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ONCE AGAIN, WITH EXCEPTIONALLY moving coverage of the bombing in Oklahoma City, television bore our tragedy and commanded our attention. From the chaos following the detonation to the dignified and devout Sunday memorial service, it was clear that the network reporters, anchors and producers shared our shock, our sorrow and our anger at a cowardly act. For five days, all other news—even the O.J. Simpson trial—seemed insignificant, irrelevant.
Then, too, the story was steeped in pathos because the focus remained on the bombing's youngest victims: the children in the second-floor daycare center. We were constantly reminded of their senseless suffering, beginning with the images of tiny bodies being carried from the rubble and culminating with the crowd of people clutching teddy bears at Sunday's service. On Saturday there was a touching televised session in the Oval Office as President Clinton met with the children of federal employees to talk about the tragedy. All weekend long, Nickelodeon ran a sensitive public-service spot in which Linda Ellerbee reassured kids that the deaths of their peers in Oklahoma City were sad and scary but an isolated incident.
Several broadcasting outlets distinguished themselves. NBC, for instance, created an inspired piece leading into its second NBA game on Sunday—a montage of churches from around the country as their bells began to simultaneously ring out in recognition of our national day of mourning. As usual, ABC and CNN provided the most sustained and reliable coverage. At the conclusion of the memorial service, CNN aired a powerful, 7-minute visual collage assembled by anchor Linden Soles. This poignant précis of the bomb's aftermath included heartrending home videos and snapshots of two young brothers who died in the blast.
CBS elected to show a golf tournament, the Greater Greensboro Open, rather than the memorial service and didn't present even President Clinton's address in its entirety. But the network made up for those gaffes later that evening with a memorable Clinton interview on 60 Minutes—the first live segment in the show's 27-year history. This was a different President than the one who, earlier that day, had addressed more than 10,000 mourners in simple, consoling, almost biblical cadences. On 60 Minutes we got a riled-up, tough-talking Commander-in-Chief. At one point, when Leslie Stahl asked if he regretted the government's actions at Waco the previous year (the suicide stand of the Branch Davidians has become a rallying point for right-wing militants across the country), Clinton became so palpably indignant that the skin beneath his left eye began twitching rapidly. It was an electrifying TV minute—the capstone to an extraordinarily emotional week.
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