After the 3 a.m. Sunday phone call, Allison McGinley, news director at WKMG Orlando, Fla., instantly dispatched news teams to Pulse, the gay nightlclub where scores had reportedly been shot by a lone gunman.
“Most importantly it was getting there, getting in place and getting on air,” McGinley says.
The Graham-owned CBS affiliate’s work grew as the number of victims rose. The station was on-air wall-to-wall, also providing continual updates online and social media – while scouring the sites for information.
Before the networks hit the ground, WKMG sent updates on the shooting to CBS News, which, like ABC and NBC, aired special reports throughout the morning.
McGinley said that despite the tumult, there were moments when the magnitude of the crime hit hard. Reading a text that a man inside the nightclub sent to his mother was particularly difficult, she said. “This was a grown man, but still a mother’s child saying I’m scared.”
WKMG continued airing coverage nonstop until 8 p.m., when it moved to the station’s dot-two and online so the primary station could air the Tony Awards. McGinley said she decided to do that only after learning the ceremony would be dedicated to the victims of the shooting.
Throughout the day, each of the networks main anchors -- CBS’s Scott Pelley, NBC’s Lester Holt and ABC’s David Muir -- arrived in Orlando. They all broadcast special evening newscasts from the Florida city.
Teams of reporters descended on Orlando as well. ABC sent a crew of six in addition to two reporters already in Orlando. Four NBC reporters were on the story.
ABC aired an interview with a mother who had no word from her son, who had been at the club. NBC’s Pete Williams reported that the shooter, Omar Mateen, had called 911 to pledge allegiance to ISIS moments before the shooting.
Special coverage continued Sunday night, and will into Monday.
Holt Sunday anchored a special Dateline NBC, while Muir hosted a one-hour special edition of 20/20 devoted to the massacre.
CBS This Morning’s Charlie Rose and Gayle King will broadcast from Orlando.
McGinley said her crew didn’t really have the opportunity Sunday to fully grasp what happened in their community. Even young staffers, who had the hardest time coming to grips with the event, rallied to cover the story like they needed to do, she said.
“What’s going on is incredibly surreal right now,” McGinley said. “This incredible story has hit our hometown.”