Sitting in our afternoon editorial meeting just now, it occurred to me: at this very moment, there is a local reporter in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., who may end up reporting to a live, national audience before the end of the day. In our efforts to chase the damage, evacuations and path of the relentless and muddy flood waters that today stretch across several states, it may well be that the best way to cover the story on the ground (or in the water, as it were...) is to supplement the reporting of our own correspondent Lisa Daniels with a local reporter tonight. This story today also happened to touch several of our staff members with relatives in the area. Nightly News Director Brett Holey has been on the phone checking in on his wife and children, who started the day at the home of his in-laws on the banks of the Susquehanna River... and have since gotten safely out of there. Wilkes-Barre is under a precautionary evacuation at this hour -- the concern is that the city's 41-foot levee and flood wall system could be overwhelmed if flood-stage predictions are off by as much as a foot. We will cover the rampaging waters, and what has become a sizable evacuation and a big story.
Watching the coverage of the local reporters today, I remembered my beginning days as a reporter, at a small TV station in Kansas, along the border with Southwest Missouri. During the "Tylenol scare," the story took a turn into our area, during which time some of our reporting aired nationally. There's a lesson I learned when the CBS Morning News aired some videotape that I shot of an approaching tornado (we were an affiliate) close to 25 years ago: national media attention is like a prison yard spotlight. When it's focused on your area, it's blinding and constant and demands your time and attention. When it moves on, your world goes briefly dark in its wake, then slowly returns to normal. Watching the cable news coverage of the floods, and picturing the stressed news departments of a string of small-market network affiliates (in areas so small that our NBC station in that part of Pennsylvania is a DUAL affiliate... it is also an ABC station... a not-uncommon arrangement in small television markets) dealing with network requests each hour, I feel for the news directors and reporters who are trying to cover the biggest local story in easily a decade.
Also tonight, the Supreme Court. Their decision on redistricting was reported all over the map. We will turn to the man we always turn to to explain the court: our Justice Correspondent Pete Williams. Tim Russert will follow up on the decision and other matters in the news. And we'll cover the situation in Gaza (and the second front in Syria) where Israelis are using their combat jets to engage in a new and unusual form of warfare... while more traditional armor moves on the ground. It has been a violent 24 hours and it's not about to end.
Also, don't miss our FLEECING OF AMERICA report by Andrea Mitchell tonight. While it has to do with a congressional practice called "earmarks," it's mostly about taxpayer dollars and defense spending.
Also tonight, for all those who aren't familiar with YouTube: We will end the broadcast with a primer from our own George Lewis. And if you feel like visiting the site after seeing our story, an all-time classic video clip is "Pinkie the Cat." It never disappoints. Though "Cat Massage" is also pretty great, as is "Free Photos." Beware, however: as one of our staffers pointed out today, YouTube is an enormous time drain. It is very easy to lose an hour watching clips. But at least it's an entertaining hour.
We hope you can join us tonight.