‘The Middle’ of a Crisis

I was watching sitcom The Middle, which I have just discovered--I'm slow--when I surfed during a commercial to WJLA, the ABC affiliate, to check on the Ravens game. Instead, I got the President announcing he was authorizing targeted air strikes in Iraq, if necessary.

I hadn't expected Hallmark Channel to break into the middle of The Middle to carry that breaking news, but I then surfed to WUSA, the CBS affiliate, to hear a woman's voice talking about the "only chance to save themselves." Commentary on those in Iraq being pursued by ISIS? Nope, it was an episode of Big Brother.

I quickly switched to WRC, the NBC station, to find the Redskins game, not the President. Eventually, WRC put the President in a window in the upper righthand corner, while keeping the game on the main portion of the screen.

(NBC News says it was all over the story. “At 9:30 p.m. Eastern, Brian Williams anchored an NBC News special report covering President Obama’s statement on U.S. action in Iraq. Richard Engel joined live from Tel Aviv,” the network said. “Immediately following the network-wide special report, which coincided with 6:30 p.m. Pacific feeds of the evening newscasts, Williams continued anchoring a live west coast edition of NBC Nightly News with breaking updates from Jim Miklaszewski live at the Pentagon and Chris Jansing live at the White House. “)

Back to WUSA, but it was Big Brother again. Back to WRC, where during a commercial the President at least got a bigger window than the ad. A CBS news exec pointed out that it had broken into programming earlier--probably while I was watching Brick whisper to himself--to announce the airstrike authorization, though he conceded they had decided not to cover the President’s ensuing announcement live from the White House.

Props to WJLA/ABC for going with a full-boat, full-screen breaking news special report. In defense of the others, though not much, it was the announcement that the President was authorizing strikes, not that they had happened or necessarily would. I think all that we have dropped from planes so far is humanitarian aid, and I fervently hope that is all we wind up dropping.

I also noticed that WJLA did drop George Stephanopoulos in mid-sentence to cut back to the game. No wonder the FCC treats sports as non-substitutable, must-have programming.

Given the unrest in the world today--IDF says the cease fire has been violated--and the importance of the President saying we could be striking Iraq again, under whatever circumstances, I definitely agree with the call made by now-Sinclair-owned WJLA to interrupt its regularly scheduled must-have sports programming to show the President's announcement and explanation.

I have no doubt some football fans will complain.

Jessika Walsten

Jessika is an analyst for TVREV and Fabric Media. She previously served in various roles at Broadcasting + Cable, Multichannel News and NextTV, working with the brands since 2013. A graduate of USC Annenberg, Jessika has edited and reported on a variety of subjects in the media and entertainment space, including profiles on industry leaders and breaking news.