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Dallas Police Ambush: How TV News Handled the Tragedy

Attack on police leaves TV newsrooms scrambling for details

TV newsrooms across the country scrambled on Thursday night to cover a sniper who shot 12 police officers and two civilians during a Dallas, Texas, rally organized to protest police shootings.

Five officers died in the incident, which occurred as hundreds of people were marching in downtown Dallas in response to the police killings this week of two unarmed African American men, Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota.

Here is what the networks did, respectively:

Fox News

Megyn Kelly was live on “The Kelly File” during the 9 p.m. ET hour when she could tell something went horribly wrong in Dallas. She didn’t know what was going on at first but cautiously warned viewers that it appeared an officer was down while apologizing for speculation. During the fluid situation, the network cut to protests in New York until it figured out what was occurring in Dallas. Sadly, Kelly’s gut reaction was correct. Kelly pre-empted “Hannity” and anchored live until 11 p.m. ET when Shepard Smith took over from the Fox News Deck. Dallas-based correspondent Casey Stegall reported live from the ground in Dallas throughout the night.

All of Fox News’ Friday evening programming will be live. Smith is en route to Dallas and will report live from the scene on Friday.


A Don Lemon-led discussion that was focused on the Minnesota and Louisiana shootings shifted to the grim realization that someone had systematically targeted police at roughly 10:09 p.m. ET. Dallas-based correspondent Ed Lavandera joined CNN contributors Sara Sidner and Kyung Lah on the ground.

CNN will stay live in Dallas throughout the day Friday. The mother and fiancé of Philando Castile responded to the Dallas attack on “New Day.”


Lawrence O’Donnell led MSNBC’s coverage until Brian Williams eventually took over at 12:35 a.m. ET. The coverage was aired on both MSNBC and NBC, marking Williams’ third appearance on NBC broadcast since he returned from his suspension last year. NBC News offered the MSNBC rolling coverage as an optional simulcast for local stations until roughly 4 a.m. ET.

At one point during the breaking situation, MSNBC used Periscope footage while CNN and Fox News had cameras on the ground.

Savannah Guthrie anchored a special report as Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Police Chief David Brown held a news conference Friday morning. Prior to that, Guthrie anchored a special report at 5:20 a.m. ET to cover President Obama’s statement from Warsaw, Poland, on the shooting in Dallas.

NBC News and MSNBC correspondents on the ground and en route to Dallas are Joe Fryer, Gabe Gutierrez, Chris Hayes, Chris Jansing, Trymaine Lee, Tammy Leitner, Craig Melvin and Jacob Rascon. NBC News will continue to provide network special reports throughout the day as news warrants.


CBSN, the network’s digital steaming news network, delivered its first word of the breaking news of violence during a protest in Dallas at 10:01 p.m ET on Thursday with Elaine Quijano at the anchor desk. CBSN covered the story overnight, incorporating footage from local CBS affiliate KTVT.

Scott Pelley led the network’s coverage on “CBS This Morning,” along with a team of CBS News correspondents in Texas and around the country. Pelley will also anchor the “CBS Evening News” from Dallas this evening.


David Muir is traveling to Dallas and will anchor “World News Tonight” from the ground. Matt Gutman, Phillip Mena and Adrienne Bankert are also there to provide additional coverage and ABC News Radio has Jim Ryan on the scene.

TheWrap will update this post as more information becomes available.