February 1, 2006

Anchors Away



Text messaging Howard Beal!

If you missed it, there’s great news from ABC today.  The near death of anchor Bob Woodruff from an Iraqi roadside explosive has proved a major boon to the network.  According to the NYT:

The intense interest in Mr. Woodruff’s condition has been reflected, at least in part, in the strong ratings that “World News Tonight” scored on Monday night, the day after his injury.  For the first time since Oct. 12, the ABC broadcast had a significant lead over “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams” in overnight ratings. NBC regularly surpasses ABC by about a million viewers. But in Monday’s overnight ratings ABC had about a million-viewer margin over NBC.

Obviously, all thoughts and good wishes go out to Bob Woodruff (and cameraman Doug Vogt) for a full recovery.  At the same time, what are we to make of this battlefield roulette ABC was playing with it’s newbie anchor?

According to reports, Mr. Woodruff abandoned a patrol of six U.S. military Humvees while traveling through an insurgent “hot zone” in favor of a lead Iraqi armored vehicle.  When they hit the explosive, Woodruff and Vogt were riding exposed in the back hatch of the vehicle filming a mini-report known as a videolog.  Said Said Maj. Bill Taylor of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division: “I knew Bob wanted to be there because he felt there was a story that he wanted told.”

Wouldn’t it be ironic, however, if Woodruff ends up more valuable to the network for a purple heart than a silver tongue?

Of course, its significant news (in “tube struck” America, anyway) when a network anchor is nearly taken out by the “evil doers.”  I mean, somebody has to get the story.  And, with media competition being what it is, its only natural that, within hours of the attack, ABC would convert its tragedy into this cool computer graphic simulation.  And, of course, it would be just as shocking if the ABC News website didn’t also turn its video coverage into a Bob-a-thon. (I happened to visit the site on Monday in order to see the latest Al-Zawahiri/al Qaeda video clip.  From top to bottom, this was the listing of news videos:

How the attack happened and the latest on their condition. / Roadside bombs pose the greatest danger to U.S. service members in Iraq. / Embedded journalists in Iraq cover the war despite the dangerous assignment. /  Technology, improved medical care amount to lower U.S. military fatalities. / Not one minute is wasted when someone’s injured on the front lines. / Dave Woodruff speaks highly of care; Bob and Doug “showing improvement.” / Messages pour into ABC News offering comfort to the wounded journalists. / U.S. military ramps up defense against insurgent weaponry being used in Iraq. / Al Qaeda leader calls President Bush “the butcher of Washington” in new video. / Bob Woodruff, Doug Vogt show signs of improvement at Landstuhl Medical Center.)

For discretions sake, I’m just hope ABC/Disney waits till Mr. Woodruff recovers before releasing Battlefield 2: Network Anchor Edition.

(images: ABC.go.com.  January 29, 2005.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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