Radio and Television Coverage of the Oklahoma City Bombing

By Hadley, Roger | Journalism History, Summer 1996 | Go to article overview

Radio and Television Coverage of the Oklahoma City Bombing


Hadley, Roger, Journalism History


Radio and Television Coverage of the Oklahoma City Bombing. Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Broadcast Education Association, 1995. 4:30 in three volumes. $20.00/volume.

At 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, a bomb destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City killing 168 people. For the news media the tragedy was the beginning of an incredible series of news stories which captured the attention of national audiences for weeks. The bombing commanded the full attention of the newsrooms in Oklahoma City.

For the first thirty-six hours, hundreds of news reporters focused on the destruction, the victims, and the massive search for survivors; later came stories related to the investigation. One observer noted that this may have been the biggest spot-news event since the Kennedy assassination.

Six months after these events, the Oklahoma Broadcast Education Association co-sponsored a daylong seminar with the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority which focused on the radio and television coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing. Three seminar sessions centering on news reporting and management decisions associated with the bombing coverage were presented, videotaped, and are now available for purchase.

In the first session, "Managing the News," Carrie Hulsey, reporter for KTOK-AM in Oklahoma City), the first reporter on the scene, described what happened as she reported the earliest moments of the chaos from the Murrah Building. Some relatives learned that their loved ones were alive by listening to Hulsey's interviews with survivors at the scene. Holly Gauntt, executive producer for KOCO-TV, said her station had no plan for dealing with a disaster of this magnitude.

Bill Citty, public information officer for the Oklahoma City Police Department, told of setting up a media command post-a secure area within two blocks of the Murrah Building.

Denis King, news director for KUL-TV in Tulsa, described the logistical problems associated with sending people and resources out of town for an extended time period, and discussed the competition for space with national media in the cordoned off media command post-dubbed Satellite City. Several panelists discussed incidents with Connie Chung, Peter Jennings, and other members of the national media.

Session two, "Managing Resources," focused on personnel, equipment, and time devoted to the news coverage, in addition to media pools and cooperation among the media.

The Oklahoma City television market is typically highly competitive. …

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