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Authors: Arthur Hailey

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BOOK: The Evening News
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While his fingers raced across the keyboard, Sloane reflected in a corner
of his mind that few, if any, viewers would switch off until tonight's
news was concluded. He added a sentence to the tell story about staying
tuned for further developments, then hit a key for printout. Over at
Teleprompter they would get a printout too, so that by the time he
reached the broadcast studio, one floor below, it would be ready for him
to read from the prompter screen
.
As Sloane, a sheaf of papers in hand, quickly headed for the stairs to
the third floor, Insen was demanding of a senior producer, "Dammit, what
about pictures from DFW
?

"Chuck, it doesn't look good
.”

The producer, a phone cradled in his
shoulder, was talking to the national editor in the main newsroom
.”
The
burning airplane is getting near the airport but our camera crew is
twenty miles away. They won't make it in time
.”

Insen swore in frustration
.”
Shit
!”

 

If medals were awarded for dangerous service in the field of television
,
Ernie LaSalle, the national editor, would have had a chestful. Although
only twenty-nine, he had served with distinction and frequent peril as
a CBA field producer in Lebanon, Iran, Angola, the Falklands, Nicaragua
and other messy places while ugly situations were erupting. Though the
same kind of situations were still happening, nowadays LaSalle viewed the
domestic American scene, which could be equally messy at times, from a
comfortable upholstered chair in a glass-paneled office overlooking the
main newsroom
.
LaSalle was compact and small-boned, energetic, neatly bearded and
carefully dressed-a yuppie type, some said. As national editor his
responsibilities were large and he was one of two senior functionaries
in the newsroom. The other was the foreign editor. Both had newsroom
desks which they occupied when any particular story became hot and either
was closely involved. The Dallas-Fort Worth Airport story was hot--ergo, LaSalle had rushed to his newsroom desk
.
The newsroom was one floor below the Horseshoe. So was the news broadcast
studio, which used the bustling newsroom as its visual backdrop. A control
room, where a director put the technical components of each broadcast
together, was in the News Building basement
.
It was now seven minutes since the Dallas bureau chief had first reported
the wounded Airbus approaching DFW. LaSalle slammed down one phone and
picked up another, at the same time reading a computer screen alongside him
on which a new AP report had just appeared. He was continuing to do every-
thing he could to ensure coverage of the story, at the same time keeping
the Horseshoe advised of developments
.
It was LaSalle who reported the dispiriting news about CBA's nearest camera
crew-though now rushing toward DFW and ignoring speed limits en route
,
still twenty miles from the scene of action. The reason was that it had
been a busy day at the Dallas bureau, with all camera crews, field
producers and correspondents out on assignment, and by sheer bad luck all
of the assignments were a long way from the airport
.
Of course, there would be some pictures forthcoming shortly, but they would
be after the fact and not of the critical Airbus landing, which was certain
to be spectacular and perhaps disastrous.

It was also unlikely that
pictures of any kind would be available for the first feed of the National
Evening News, which went via satellite to most of the eastern seaboard and
parts of the Midwest
.
The only consolation was that the Dallas bureau chief had learned that no
other network or local station had a camera crew at the airport either
,
though like CBA's others were on the way
.
From his newsroom desk Ernie LaSalle, still busy with telephones, could see
the usual pre
-
broadcast action in the brightly lit news studio as Crawford
Sloane came in. Television viewers watching Sloane during a broadcast had
the illusion that the anchorman was in, and part of, the newsroom. But in
fact there
was thick soundproof glass between the two so that no newsroom noises intruded, except when deliberately faded in as an audio effect
.
The time was 6:28 P.m., two minutes before first-feed air.

As Sloane slipped into the anchor desk chair, his back to the newsroom and
facing the center camera of three, a makeup girl moved in. Ten minutes
earlier Sloane had had makeup applied in a small private room adjoining his
office, but since then he had been sweating. Now the girl mopped his
forehead, dabbed on powder, ran a comb through his hair and applied a touch
of hair spray
.
With a hint of impatience Sloane murmured, "Thanks, Nina
,”
then glanced
over his papers, checking that the opening words of his tell story on top
corresponded with those displayed in large letters on the Teleprompter in
front of him, from which he would read while appearing to look directly at
viewers. The papers which news readers were often seen to shuffle were a
precaution, for use only if the Teleprompter failed
.
The studio stage manager called out loudly, "One minute
!”

