Here’s the time line from last Saturday. At 6:30 p.m. the abandoned Nissan Pathfinder was found smoking in Times Square. Relevant public officials marooned at the correspondents dinner in Washington quickly got word. Over the next hour and a half, several news organizations spread it as well while Times Square was evacuated. To clear the Broadway theater district at curtain time on Saturday night isn’t like emptying a high school; it’s a virtual military operation. By 8 p.m., the crossroads of the world looked like a ghost town, yet if you tuned in to a cable news network, it wasn’t news. No one seemed to know or to care. On MSNBC, which I was watching, it didn’t even merit a mention on a crawl.CNN and Faux News were just as guilty.
Apparently little short of King Kong climbing up 30 Rock could have grabbed the network’s attention. When MSNBC did take a brief break from the dinner for news updates at 9:30, Times Square didn’t make the cut. Whether this was due to ignorance, ineptitude or an unwillingness to play party pooper is a distinction without a difference. Real-time coverage of Leno bombing (since when is that news?) mattered more than any actual bombs. Only as the dinner wound down, at 10:54, did MSNBC at last muster a “breaking news” bulletin about the Times Square story that had in fact been breaking for hours. Even then, we were told that NBC News couldn’t independently confirm the facts MSNBC was recycling from Reuters.