With the gulf war under way the early winner on the television front is CNN.
ABC was the first on the air with the news that the attack had begun (about 4:40 p.m. MST). But Cable News Network managed to keep a line open to three reporters in a Baghdad hotel, while ABC, CBS and NBC soon lost their links to the Iraqi capital.Reporters Peter Arnett and John Holliman and anchorman Bernard Shaw couldn't tell viewers much about what was going on, but in a night when little news was available, their on-the-scene reports were the best television had to offer.
Even Defense Secretary Dick Cheney put in a plug for CNN. Asked about the bombing runs, he replied, "The best reporting that I've seen on what transpired in Baghdad was on CNN."
And NBC paid the ultimate honor to a competitor when anchorman Tom Brokaw interviewed CNN's Shaw on the air.
The Iraqis cut CNN's link on Thursday morning.
Still, this was not a story made for television - there simply were no pictures. Graphics abounded, but there was little information to fill hours of broadcasting, leaving the networks to fill time with talking heads - endless retired admirals and generals and person-in-the-street interviews. It was the best radio story every broadcast on television.
Locally, six of the eight television stations dropped regular programming to go straight news. KUTV went with NBC, KTVX with ABC, KUED and KBYU with PBS and, in a nice bit of public service, independent KXIV picked up the CNN feed. Only KSTU and KOOG maintained regular programming.
KSL-TV made perhaps the strangest decisions on Wednesday night. An affiliate of both CBS and CNN, Ch. 5 bounced back and forth between the two networks, often cutting off commentators (even Walter Cronkite) in the middle of sentences.
Not only was this bouncing annoying, but with CNN available on both cable and broadcast channels locally, KSL deprived local viewers of CBS coverage unnecessarily.
With little real information to report, all the networks ceased to become reporters and resorted to speculation about what would happen next - a rather telling comment on where state-of-the-art, instantaneous communication has brought us.