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CNBC Breaks Capitol Shooting Story

July 24, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ The financial network CNBC was able to break the story about the Capitol shooting when a reporter poised to deliver a live report on transportation from outside the building was startled by the sound of gunfire.

ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel all quickly broke into regular programming Friday for coverage of the gunfight, many helped because they already had personnel at the Capitol.

CNBC Washington correspondent Hampton Pearson was waiting for a commercial to end before reporting on a dispute over transportation deregulation. He heard four gunshots and said he saw security approach the Capitol, guns drawn.

He told his producers what he heard and when the commercial ended, CNBC anchor Ron Insana reported it on the air at 3:45 p.m. Pearson quickly went to work interviewing bystanders.

``I was just trying to concentrate on getting as much accurate information as we could, and more importantly just trying to describe what was unfolding in front of us,″ said Pearson, a former political reporter for WBZ-TV in Boston who has worked at CNBC since 1995.

Pearson’s report was quickly relayed to CNBC’s sister station, MSNBC, which also used it on the air.

His fortuitous timing enabled CNBC, usually concerned more with stock fluctuations than crime stories, to beat competitors by at least four minutes to the story. Oddly, NBC lagged slightly behind ABC and CBS in breaking into regular programming to report the news.

ABC ``Nightline″ producer Kathryn Kross was at the Capitol interviewing people for a future program on campaign finance reform when she became aware of the gunshots. Kross phoned in a report to her news desk and was interviewed by phone shortly after ABC went on the air, a spokeswoman said.

CNN reporter Candy Crowley was also at the Capitol at the time and able to report on the story.

CNN was also the victim of a familiar on-air hoax when anchor Bernard Shaw took a phone call from a man posing as a hospital spokesman and reporting that the alleged gunman in the incident had died.

The caller said the gunman was ``upset that his radio was broken and he couldn’t listen to Howard Stern.″ Shaw quickly cut off the caller and apologized to viewers. A CNN spokeswoman had no immediate explanation about how the man was able to get on the air.

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