Today marks more than the end of another work week, but I'll get to that in just a moment.
Let's begin with last night: Viewers of Nightly News on the West Coast saw a markedly different broadcast than the one we first fed out live to our affiliates at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time. While we were aware of the Miami terrorist story all day long, we (along with other news organizations) chose NOT to report it at that hour because it had not all been executed, and not all the pieces came together. While we could have reported some arrests, (and other disparate elements we knew to be true) we could not have gone into any meaningful detail on the story in chief. Once it did break, the reporting (by our own Pete Williams) had already been done, and we were ready for it. Last night, cable news went big on the story. For hours on end. Live pictures of the Miami and Chicago skylines aired -- as if we were waiting for some live event to take place. Live shots of the Chicago Sears tower (especially when viewed with the sound muted and screaming lower-third terrorist-themed banner graphics) implied it was going to keel over at any moment –- or, at minimum, that it was in some imminent danger.
In these situations, the advantage goes to the government. They control the information, the evidence, and the suspects, who were quickly and literally chained together. This morning's news coverage brought some skepticism around the margins. Meanwhile, Americans are left to worry and wonder always about how safe any nation can be against a dynamic like "homegrown" terrorism -– let alone those beyond our borders whom we KNOW wish us harm.
We will try to cover the story accurately and fairly tonight, based on what we know. We'll also look at the other story out there today that combines the terrorist hunt with the world of big finance. It was reported at great length in this morning's New York Times, and to a lesser extent the Wall Street Journal and L.A. Times.
Tonight we'll have a reality check (speaking of skepticism) on this nation's anti-missile defense system, which I'm happy to report is untested. That's also the problem, as long as North Korea has a missile and a map of the West Coast. You have a huge investment in this story tonight: In just the past five years, the U.S.has spent an estimated $43 BILLION on this anti-weapon weapons program. George Lewis will have that tonight.
We'll also have a report on our widening nation, and the widening selection of products marketed at obese Americans.
And our popular "Making A Difference" reports continue tonight with a story about an inspirational doctor. I'll leave it at that.
I see our lead story last night (and writing in this space about it) was the figurative equivalent of swatting a bee's nest with a bat, and so Bob Bazell will soon post again on the issue of global warming.
And finally, indulge me for a moment. This is the last day at work for Nightly News Senior Producer Bruce Cummings. Bruce is our man in Los Angeles, but I first met him when he worked here with us in New York close to 13 years ago. He is retiring today after 27 years with NBC News. He's one of the people our viewers will never meet, but he's been responsible for so much of what our viewers have seen over the past several decades. His departure is notable because of the person he is: rock-solid, dependable, ethical, responsible, steady and loyal. As friends go, he is the finest kind. As mentors go, he has no parallel. He is helpful to fellow employees in ways that will never be fully known publicly. We love him for his personality, intellect, compassion and his sense of humor. As I told him today, without too much hyperbole, the last time I felt this way about a co-worker, I married her. Bruce is aces. While we all want only the best for him, and while what's best for Bruce, he insists, is moving to a house in the woods in the Great Northwest with his smart and beautiful wife, we reserve the right to be sad today. We won't get to work with our friend Bruce after tonight. Bruce, please live well. And thank you.
We hope the rest of you can join us for our Friday night broadcast.