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Egypt Unrest: Where's the Local TV Coverage?

How big a story is the unrest–or, flat out violence–in Egypt for TV stations around the country?

Granted, there isn’t a huge Egyptian-American population in the States, and much of the country has been beset by horrific weather. Stations are hyper-local, right? More community news, at the expense of happenings halfway across the country–or the world. Right?

Yet giant earthquakes and tsunamis halfway around the world are of local interest. So is Charlie Sheen’s latest addiction misstep, or Mel Gibson’s most recent racist outburst.

Should the increasing turmoil out of Egypt, a vital U.S. ally in a critical geographic location, have a bigger presence at the local news outfits than a general AP story on their websites?

Steve Bornfeld of the Las Vegas Review-Journal has a smart essay about the local coverage, or lack thereof, of Egypt’s protests.

He starts out:

Does what happens beyond our backyard belong on our front lawn?

That’s an evergreen debate, globally speaking, in the TV news biz when gauging how, where or even whether to slot international news into regional newscasts. Do viewers care?

Bornfeld flipped around the dial in DMA No. 42 Friday night to see who was showing what about Egypt–the same day Vegas-based Egyptian-Americans were planning a rally at the Federal Building. Here’s what he found:

Looking at late-night newscasts because they’re the day’s news wrap-ups (with the caveat that the story might have been played differently at other hours), only KSNV-TV, Channel 3 thought it crucial enough at 11 p.m. to earn the lead spot, trumping all local stories.

Wise decision.

Blending network reports with Jerry Brown’s interviews of local Egyptian-Americans, News-3 also aired a statement from Sen. John Ensign expressing concern that Islamic radicals might manipulate the situation, adding another dimension to the media narrative of fury and violence.

Runner-up for best placement was KVVU-TV, Channel 5 at 10 p.m., which ran it second and at length, also with network footage paired with Matt DeLucia’s interviews, behind coverage of a pit bull attacking its owners. Over at KLAS-TV, Channel 8, it also slotted second — following a riveting Aaron Drawhorn report on the local influx of a “super cocaine” triggering horrific reactions in users — but it was just a brief report of network video and Dave Courvoisier’s voice-over. Assigning it the least importance was KTNV-TV, Channel 13, which led with the grisly pit bull piece and pushed the protests to mid-newscast in a roundup segment that also included Charlie Sheen’s rehab.

Since I can’t watch all the local newscasts around the country, let me know who’s doing good, smart local coverage of the protests taking place in Egypt. Who’s finding the local angles, talking to Egyptian-Americans in their markets for reaction, or even sending a reporter to dig up a little, as so many stations’ branding goes, eyewitness news?

Shoot me an email or comment and tell me what your station is doing to cover this global event.

UPDATE: I knew you folks wouldn’t disappoint.

Here’s a WAVY Norfolk story about 13 area tourists arriving home after a harrowing trip to Egypt.

Here’s something on KUSA Denver about a rally of Egyptian immigrants outside Colorado’s statehouse.

WMAQ Chicago, meanwhile, popped into a local Egyptian restaurant, gazed through the hookah smoke, and spoke to Egyptian Americans about their reaction to the violence in their homeland. Said a man named Elsayed:

“I see what’s going on and we can’t do nothing from here. The people are tired. They see the rest of the world and they want freedom. They want to work hard and be free.”

UPDATE: KCET Los Angeles’ SoCal Connected presents a one-hour special report “Egypt on the Edge” at 8 p.m., February 4. “The special will feature continuing live coverage from Al Jazeera English News in Cairo,” reads the release. “In addition, “Egypt on the Edge” will include news updates and analysis from a panel talking about everything from economic impact to social media.”

UPDATE: WDIV Detroit GM Marla Drutz tells me the station has a reporter, Sandra Ali, who spent part of her childhood growing up in Egypt and is fluid in Arabic.

“Sandra has filed several reports on how her family is faring in Egypt and offered her relatives first-hand accounts,” emails Drutz. “Today in one of her many reports, she told viewers about how her relatives that the wait to purchase bread was over 2 hours at a grocery store in an middle class Cairo neighborhood several miles from Tahrir Square.”

UPDATE: KSL Salt Lake City talks to local Utahns with connections to Egypt.

UPDATE: WNBC New York works with MSNBC to speak with an American woman living in Cairo who took part in the protests–until things got a little too violent.

“It started with such hope, not that I think it’s ended … there was such a wave of optimism and hope,” she said. Those feelings had now been “tempered by sadness, frustration and anger.”

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.