To New Yorkers, the nation's war against terrorists is "a local story no matter where it is," says WABC-TV News Director Dan Forman. That's why the station sent reporter Jim Dolan to Pakistan, making him just one of several local reporters nationwide covering the bombing runs there.
On the West Coast, KABC-TV Los Angeles News Director Cheryl Fair, sent reporter David Jackson, and KGO-TV San Francisco news chief Kevin Keeshan sent Jim Wieder.
"To see David Jackson, someone they're familiar with, know, sitting in a tent with Afghan refugees talking about how they feel about the U.S. government … that's how we bring the story home," said Fair.
First in was Wieder, followed by Dolan and WABC-TV photographer Joe Tesauro and then by KABC-TV's Jackson, who returned home late last week. The three—particularly the two California reporters—shared resources and expenses, and Wieder and Dolan helped edit each other's stories while there together. With satellite time running nearly $2,000 a day, Keeshan estimated that, even with shared costs, sending Wieder to Pakistan probably cost the station about $25,000.
For Wieder, the key was finding California angles. "You can't out-network the network," he said. "What you can do is try to find Californians out there. I found a couple, a California woman separated from her Afghan husband. We showed them on a double-live shot. We were able to show how the war was getting in the way of the lives of these people."
Wieder also interviewed Hamid Mir, Osama bin Laden's biographer, who showed viewers previously unseen still photos and discussed bin Laden's poetry. Mir told Wieder that bin Laden had been planning the attacks for two or three years and intended to die in Afghanistan fighting American soldiers.
Both Dolan and Wieder spent time covering anti-U.S. demonstrations in Pakistan, and both concluded that the hostile sentiment was not nearly as deep as believed. Both said they did not feel any hostility directed at them personally.
Once they were there, Forman and Dolan said, the decision to stay was made on a daily basis. After more than two weeks in Pakistan, WABC's Dolan, who had gone from New York to Washington and then to Pakistan to follow the story—and had tried, unsuccessfully, to get into Afghanistan—told BROADCASTING & CABLE from Islamabad that he was seriously thinking of returning stateside. The anthrax discoveries seemed to return the central focus of the story to the U.S., he said.
Among CBS stations, network-owned WFOR-TV Miami sent reporter Mike Kirsch to Pakistan, where he has been sending back reports using new videophone technology, the station said.
One NBC affiliate, WAVY-TV Norfolk, Va., had reporter Patty Culhane accompany locally based Navy ships out of port, so far to Bahrain. Their eventual destination, the station said, remains unknown, but "she's there for the long haul."