It’s been nearly a year since the space shuttle Discovery last launched. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating. I’m a space junkie. I live for this sort of thing. Sometimes if nothing interesting is on TV I’ll switch over to the NASA Channel just to see what’s going on in space.
Last time I was looking at this as a two network race between CNN and MSNBC/NBC’s teams. However the aborted launch threw everything out of whack and when the shuttle finally did launch, NBC opted not to throw everything at it a 2nd time and it showed.
NBC decided to change its approach and combined the MSNBC and NBC broadcasts into one simulcast. Brian Williams stayed in New York for the 2nd attempt. There were behind the scenes rumors of key people being on vacation who were present for the first attempt, though I’ve heard from a source that they would have been there if they had been asked, and a general feeling that NBC might not have been convinced that the shuttle was really going to launch. When the first (aborted) launch occurred, MSNBC anchor Chris Jansing had a panel of experts with her. When the shuttle did really launch she just had one expert. Even the MSNBC set had not returned, which prompted some gentle needling from FNC.
CNN was CNN. Unlike NBC, it threw everything at it a 2nd time and the difference between the two was plain to see. I like Miles O’Brien when he’s covering space stories. His sense of awe and wonder is palpable. It’s not just an assignment to him. He really gets into this stuff.
The big surprise for me was FNC. I wasn’t expecting much out of them since they didn’t have a dedicated science team or a known deep bench of experts to draw on. But they proved me wrong and mounted impressive coverage considering they didn’t have the resources that either CNN or MSNBC had. If someone had tuned in to FNC and not changed channels, they wouldn’t have missed anything. I particularly liked the graphics bells and whistles FNC threw at the launch coverage.
So here we are again. Another launch. And thanks to the one year delay and the suspense over whether more foam is going to break off, there will be keen interest in covering this story. So here is what I’ll be watching for…
Which network has the best analysis?
Which network has the best graphics?
Which network has the better guests?
Which network does something completely unexpected in their coverage?
Will MSNBC put the level of coverage that it put into last year’s aborted attempt? Or will it put in the level of coverage it put in for the actual launch? And how will it synergize between NBC and MSNBC?
Will FNC build upon its surprisingly good effort from the last launch?