The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. John Steinbeck's words could describe our plans to carry the first 15 minutes of Barack Obama's speech at Minges Coliseum on the ECU campus. We were told that Obama was likely to take the stage at 6:15 so we planned to go live at that point and carry the first fifteen minutes of his speech. By 6:25 we were starting to get nervous that he might not go live until after the start of the NBC Nightly News. Quickly we looked at the line-up of the NBC Nightly News and noted two out of the top three stories had been covered fairly extensively. One was the pope's visit and the other was the latest in the saga of the polygamist sect in Texas. The biggest story nationally is also the top local story: the Obama/Clinton battle. When one of them is speaking in our backyard, we feel it's news! Huge news! I believe we would have made a huge mistake not getting at least some of Obama's speech live on WITN. We were hoping he'd wrap up before 7:00pm but if he didn't we'd have to make a decision around 6:55pm.
Well, in the middle of all the madness, our managing editor, who was driving to Greenville, called and said there was a huge fire near downtown Greenville. We quickly got close to the scene and realized we needed to break in to the speech and let people know what was happening in Greenville. We broke the news of the fire, informed viewers who wanted to stay with the speech to turn to our live-stream on WITNTV.Com and managed to start Wheel of Fortune on time, much to the delight of the 40,000 or so Wheel Watchers in Eastern Carolina.
We had two different streams of video coming from Greenville. On-air we showed the feed from our camera but we had a CNN feed on the live stream. Unfortunately, they broke away and we missed a bit of the event. We promptly got it back up so all who reconnected only missed a couple of minutes. If you want to see portions of the speech, please watch the second video linked to the story below. http://www.witntv.com/home/headlines/17847404.html
We've received a fair amount of viewer feedback on our coverage. Much of it was positive but some of it wasn't. It's a rule of thumb that coverage is probably well-balanced when people on the left and on the right complain about your coverage. Robert from Kinston e-mailed me to say "Why don't you place a large picture of Obama behind the news anchors until election day!" while Al from Greenville commented on the web article saying "You are no doubt the sorriest network. You're in the tank for Clinton" because we aired only 25 minutes or so of the debate live. Al apparently didn't notice that we opted to pre-empt the national news to carry this important local story. The two channels which opted to carry the national news must be less sorry than we apparently are. Pamela from New Bern weighed in with her displeasure, writing " your station will go down as being racist - shame on you - we are watching".
While I wish we were able to carry the first 15 minutes on WITN News at Six, I think the WITN News team rocked with our revised coverage plan of Obama's visit. For those who had no interest in the top local story, WCTI, WNCT and all the cable networks were on the air with national news. Our focus at WITN is to do the best job we can covering the stories that are important to people in Eastern Carolina. In our judgment, Obama's visit is huge and we're proud to be the only station in the East to carry the first twenty-five minutes of his speech live. If John McCain or Hillary Clinton come to the area, we'd be honored to carry much of their speeches live too. We can only hope that they're prompt and start on time.