CNN live, others quickly follow


NEW YORK -- The explosion of the space shuttle Challenger Tuesday was carried live only by Cable News Network but the other three networks were on the air within minutes, officials said.

The Challenger blasted off at 11:38 a.m. and CNN cameras followed in closeup as the spacecraft slowly rolled, banked off and then burst into flames. Cameras were tight on the shuttle as it was enveloped by flames.


'We always carry all the shuttle missions live,' said CNN spokeswoman Kitsie Bassett in Atlanta. 'This morning was no exception. At the moment the explosion occurred we were the only one live.

'It's always news when the shuttle goes off and so we are always live,' she said.

None of the other networks -- ABC, NBC and CBS -- was live.

'In the past, shuttle flights have not been covered live,' said NBC News spokesman Bill McAndrew. 'I guess they believed it was becoming rather commonplace.'

The Challenger exploded about a minute after takeoff. NBC broke into regular programming first at 11:42 a.m. with reports of the disaster, ABC was next at 11:43 a.m. and CBS followed at 11:45.

At CBS, anchor Dan Rather was in his New York office when he learned of the explosion.


'He was 20 to 30 feet down the hall from the 'flash studio,' which is always kept hot, ready to go on the air live,' said Ann Morfogen, CBS News spokeswoman. 'We were monitoring the liftoff as we always do for news gathering and obviously it was taped. Dan went running down the hall to the flash studio and went on the air live at 11:45 a.m.'

Rather used a 2 -foot desk model of the Challenger to illustrate what might have gone wrong.

NBC correspondent John Palmer was doing an update for the West Coast edition of the 'Today' show when the explosion occurred and NBC went live with his report to the network. Anchor Tom Brokaw was on immediately after Palmer.

'As soon as we saw there was a problem, we put Palmer on the network,' McAndrew said.

ABC News spokeswoman Carol Olwert said ABC covers the shuttle launches live if they occur during the course of normal news programming, like 'Good Morning America.'

'If not, then we don't basically because we don't have the time slot,' Olwert said.

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