Local News Channels Go All Out for 9/11

Cable's local news networks in New York City and Pennsylvania, both hard hit by the terrorists' attacks of last Sept. 11, are going all out to mark the tragedy's first anniversary.

But executives at Time Warner Cable's New York 1 News and Comcast Corp.'s CN8 emphasized that their services have been covering this news story throughout the past 12 months and are not suddenly jumping on the anniversary bandwagon. (Officials at NewsChannel 8 in Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh Cable News Channel were unavailable at presstime.)

NY1 senior vice president and general manager Steve Paulus said his network will offer "close to 100 hours" of events, memorials and other Sept. 11-related programming under the umbrella title 9/11: Reflect, Remember, Rebuild. That includes both live and taped coverage, including 20 of the 24 hours on Sept. 11 itself, he said.

Coverage actually began in August with a series of Thursday night town-hall meetings. Topics included the allocation of donations and the debate over what should be built at the World Trade Center site.

On Sept. 3, the network's nightly live New York Tonight
expanded to two hours in primetime, offering interviews with New York Gov. George Pataki, former police commissioner Bernard Kerik and others.

NY1 also will air a series of vignettes in which ordinary New Yorkers tell how their lives have changed.


On the weekend before Sept. 11, NY1 was slated to recap the attacks minute-by-minute and repeat material from previous NY1 For You
and New Yorkers of the Week

It also will run profiles of the victims and run other Sept. 11-themed news and features on its Web site, as it has been doing.

Cablevision Systems Corp.'s five News 12 networks — in Long Island, Westchester and the Bronx, N.Y.; and New Jersey and Connecticut — will offer subscribers extensive news-oriented coverage honoring the victims and heroes of that day, spokesman Matt Frankel said.

That will include some live coverage from the WTC site, most likely including President Bush's visit.

MetroChannels' Metro TV service, under the Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. umbrella, will shelve its regular fare to present 24 hours of Sept. 11-related documentaries, including programming from the channel's partners Metro Arts and WNET, New York's public TV station. United We Stand, Reel New York
and Twin Towers: A History
will be among the titles, Frankel said.

Pennsylvania also was affected directly when the hijacked Flight 93 crashed in a field near Shanksville, a small town near Pittsburgh.

According to CN8 vice president and general manager Jon Gorchow in Philadelphia, the service is going at its Sept. 11-themed programming "pretty aggressively."

CN8 will offer 35 hours of coverage on all aspects of that story from Sept. 8 through Sept. 11.

One of the first shows scheduled was a Sept. 8 repeat of its three-hour Alliance of Neighbors
concert from last October, Gorchow said. That event, starring Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi and others, will again serve as a fundraiser for the families of victims from Monmouth County, N.J.

On Sept. 11 alone, CN8 will air 10 of its 12 hours of coverage live. The network will run numerous live reports from the WTC site, the Pentagon and from Shanksville when President Bush visits and throughout the day, as well as from various other memorial services, including Middletown, N.J., a hard-hit community profiled on an episode of CBS'48 Hours
last month.

CN8's cable coverage, as usual, will be simulcast on its Web site. According to a network spokeswoman, the site also will have a link to an outline of CN8's coverage plans for that week.


The networks have also had to deal with issues regarding the cost of coverage. "We've tried to keep our costs down as much as possible," Paulus said.

Nonetheless, in assembling what may be the most comprehensive reporting of any story in NY1's history, those expenses will be "probably close to six figures," including overtime, satellite charges and equipment rental, he said.

Given the circumstances, NY1 will not be able to offset those costs with ad sales, he conceded. Like many other networks, "We're going to take a substantial hit," Paulus said.

Indeed, NY1 will carry no commercials at all from 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10 through Wednesday, Sept. 11. And on Sept. 13, it will have a reading of the names of all those killed at the Twin Towers.

Where advertising is accepted, the clients involved have no plans so far to create special commercials, Paulus said.

Because New York's gubernatorial primary will be held on Sept. 10, NY1 will preempt C-SPAN2 that night to add a second all-election channel.

Political is likely to be among the most visible ad categories that week, given the New York gubernatorial primary — with Republican Pataki seeking reelection, Carl McCall seeking the Democratic slot and independent billionaire Tom Golisano seeking Independence Party and Conservative Party berths.

NY1 had looked for an advertiser to underwrite all or part of its Sept. 11 coverage but was unable to find one, he said.

CN8's coverage costs will not be huge, said Gorchow, although he too acknowledged that the coverage won't be offset by ad sales, at least on the anniversary date.

He said his network's outlays were "not very significant" when one considers that CN8 produces about the same amount of programming on an average day.


CN8 also will be helped by the fact that it's partnering on much of the coverage with public-TV station WHYY-TV in Philadelphia and the New Jersey Network.

In the ad-sales arena, "We did talk about [seeking underwriting sponsors], but ultimately we decided we didn't want to go that direction," Gorchow said.

Similarly, neither News 12 nor MetroChannels will take commercials on Sept. 11, Frankel said.

Paulus acknowledged that viewers may steer clear of the wall-to-wall coverage planned by many broadcast and cable networks. "Certain people won't go near the television at all, and certain people are going to be glued to the tube," he said.

"We recognize the sensitivity," he added. Beginning last Wednesday (Sept. 4), NY1 made psychologists available to callers from 11 p.m. to midnight to answer questions from people with issues.