 

In the newsroom, Ernie LaSalle suddenly sat up straight, attentive
,
startled
.
About a minute earlier, the Dallas bureau chief had excused himself from
the line on which he had been talking with LaSalle to take another phone
call, Waiting, LaSalle could hear the bureau chief's voice but not what was
being said. Now the bureau man returned and what he reported caused the
national editor to smile broadly
.
LaSalle picked up a red reporting telephone on his desk which connected
him, through amplified speakers, to every section of the news operation
.”
National desk. LaSalle. Good news. We now have immediate coverage at DFW
airport. In the terminal building, waiting for flight connections, are
Partridge, Abrams, Van Canh. Abrams just reported to Dallas bureau-they are
onto the story and running. More: A mobile satellite van has abandoned
another assignment and is en route to DFW, expected soonest. Satellite feed time, Dallas to New York, is booked. We expect pictures in time for inclusion in the first-feed news
.”

Though he tried to sound laconic, LaSalle found it hard to keep the
satisfaction from his voice. As if in response, a muffled cheer drifted
down the open stairway from the Horseshoe above. Crawford Sloane, in the
studio, also swung around and gave LaSalle a cheerful thumbs up
.
An aide put a paper in front of the national editor who glanced at it, then
continued on the speakerphone, "Also from Abrams, this report: On board
Airbus in distress are 286passengers, eleven crew. Second plane in
collision, a private Piper Cheyenne, crashed in Gainesville, no survivors
.
There are other casualties on ground, no details, numbers or seriousness
.
Airbus has one engine ripped off, is attempting landing on remaining en-
gine. Air Traffic Control reportsfire isfrom the location of missing
engine. Report ends
.”

LaSalle thought: Everything that had come from Dallas in the past few
minutes was totally professional. But then, it was not surprising because
the team of Abrams, Partridge and Van Canh was one of the crack
combinations of CBA News. Rita Abrams, once a correspondent and now a
senior field producer, was noted for her quick assessment of situations and
a resourcefulness in getting stories back, even under difficult conditions
.
Harry Partridge was one of the. best correspondents in the business. He
normally specialized in war stories and, like Crawford Sloane, had reported
from Vietnam, but could be relied on to do an exceptional job in any
situation. And cameraman Minh Van Canh, once a Vietnamese and now an
American citizen, was noted for his fine
pictures sometimes shot in dan
gerous situations with disregard for his own safety. The fact that the
three of them were onto the Dallas story guaranteed that it would be well
handled
.
By now it was a minute past the half hour and the first-feed National
Evening News had begun. Reaching for a control beside his desk, LaSalle
turned up the audio of an overhead monitor and heard Crawford Sloane doing
the top-of-the-news tell story about DFW. On camera, a hand-it was a
writer's
slipped a paper in front of him. Clearly it contained the additional report LaSalle had just dictated and, glancing down and ad-libbing, Sloane incorporated it into his prepared text. It was the kind of thing the anchorman did superbly.

Upstairs at the Horseshoe since LaSalle's announcement, the mood had
changed. Now, though pressure and urgency remained, there was cheerful
optimism with the knowledge that the Dallas situation was well in hand and
pictures and a fuller
report would be forthcoming. Ch
uck Insen and others
were huddled, watching monitors, arguing, making decisions, squeezing out
seconds, doing still more cutting and rearranging to leave the needed
space. It looked as if the report about the corrupt senator would fall by
the way after all. There was a sense of everyone doing what they did
best-coping in a time
confined, exigency situation
.
Swift exchanges, jargon-loaded, flowed back and forth
.”
This piece is picture-poor
.”

"Make that copy shorter, pithy
.”

"Tape room: We're killing '16: Corruption.' But it may come back in if we
don't get Dallas
.”

"The last fifteen seconds of that piece is deadly. We'll be telling people
what they already know
.”

"The old lady in Omaha doesn't know
.”

"Then she never will. Drop it
.”

"First segment just finished. Have gone to commercial. We're forty seconds
heavy
.”

"What did the competition have from Dallas
?

"A tell story, same as us
.”

"I need a bumper and cutline fast for 'Drug Bust.'
"Take out that sequence. It does nothing
.”

"What we're trying to do here is put twelve pounds of shit into a ten-pound
bag
.”

 

An observer unfamiliar with the scene might wonder: Are these people human?
Don't they care? Have they no emotion, no feelings of involvement, not an
ounce of
grief? Have any of them spared a thought
for the nearly three
hundred terrified souls on
that airplane approaching DFW who may shortly die? Isn't there anyone here to whom that matters?
And someone knowledgeable about news would answer: Yes, there are people
here to whom it matters, and they will care, maybe right after the
broadcast. Or, when some have reached home, the horror of it all will
touch them, and depending on how it all turns out, a
f
ew may weep. At this
moment, though, no one has the time. These are news people. Their job is
to record the passing parade, the bad with the good, and to do it
swiftly, efficiently, plainly so that-in a news phrase from an older
time"he who runs may read
.”
Therefore at 6:40 P.m., ten minutes into the National Evening News half
hour, the key remaining question for those around the Horseshoe and
others in the newsroom, studio and control room was: Will there or won't
there be a story soon, with pictures, from DFW?

For the group of five journalists at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, the sequence of events had begun a couple of hours earlier and reached a high point at about 5:10 P.m., central daylight time
.
The five were Harry Partridge, Rita Abrams, Minh Van Canh, Ken O'Hara
,
the CBA crew's sound man, and Graham Broderick, a foreign correspondent
for the New York Times. That same morning, in predawn darkness, they had
left El Salvador and flown to Mexico City, then, after delay and a flight
change, traveled onward to DFW. Now they were awaiting other flight
connections, some to differing destinations
.
All were weary, not just from today's long journey, but from two months
or more of rough and dangerous living while reporting on several nasty
wars in unpleasant parts of Latin America
.
While waiting for their flights, they were in a bar in Terminal 2E, one of twenty-four busy bars in the airport. The bar's d6cor was mod-utilitarian. Surrounded by an imitation garden wall containing plants, it sported hanging fabric panels overhead in pale blue plaid, lit by concealed pink lighting. The Timesman said it reminded him of a whorehouse he had once been in in Mandalay
.
From their table near a window they could see the aircraft ramp and Gate
20. It was from that gate Harry Partridge had expected to leave, a few
minutes from now, on an American Airlines flight to Toronto. But this
evening the flight was late and an hour's delay had just been announced
.
Partridge, a tall and lanky figure, had an untidy shock of fair hair that
had always made him look boyish and still did, despite his forty-odd years
and the fact that the hair was graying. At this moment he was relaxed and
not much caring about flight delays or anything else. He had ahead of him
three weeks of R&R, and rest and relaxation were what he sorely needed
.
Rita Abrams' connecting flight would be to MinneapolisSt. Paul, from where
she was headed for a holiday on a friend's farm in Minnesota. She also had
a weekend rendezvous planned there with a married senior CBA official, a
piece of information she was keeping to herself. Minh Van Canh and Ken
O'Hara were going home to New York. So was Graham Broderick
.
The trio of Partridge, Rita and Minh was a frequent working combination
.
On their most recent trip, O'Hara had been with them, as sound recordist
,
for the first time. He was young, pale, pencil-thin, and spent most of his
spare time absorbed in electronics magazines; be had one open now
.
Broderick was the odd man out, though he and the TV-ers often covered the
same assignments and mostly were on good terms. At this moment, however
,
the Timesman-rotund, dignified and slightly pompous-was being antagonistic
.
Three of the group had had a little too much to drink. The exceptions were
Van Canh, who drank only club soda, and the sound man, who had nursed a
beer for a long time and declined more
.”
Listen, you affluent son of a bitch
,”
Broderick said to Partridge, who had pulled a billfold from his pocket, "I said I'd pay for this round, and so I will
.”

BOOK: The Evening News
12.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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