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Heads Or Tales?

On Tuesday night, all three broadcast networks led with President Bush's statement in which he took responsibility for mistakes made in the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. ABC and NBC both ran packaged reports while CBS had anchor Bob Schieffer tell the story.

For all practical purposes, and likely for most viewers, there isn't a whole lot of difference between a package and what is called in the trade a "tell" in this case. With both, viewers got the basic information and heard for themselves the president take "responsibility" for federal failures in the response to Hurricane Katrina at the very top of the show. Schieffer's "tell" ran some 55 seconds; almost as long as some packages.

But because we knew that CBS News had prepared a package from Bill Plante, we decided to look into why they went with the "tell" instead. "Evening News" Executive Producer Jim Murphy explains: "I think the president made a very straightforward, easy to understand statement accepting responsibility. It was something people wanted to hear and needed to hear, so we played it in full. Then we went on to the very strong and high interest reports we had out of New Orleans. I think the political blame game that keeps getting so much coverage is not something most Americans want to hear about over and over again. I think they care more about those suffering in Louisiana and beyond, and are more interested in reports about their recovery."

When it comes to making these types of decisions, there are plenty of factors that are considered, especially what else is going on the world. This one seems like pretty much a coin flip to us, a show could understandably go either way. Would a package have added more to the "news" or weight of the story? It may have provided a deeper level of background concerning the heavy political pressure the president has been under but anyone who missed that probably missed news of the hurricane, too.