Convention-covering networks challenged by competing stories

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Lara Trump tapes her speech for the third day of the Republican National Convention from the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

NEW YORK – The Republican convention's third night happened amid an unusual confluence of major stories — a dangerous hurricane about to strike Louisiana, a Wisconsin city torn apart following a police shooting and the sports world's forceful response.

Republicans decided the show must go on and, for the most part, television networks followed.

Throughout the convention coverage, there were hints that a lot was going on in the wider world. CNN weather forecaster Tom Sater delivered an apocalyptic view of Hurricane Laura shortly before 10:30 p.m. Eastern, and CBS' Norah O'Donnell noted “the biggest day of sports activism ever.” NBC News cut to a reporter on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, and CNN's Dana Bash read former President Barack Obama's tweet in support of NBA players angered by police shootings.

The convention is taking place “in the shadow of huge stories that are happening right now,” CNN's Anderson Cooper said.

Given all that was happening, it felt odd shortly after 10 p.m. when the screens of ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel were simultaneously filled by the face of presidential daughter-in-law Lara Trump delivering a pretaped address.

The inability to pivot aggressively and spend more time on other stories no doubt had much to do with each network having all of its top-level political talent on hand. Networks, after giving extensive coverage to the Democrats last week, are cognizant of being fair to the Republicans.

Fox News Channel's Tucker Carlson, after Hurricane Laura was discussed on his program, seemed like it almost sneaked up on him. “This is a big story,” he said. “Probably should have been on it before tonight.”

Carlson drew the ire of Twitter users when he spoke of the events in Kenosha. A white 17-year-old, Kyle Rittenhouse, was arrested Wednesday after two people were shot to death during Tuesday night’s protests in Kenosha over the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake.