Networks Scramble from Convention to Storm Coverage

You’ve got to follow the biggest story–and right now that story is Hurricane Gustav coming ashore southwest of New Orleans as a Category 2 hurricane, NOT the Republican national convention, which was due to begin tonight.

According to the Associated Press, television news networks rapidly shifted focus and personnel away from the Republican national convention to Gulf Coast communities in the path of Hurricane Gustav on Sunday.

“We’re going to go with the biggest story of the day tomorrow,” Jay Wallace, a news vice president at Fox News Channel, told AP, “and right now the biggest story of the day is the storm.”

Anchors Katie Couric, Charles Gibson, Brian Williams, Anderson Cooper and Shepard Smith were all going to the New Orleans area for the storm instead of being with Republicans in St. Paul, Minn.

As it stands, both President Bush and Vice President Cheney have canceled plans to be at the convention, and the GOP was considering other changes to its program.

Along with Smith, Fox was sending Geraldo Rivera and at least a dozen crews to the Gulf, AP reports. Fox had been anticipating a big week in St. Paul; its ratings topped every broadcast and cable network at the 2004 GOP convention–but not now.

Considering the flack the Bush administration received for the late response in dealing with Hurricane Katrina three years ago, it makes sense everyone is jumping to New Orleans’ aid. But it’s a bad time for Republicans to share the spotlight. At least President Bush’s bowing out helps shift the focus off those Katrina reminders, which might have hurt the Republicans’ big opening night.

Still, news executives had more immediate concerns. “My thumbs are numb from the Blackberry exchanges between yesterday and today in terms of shifting our coverage,” Fox’s Wallace told AP. Ah, all in the day of news.