You Will Never Forget Where You Were When Gwen Ifill Asked You Where You Were When You Found Out Bin Laden Was Dead

Enough with reporting the Osama bin Laden news, OK? Time to get to the most important context: tick-tock coverage reporting every detail of the experience of reporters as they reported the news about Osama bin Laden.

Gwen Ifill of Washington Week—”my BlackBerry….immediately began buzzing”—has a piece in National Journal that brings the public up to date on how the dramatic events unfolded

among the press corps

[New York Times reporter Jeff] Zeleny, who was watching The King’s Speech on pay per view at home, jumped on his computer and dashed off a political news analysis piece in three big chunks (newspapers call them “takes”) and sent it in. He had no idea the story would be on page 1 until he checked online hours later.


His little old story about the death of bin Laden made the front page of the whole New York Times. Who would have seen that coming? Navy SEAL Team 6 is even now drafting him a note of congratulations on the accomplishment.

Who else? Helene Cooper was “watching a DVR of the royal wedding.” David Sanger worked “on a rented WiFi signal from an airport lounge” in Brussels. NPR’s Tom Gjelten “was on a late-night run to the drug store.” Slate’s John Dickerson was reading “David Yaffe’s book about Bob Dylan,” according to Ifill. Humble doings:

Reporters are much like everyone on Sunday nights before the work week begins.

(On Mondays, they sprout wings and antlers, and become telepathic.)


Dan Balz of The Washington Post, who won the association’s big deadline writing award Saturday night, checked his e-mail at 10:20 p.m. on Sunday and saw a presidential announcement was coming. He switched on the TV. By 11:10 p.m., he was assigned to write an analysis piece. By 12:15 a.m., he’d sent in an 1,100-word story.

But Ifill wasn’t the only reporter digging out the tense, minute-by-minute narrative of how trained journalism professionals saw some crazy stuff on Twitter, watched a speech on TV, and then made coverage out of it.

Adweek’s Dylan Byers

reported that CNN’s Wolf Blitzer

was at home on Sunday night watching the Washington Capitals playoff game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

John King and Ed Henry, Byers wrote, were at that very same hockey game, in person. Henry “had to borrow a jacket from someone.” (What kind of jacket? From whom? What size? Was the jacket cleaned before he returned it? When will CNN release a photograph of Ed Henry’s borrowed jacket?)

The CNN hockey information was supplied by its political director, Sam Feist.

“It was a fascinating night,” Feist said.