It was supposed to be a quiet night Sunday night. I was on the late shift, which ends when the final edition of the paper gets typeset at 1:30am. With no Habs game and little breaking news, everything was done early. The middle edition was done an astonishing 20 minutes early because we just ran out of stuff to do.
Shortly after midnight, alerts started coming on the news wires: an explosion in the Moscow subway, with dozens possibly dead. Doing the calculation that one dead in Montreal is the equivalent of dozens dead in a European city, which is the equivalent of hundreds dead in China or a third-world country, we start preparing space for a brief about it.
Within minutes, reports of a second explosion at another Moscow subway station. This is terrorism, my colleague tells me. While I can’t imagine any other explanation, I’m not comfortable making that call myself. Still, we scrap a piece about New York rescinding its ban on beekeeping to put the story there, and I work on getting it online.
I put the TV on CNN and … nothing. It’s showing a rerun of Larry King Live (with Ryan Seacrest filling in). MSNBC isn’t showing anything new either. CBC News Network, CTV News Channel, RDI, LCN, all showing recorded programming. The only hint of what has just happened comes on the CNN ticker, inviting us to get more information during American Morning … at 6am, five hours later.
Eventually, CNN cut in briefly with breaking news. Others may have as well while I wasn’t watching. But it was clear they were all going to wait until morning before giving any live information that can’t be fit into the news ticker.
Realizing that I’d forgotten a news channel, I turn to BBC World News. It’s morning there by now (albeit very early morning), and they’re reporting live, even getting analysis from experts on what little information they have.
Apparently, things weren’t much better in Russia itself, where TV news also wasn’t reporting live on the attacks. Only the English-language Russia Today (which I didn’t know about before Sunday night) provided live coverage, and I was quickly streaming it on my computer.
In the end, the stories for online and print were pieced together from reports from various wire services. I finally left for home at 2:30, reminded that while all-news networks say they offer news 24/7, it doesn’t mean their news departments are running at full-steam during all those hours.