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Live From Studio 1A: Handling Breaking News

This morning, the control room was a little livelier than usual, because we had breaking news occurring as we went on the air at 7 a.m. on the east coast -- with the plane carrying the recently freed British marines and sailors landing in London.Correspondent Ned Colt was already in place to provide a live report from Heathrow Airport, and we were able to show live footage of the plane landing --

This morning, the control room was a little livelier than usual, because we had breaking news occurring as we went on the air at 7 a.m. on the east coast -- with the plane carrying the recently freed British marines and sailors landing in London.

Correspondent Ned Colt was already in place to provide a live report from Heathrow Airport, and we were able to show live footage of the plane landing -- and to get perspective on the reaction in London.

As it turned out, nothing in our rundown changed, because we were prepared to handle the story as it happened -- and there was no further news to immediately report.

But in a breaking news situation, everyone working on the show -- from the producers to the anchors to the production assistants -- has to be flexible and ready to shift gears at any moment. Breaking news can throw our entire show into flux, causing some segments to be moved or eliminated from the show altogether.

It's basically like telling the members of a theater troupe to take their scripts and throw them out the window -- so the ability to improvise is vital.

Segments get moved around on a daily basis, usually because some live spots run longer than expected. But when we have breaking news, the mood here -- especially in the control room -- gets more serious and intense. And we have to move quickly to get correspondents in place, to book guests and set up interviews anywhere in the world that major news breaks. The best example from the past few months was our handling of the foiled airline terror plot in London last August, which unfolded throughout our time on the air.

Today, I was charged with listening to British Prime Minister Tony Blair's speech in London in case he said anything particularly noteworthy. Other people in the control room were in touch with Ned Colt for his updates from the ground in London. Still others were focused on what was happening on our show, since we were still live on the air.

As it turned out, there was nothing further to immediately report aside from the plane safely landing. But of course, as the morning goes on and the story develops, we'll be ready to break into our normal coverage if the news warrants it.