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All Eyes On Twin Cities TV

Minneapolis stations sprang into action moments after the I-35W bridge collapsed Aug. 1 and have been providing their market—and the rest of the country—with live coverage ever since. With many staffers on vacation, stations relied on sister outlets in other markets as they produced live reports throughout the day. CBS-owned WCCO got assistance from CBS siblings as far flung as Philadelphia and Sacramento and even got a call from across the Atlantic, the BBC offering its services.

“We’ve gotten help from all corners of the country,” says WCCO VP/General Manager Susan Adams Loyd, whose newsroom offered their local expertise to CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric after she landed in Minneapolis. “There’s been great collaboration among the CBS family.”

Online, local stations, including Gannett’s KARE and Hubbard’s KSTP, have been hitting huge numbers. Bill Dallman, VP/news director of Fox O&O KMSP, says got some 1.3 million page views in the six hours after the collapse, thanks in part to the New York Times’ offering KMSP streaming video on the newspaper’s site. Loyd reports 4.73 million page views on the day of the collapse. “A normal day would be 450,000,” she says.

On the cable front, the news networks tapped local citizen journalists to round out their coverage, including video, cellphone reports and photos. Fox dubbed the public accounts “uReports”; CNN calls them “I-Reports.” The bridge collapse occurred exactly one year after CNN launched its citizen-journalist initiative.

As divers searched for the missing under the rubble in the Mississippi River, sleep-starved journalists hung onto the story. “They’re running on adrenaline,” says Dallman. “They recognize a big story when it happens, and they feel a sense of responsibility to help people.”

Additional reporting by John Eggerton