership and then some.
We continue to be on a hair-trigger this week in anticipation of SOME news from Mr. Fitzgerald and the grand jury. Rumors continue to swirl... some with actual charges (and the number of people indicted) attached. Tonight we have an interesting look at the life of Mr. Fitzgerald, including what I think can safely be called the love of his life thus far: the law.
I caught some good natured hell from my wife last night, when she read (yes, she's a loyal Daily Nightly reader) my complaint about all the recent and relentless viewer complaints I've been receiving. I was referring to a file folder full of about 700 mostly virulent screeds that my assistant had printed out and sent home with me late last week. My wife pointed out that many of the e-mails you've taken the time to write to our blog have been good-natured and some in fact very complimentary. While I read all that come in, I especially enjoy the latter. I also enjoyed the Marine Lieutenant who wrote to me last week "don't let the criticism get you down." Lieutenant Kelly: thank you...that propelled me through several days of work last week. To the rest of you who've written with nice thoughts, or even THOUGHT nice thoughts... thank you.
There are two very good e-mail questions (from Josh and Swetha) that deserve answers... both about journalists and what we do... and I'll try to get to them in this space tomorrow. I look forward to tackling the question from Connecticut on the cliche of hurricane coverage.
Also a word about Wellington Mara, the longtime New York Giants owner who died today. He was the consummate old school gentleman. Catching sight of him at a Giants game was akin to the first time I saw Mr. Paley in the halls of CBS (a great story for another time) He always had the whiff of legend about him, while he carried himself in such a humble way. He gave us Simms, Parcells and L.T., among others. He was a decent man who showed his kindness to many of us, and recognized the love we Giants fans had for his franchise.
More dirty laundry: several of you have written, and rightfully so, pointing out that we had several spelling errors in graphics that appeared on the screen during last Friday's broadcast. I won't bore you with details, because any errors in our line of work are inexcusable... ESPECIALLY errors like that... that speak to what we do as journalists. Let's just say steps have been taken to prevent it in the future. My apologies.
Tom Shales, the veteran Washington Post television critic who often writes a terrific rant about our changing times, cultural choices and viewer habits (I think I can characterize him as wistful for certain aspects of our past, especially where television viewing and programming are concerned... something I share with him) has a great piece in this week's TV WEEK about telephones (TVWeek.com login required). Specifically: what some view as the loathsome multi-task device known as the cellphone. It's worth reading.
Also, I wanted to make note of the fact that a comment I made in an ad-lib on-air "crash" circumstance has become grist for a recent thought-provoking Safire-esque column in the Hartford Courant... of special interest to those who love language... I've linked to it here.
Finally, to the woman who e-mailed me complaining of the graphic images in our story last week concerning the burning of the bodies of enemy soldiers in Afghanistan, a few points in response. While I'm sorry you found the images disturbing to watch with children present, please know that we do everything in our power to warn viewers that pictures like those are upcoming. We warned viewers prior to that very segment on the night in question. I routinely reference that quaint term "the dinner hour" on the broadcast, and that night we took the further step, out of sensitivity, of blurring the more graphic images. I operate by a simple principle, and always have: my children are often in the room when the broadcast airs in our own home, and it is more often than not during the evening meal. I wouldn't air any image that I wouldn't want beamed (without proper warning or justification) into my own home. While we cannot change what is news and needs to be reported, we WILL not operate using a double standard, either.
We've reached the end of today's novella-length posting. To all those who've stayed with me this far: my thanks and congratulations. Now all you have to do is join us for the real thing tonight on Nightly News.
Read more from Brian Williams 2005
Big concerns about bird flu
Trackbacks are links to weblogs that reference this post. Like comments, trackbacks do not appear until approved by us. The trackback URL for this post is: http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451b0aa69e200d8345948c269e2