Network radio reporters already had history-making events unfolding Wednesday before pro-Trump extremists stormed the Capital: a joint-session of Congress to certify Joe Biden’s presidential election victory and the results of the Georgia run-offs that would determine the balance of power. When riots broke out early afternoon, turning the hallowed halls of Congress into a chaotic nightmare, reporters, anchors and producers were forced to quickly pivot to wall-to-wall coverage during a day unlike the nation had ever seen before.
“We threw everything we had at this,” Scott Goldberg, Director of News Programming at ABC Audio, who led the network’s coverage, tells Inside Radio. That included wall-to-wall live anchored coverage from 2:30-9pm, including a primetime hour-long special report, “Chaos at the Capitol,” also made available as a podcast. ABC churned out multiple minute-long status reports each hour, breaking news top-of-the hour updates (also available as podcasts) and custom 2-ways with affiliates all day long.
“This was radio coverage, produced by Ryan Kessler and anchored by Correspondent Aaron Katersky,” Goldberg explains. The coverage also included Ines de La Cuetara live outside the Capitol, Karen Travers covering the White House, ABC News Political Director Rick Klein, and others. Many affiliates carried the coverage wall-to-wall, including Entercom’s WINS New York. Others “dipped in and out of our coverage throughout the day and night,” said Goldberg.
ABC fed hundreds of cuts from the Capitol – actualities, “natsound” and speeches to Newscall, the site where affiliates download material to use on air. The network also offered live unanchored feeds from Capitol Hill. ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast devoted its entire Thursday morning episode to Wednesday’s events.
Well before going wall-to wall, ABC News was already in special report mode starting early in the morning. What began as two special reports an hour covering the Georgia runoff elections and the expected certification of the electoral vote became four an hour – once the president’s supporters started gathering at the Capitol, Goldberg says. That was in addition to regular newscasts and live anchored coverage. ABC also offered affiliate stations live anchored coverage from the ABC News Live digital channel until midnight. The network was back on the air with live anchored coverage at least twice an hour Thursday and has another live primetime special Thursday night to explore new developments and raise important questions such as, why wasn’t the Capitol better protected, and who’s accountable?
CBS News Radio, meanwhile, provided eight non-stop hours of pure radio coverage through 11pm with a host of stations – including all newsers KYW Philadelphia, KDKA Pittsburgh, WCBS New York, KRLD Dallas, KIRO Seattle and KXL Portland – airing its wall-to-wall coverage. DC Bureau Executive Editor Steve Dorsey was inside the Capitol Building to report on the joint session of Congress when rioters stormed the building. (He provides an exclusive first-hand account in Friday morning’s Inside Radio.) “As soon as we know this was turning into more than a protest we pulled in CBS News White House Correspondent Steven Portnoy, who went on the air immediately, weaving in reports from Dorsey,” says Craig Swagler, VP/GM of CBS Audio Network. The network was already on the air with special reports three times an hour, anchored from Washington. Those continued through 2:50am ET Thursday. It then went to one special report an hour until Thursday morning, before returning to three hourly which continued through Thursday evening. In addition, CBS News Radio began wall-to-wall anchored coverage at 2:53pm through 11pm Wednesday.
In addition, CBS News “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan provided exclusive reporting and insight into the day’s events.
The iHeartMedia 24/7 News service started the day with extra reporters, producers and writers in place to cover the historic election certification. “When the situation at the Capitol started deteriorating, we had the staff in place to quickly turn around audio, text and special reports to both iHeartMedia stations and our 24/7 News Source news affiliates,” says Chris Berry, iHeartMedia’s Executive Vice President of News/Talk Programming. The crew cranked out a total of six special reports each hour through morning drive Thursday morning: two an hour to the company’s News/Talk stations, two for all of the company’s music stations, and two for the Black Information Network. On location at the Capitol were 24/7 News correspondent Terry Moore, joined by Kelly Golden, a talk show host from iHeartMedia’s WSC-FM in Charleston. Leveraging its arrangement with NBC, 24/7 News began providing a simulcast of MSNBC beginning at 5am. Many of the company’s stations also have agreements with Fox News Radio, ABC and CBS.
“By 2:30pm, nearly all of the news/talk stations were in some type of long-form coverage from one of those sources,” Berry says. The 24/7 network also fed a three-hour special from 6-9pm ET using its reporters in Washington along with members of Congress and other experts. “In the days ahead we will be keeping a close eye on developments leading up to Inauguration Day and supplement our regular news coverage with any breaking information,” Berry says. Over at iHeart sister Black Information Network, the story “became a primary focus,” says Tony Coles, President of the network, while it was simultaneously covering the historic results of the Georgia runoff election. “Aside from the impact this has on the balance of power, the fact that Rev. Warnock was elected as Georgia’s first Black Senator was an important moment,” Cole notes. The network pivoted its coverage to updates every 30 minutes on the situation in DC but didn’t go with wall to wall coverage. “Since we are a 24/7 news network this was a dominant news story for us, but we also felt it was important to continue supplying the latest news updates from Georgia as well,” Coles explains. The aftermath and the many questions raised by the insurgency continued as BIN’s lead story Thursday.
After starting Wednesday morning with live anchored coverage of President Trump’s rally and coverage of the joint session of Congress, Fox News Radio broke into the coverage at 2:30pm to cover the Capitol riots with National Congressional Correspondent Jared Halpern, who was live inside the Capitol. Also live from Washington was Fox News Radio reporter Rachel Sutherland, joined by New York-based anchor Lisa Brady and reporters Tonya J. Powers and Gurnal Scott. Radio coverage included top and bottom of the hour updates until 11pm ET. “From Wednesday afternoon into Thursday morning, we posted more than 35 reports from our Fox News Radio & Fox News Channel talent to our affiliate website along with 100+ sound bites of members of Congress and local officials detailing the breaking news event,” says John Sylvester, VP of Fox News Radio. FNR radio reporters were available for custom 2-Ways with affiliates throughout the day.
FNR’s syndicated shows were live when the riots broke out with “Fox Across America’s” Jimmy Failla reporting on the lockdown live on his show. “The Guy Benson Show” was joined by Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who was on lockdown, and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) dialed into the show live on air.