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Nation Tunes In to Twin Cities TV After Bridge Collapse

Local Minneapolis stations sprang into action seconds after the deadly collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge at 6:05 p.m. yesterday, and have been on the scene ever since. “Sometimes you get these seminal moments in the newsroom,” says KMSP VP/News Director Bill Dallman, who first heard the news on a scanner as he went over the lineup for last night’s newscasts, “and you recognize you’ve got a huge problem.”

The stations were live within minutes—KMSP, for one, cut in at 6:15:06—and offered local coverage until after midnight, resuming around daybreak today. (On cable, Fox and CNN both relied on citizen journalist reports to help tell the story of the bridge collapse.)

KSTP was first on the scene with its helicopter, offering stunning aerial shots as the competition scrambled to get their choppers in the air. Newsgathering efforts were hindered somewhat by the fact that numerous newsroomers are on August vacation. WCCO VP/General Manager Susan Adams Loyd says she’s trying to pull vacationing staffers back into the newsroom, and relying on as many as four neighboring sister stations (WCCO is owned by CBS) for help. “We’re just trying to get through the first 24 hours,” she says.

Offering nonstop video of press conferences, investigative reports and the collapse itself, the stations are reporting gigantic numbers online. KMSP tallied 1.3 million hits last night, thanks in part to the New York Times Website offering a KMSP feed. That’s about what the site would accumulate in 10-15 days, says Dallman.

WCCO has gotten around 10 times' its normal traffic, says Loyd, some 4.2 million page views since last night.

As network news figures like CBS anchor Katie Couric and Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren arrive in the Twin Cities and prepare to go live, the stations are providing support and local expertise to their national counterparts. Most stations figure to offer the national newscast this evening, then return to local news.

Station staffers, several who worked through the night, are getting by on adrenaline. “You live for moments like this," says Loyd, "when you can serve your community and do your best to disseminate relevant information.

For last month’s Market Eye spotlight on the Minneapolis-St. Paul market, the No. 15 DMA, click here.