NEW YORK In somber coverage of Timothy McVeigh's execution, several television networks placed more emphasis on the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing than on the death of its perpetrator.
During the moments that lethal drugs were coursing through McVeigh's veins unseen to television viewers ABC showed footage of survivors and relatives reading statements they had given to the courts about the April 19, 1995 bombing, which killed 168 people.
CBS, to the backdrop of a sad piano melody, flashed pictures of the victims on the screen. Fox News Channel silently crawled the printed names and ages of the people who died.
ABC, CBS and NBC covered the execution extensively Monday with their morning news show staff. CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC and Court TV also provided continuous coverage.
"It is a somber day," said "Today" host Matt Lauer from New York at 7 a.m. EDT, "not only in Indiana and in Oklahoma City but all across the country, I would imagine."
The decision to emphasize the victims was deliberate: NBC sent Lauer co-host Katie Couric to Oklahoma City, instead of to Terre Haute, Ind., where the execution took place. ABC did the same with "Good Morning America" host Charles Gibson.
On the Internet, media sites had the execution as their top story and many had links to online chats, discussion boards and the text of the poem that McVeigh presented as his final words.
The Internet gave viewers feeds they couldn't get on television. While CNN's cable channel had a news conference by McVeigh attorney Robert Nigh, its Web site was broadcasting the same feed live, as well as one with Oneta Johnson, a victim's relative. CNN cable didn't switch to Johnson until after Nigh finished.
Newspapers also covered the execution extensively. Max Jones, editor of The Tribune-Star of Terre Haute, said his paper had just finished an eight-page special edition to hit the streets Monday morning. The headline: "McVeigh Executed."
"We decided to go traditional and conservative," Jones said.
McVeigh's hometown newspaper, The Buffalo News, led its afternoon editions with the same headline, in 72-point type.
Lou Michel, one of two reporters who wrote "American Terrorist," a new book based on jailhouse interviews with McVeigh, wrote a first-person, eyewitness account of the execution for page one, said Managing Editor Margaret Sullivan. Michel and Dan Herbeck spent more than 75 hours interviewing McVeigh; Tuesday's front page features both of them writing, in diary form, the history of those encounters.
The Cincinnati Post, that city's afternoon paper, held its first edition past deadline to make sure "the deed was done," said Managing Editor Mark Neikirk. It, too, used the simple headline "McVeigh Executed."
The New York Post proclaimed "He's Dead," in a special afternoon edition.
Television, the ultimate visual medium, was left with the challenge of covering an important event where it could not get pictures.
At the scheduled moment of execution, CNN and MSNBC showed aerial shots of the Indiana prison as reporters described in detail the protocol for the lethal injection. Networks also had 3-D models of the death chamber. Court TV passed the time interviewing McVeigh's first attorney.
ABC, in particular, devoted its coverage to the victims. It presented a video diary prepared by three relatives of people who were killed, its low-tech quality an intentional echo of reality television. The network also abandoned media descriptions of McVeigh's death to air a statement by a woman whose daughter was killed.
Several minutes before prison warden Harley Lappin gave the official word, several of the networks, including NBC and the news networks, reported The Associated Press' bulletin that McVeigh had been executed.
Media witnesses to the execution, their identities chosen by lottery, then gave their descriptions of the event.
"Timothy J. McVeigh died with his eyes open," said Byron Pitts of CBS News, the first media witness to speak.
Rex Huppke of the AP, another witness, said that after both doses of lethal drugs had been administered, "you saw a couple of heavy breaths and that was by and large it."
There were only a few exceptions to the sober tones taken by the networks. MSNBC flashed a few tabloid-style headlines for its coverage, including "The Final Hour" and "Dead Man Walking."
- Video: Miss Utah USA flubs answer at Miss USA...
- NPR writer 'slightly' defends Miss Utah USA's...
- Pew study: News media inserted bias into gay...
- Parents rally after Canadian elementary...
- Teen from Steubenville rape case classified...
- Google building database to help clear child...
- IRS official: Washington scrutinized very...
- North Korea changes stance, tells United...
- Video: Miss Utah USA flubs answer at... 24
- Officials: NSA programs broke terrorist... 15
- Unpaid internships in jeopardy after... 14
- New York English teacher assigns... 13
- Parents rally after Canadian elementary... 13
- Coverage may be unaffordable for... 12
- Obama steps up military aid to Syrian... 12
- Immigration bill could decide 2016,... 12