E-Mailbag: What Makes A Lead Story?

We received the following e-mail yesterday from Steve H. in Tennessee regarding Wednesday night's "Evening News" broadcast:
Let me first say that I'm a longtime fan of CBS News and the CBS "Evening News," and love Bob Schieffer. With that said I noticed an interesting selection of story order on last night's news.

CBS led with United Airlines, and then went to a story about Iran. It would seem that the aftermath of the State of the Union would have led the broadcast. I flipped and noticed that both NBC and ABC led with the SOTU, which seemed like the obvious lead. I just wondered what thoughts went into that decision about the lineup.

For an answer, we went to Rome Hartman, Executive Producer for the CBS "Evening News." Here's his response:
It just didn't feel that interesting to do it in the predictable way -- "The president went to another city today, to say much the same thing he said in a nationally televised address 18 hours earlier, which was fully covered and dissected last night, in this morning's papers and on this morning's TV shows. Here's our White House correspondent to rehash the rehash." It just felt optional.

We DID have a first-block piece that bounced a bit off one of the president's energy proposals, and looked at the resurgence of nuclear power that I thought was smart. And we had a piece from Baghdad -- also original -- about the State of Iraqi Democracy, which was an important theme in the president's speech. And we had some original reporting from Vienna on Iran's nuclear program ... something else important in the SOTU.

So we didn't ignore the speech, or his ideas. I just think we avoided the predictable way of covering them.