U.S. networks are gearing up for long-running coverage of the massive South Asian earthquake and tsunami.
With more than 100,000 believed dead, including many tourists, in an array of countries hit by the waves, news executives expect the tsunami story to be of ongoing interest to American audiences for at least several more weeks. The immediate rush to get crews into Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia is being followed up by additional staffing to intensively cover the disaster and recovery effort.
Western journalists that were stationed near the region’s coastal resorts were quickly dispatched to the sites of the disaster. Now the challenge is to get additional crews into more remote areas. One of the regions sustaining the greatest devastation is the Indonesian province of Aceh. “It’s so close to the epicenter, who knows what horrors are there?” says CBS Foreign Editor Chris Hulme.
Every network relies on local stringers and news agencies who are crucial in getting amateur video plus reports from remote zones. CNN, as always, is the best-staffed U.S. network because it maintains the most extensive array of foreign bureaus. It has also had some of the most compelling home video footage, including Wednesday's video of a maelstrom of water, debris, and victims, shot from a second-floor balcony as the tsunami hit and conveying, as arguably no footage had before, the destructive power of the waves.
Networks aren’t adding up the cost of the coverage – yet. “We have not had one money discussion since the story broke,” says David Rhodes, director of news gathering at Fox News.
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