Broadcast Nets Poised to Pounce on Zimmerman Verdict


george-zimmerman1ABC News is preparing to air a special report when jurors in the much -covered George Zimmerman trial reach a verdict, a signal that a story that has primarily been considered one more platelet in the lifeblood of the cable-news cycle is about to become something of a national event.

ABC News said Friday it will air a special report on the network when the Zimmerman verdict is reached. ABC News Chief Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams and correspondent Matt Gutman, both who have been covering this case from the start, will offer reporting and analysis. The two staffers will report on the verdict for all ABC News platforms including “World News with Diane Sawyer,” “Good Morning America,” and “Nightline.”

The other broadcast networks have yet to disclose their plans, but could do so if it seems clear the jury in the trial is likely to move quickly toward a decision.

The event is a potentially explosive one. The Zimmerman case, in which a 29-year-old one-time volunteer for a neighborhood watch in Sanford, Florida has been charged with the shooting death of a teenager, Trayvon Martin, has been closely followed. “This is about more than just the crime itself,” said Scot M. Safon, an executive vice president at CNN Worldwide who oversees HLN. “There are questions about gun control and race relations, racial profiling and the proper role of a neighborhood watch” that make coverage compelling to more viewers than those tune in for trial coverage, he said.

On late Friday morning, eastern time, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, HLN and CNN were all providing live coverage of the defense’s closing arguments. An MSNBC spokeswoman said the network planned “rolling” coverage of the event. At the broadcast-network newscasts, the trial has been covered gradually, but has rarely been the lead of “CBS Evening News,” “ABC World News with Diane Sawyer” or “NBC Nightly News,” according to the Tyndall Report, a service that tracks the content of the broadcast-network evening newscasts,

Between July 1 and July 5, all three network newscasts covered the trail, but the lead of each telecast was given to coverage of Arizona wildfires or unrest in Egypt, according to Tyndall. CBS led with coverage of the Zimmerman trail on July 5, Tyndall said.

“On the nightly newscasts, ABC and NBC are filing on a daily basis,” with correspondents Gutman and Ron Mott, respectively, Andrew Tyndall, who oversees the service, said in an interview, while CBS has used correspondent Mark Strassman “sporadically,” he said, or five times out of the first 14 weekdays of the trail. “By my reckoning, CBS makes the right call here. Zimmerman is rarely rated newsworthy enough to qualify as the nightly news lead item: gay marriage, the hotshot firefighters, the coup in Egypt, the Asiana Airlines crash have all preempted it from the top spot.”

Whether an actual verdict in the trial changes that sentiment remains to be seen.

Read more at Variety.

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