At least that is the graphic "ribbon" that will appear over our piece on the end of the MTA strike here in New York. They have managed to drive a stake in the city's economy during the prime shopping and tourism days before Christmas... it is a story you feel deeply in this city.
Another thing you feel deeply: the ticking clock.
We'll lead with local news, at least in this space - the New York City transit strike: the Mayor of New York just said some museums are down 80-percent in attendance, some stores and restaurants off 40-percent and higher. One glance outside this building would show you why: vehicular traffic is banned from many streets, and the pedestrians just aren't there.
One tourist said to our correspondent Dawn Fratangelo, "this is my first New York City crisis!" And to some visitors, this IS a crisis. Both sides are playing hardball, and in the meantime, people are improvising.
Fellow space geeks will recognize those as the first words spoken on the surface of the moon by the second man to set foot on the surface of the moon, Buzz Aldrin. Those two words also nicely describe the scene today around our building in Midtown Manhattan. While I'm not quite sure why it is that a transit strike means the roads are blocked off to vehicular traffic, looking out at 49th street and 5th avenue, I don't see one moving car. All you can hear at this moment is the lone siren of a fire truck in the distance. During lunch hour, I did something that would normally be fatal during the noon hour: I walked down the center of 5th Avenue to go do some Christmas shopping. It's a virtual pedestrian mall. Our foreign news senior producer, M.L. Flynn, reported at our morning editorial meeting that she was struck by a strange sound while walking to work this morning down 5th Avenue. She figured out quickly that the sound was chirping birds. Normally in this city, a bird is a euphemism.
The past 24 hours have given us a great civics lesson in the power of the modern presidency. By declaring last night's 16-minute speech from the Oval Office "an address to the nation," President Bush was given time (prime-time at that, on a big viewing night) on all of the major broadcast networks and at least four major cable networks. Again today, in calling a year-ender press conference, he was afforded the same coverage. In a remarkably short period of time, the administration has shown a new side of the President by all accounts, and shown more candor and contrition than at any other time since the start of the war in Iraq. The President (this president and others who follow) has an extraordinary ability, in this time of ubiquitous, blanket-coverage media, to change the debate and the conversation across the country. That's part of what we're seeing unfold right now. Today's gathering with the media focused on two major points: the tricky issue of domestic surveillance and the debate over renewal of the Patriot Act. Tonight our coverage will reflect both of those fronts: with Kelly O'Donnell at the White House and Andrea Mitchell reporting on the background. Chip Reid will be our closer on the issue, reporting from the Hill on the wrap-up of this legislative session...the accomplishments and the work yet to be done.
Editor's note: Our friends at TypePad, who host this blog, have had trouble with their servers today and have been serving content from their last backup, from several days ago. We're told the problem is fixed now and future posts will appear as they are published.
This is kind of like broadcasting during a power outage: it's hard to tell if anyone will read this, since our blog has been down all day. First and foremost: our sincere apologies. We have come to treat the Internet like a public utility... our lives are predicated on computers... until it all crashes down around us.
Tonight's broadcast has a lot to do with domestic surveillance, sure to be the next hot domestic topic. Mr. Lehrer sat down with the President today and shed some new light on this during the interview. We have a number of great stories in the broadcast tonight... among them Mike Taibbi on an extraordinary New Yorker, and Richard Engel on some palpable changes in Iraq, where hopes are high that we truly could be seeing a new era. It would be nice to know that our fighting men and women would face less danger this holiday season.
We are watching both the White House and Capitol Hill tonight. The Hill is a focus of attention because of today's Katrina testimony (from the Louisiana Governor and the NOLA Mayor) and the White House because of the President's speech today on Iraq. As was our experience, every day there's been an incremental change in the lexicon of the war... today was apparently no exception. We'll likely begin tonight at one of those two places. Also our series of reality checks will continue tonight with a look at the battle for "hearts and minds" in Iraq.
We'll look at the issues at the Red Cross right now (at the end of December without their CEO) and the news today about mass transit security in this country. We'll also air our promoted story having to do with one man's effort to help us all out of automated telephone hell: the "please press 1 for more options" people... we'll tell you where to find out how to bypass all that and get to speak with a real, live human.
If the network evening newscasts did as their lead stories the videotape items repeated most often on cable, tonight we'd lead with a drag race after which a yellow Chevrolet goes crashing over a guardrail and running into a cameraman's platform at 115 miles per hour. It's the video highlight of the day on MSNBC. I also note that the President has done another sit-down interview, this time with Brit Hume of FOX News. Notably, it was Brit's last formal interview with the President (the President's answer to one of his questions) that gave rise to the fiction that the President didn't consume any news beyond what his aides told him. I believe there will be at least one more high-profile media interview with the President in this pre-holiday series of "availabilities." While my attention has been devoted to other matters, I'm told there are a number of e-mails on a matter very basic to our profession, asking if the White House in any way "pre-screened" our questions, and of course the answer is no.
Please join us for Nightly News tonight.
I'll stay out of the fray that has to do with our day with the President (I have not had time to sample the response but am told it is, shall we say, robust), except to report that we are compiling our hour-long special for MSNBC tonight, airing at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. As always, viewers and readers can judge the content for themselves from transcripts, videotape and knowledge of our schedule, venues and time constraints.
As for tonight's Nightly News, it looks like the top block will feature some combination of New Orleans (how big is the levee replacement project?) and Iraq (our promised series on realities on the ground there) and the troubles in Australia.
We'll have a dandy piece on the Department of Defense (and some questionable domestic operations) by Lisa Myers at the center of the broadcast tonight. Mike Taibbi will take on seasonal political correctness, and we'll tip our hats to the National Archives as we get off the air.
We all hope former President Gerald Ford is feeling better (after being hospitalized today for tests) and will make a quick recovery from today's treatment. I called his long-time and loyal Chief of Staff Penny Circle today when I heard the news. The former President has been very generous in years past in spending time with us, and he and Mrs. Ford have both gone out of their way to tell us they are loyal Nightly News viewers.
Back to preparing BOTH of tonight's broadcasts (my day job, plus tonight's special on MSNBC)... we sure hope you'll join us for the Tuesday edition of NBC Nightly News.
We are back now and compiling Nightly News for tonight... so many subjects, and the usual complaints; so little time. Luckily, while we will hit all the major points on subjects as diverse as Iraq, Katrina and torture... the compiled interviews will be available here online after 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT and we are putting together an hour-long special for MSNBC tomorrow night. We think you'll find the president's answers on all topics as interesting as we did... now it's on to finish the massive project that is tonight's broadcast. We hope you'll join us.
No more calls please, I now know it was the Park Hyatt. Interview concluded, will air on tonight's Nightly News. Now driving at a high rate of speed to airport, with promise of seeing the President once more on the flight home. Very interesting after many years away to see the security apparatus, motorcade formation, etc. I think we broke some new ground on the topic of the underpinnings and current status of the war.
Much the same as the speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Polite applause, one interruption, after the President pledged "total victory" in Iraq. A respectful crowd. Protesters outside, don't know if the President saw or heard them from his limousine. Just now, another applause interruption. Heading now to pre-set for the next interview. I have no idea what hotel we are in, and this brings back memories: motorcade to meeting rooms to motorcade to plane. It's a lifestyle.