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Ted Stevens — Evolution of a News Story

Posted Aug 10 2010 12:08pm
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First entry, 9:02 am ET this morning.

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Just breaking on TPM : ()

Details are still very sketchy, but reports out of Alaska indicate that among the eight people believed to be onboard a plane that crashed Monday night near Dillingham was former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK).

The Anchorage reports:

A woman who answered the phone at the Anchorage home of retired Air Force Gen. Joe Ralston, a good friend of Stevens, said Ralston was with Stevens’ wife, Catherine, comforting her and trying to find out what was going on.

Say what you will about his history in the Senate.  But now is the time to hope for comfort for his family, and that Stevens (if he was on the plane) and the other 7 folks are found alive and safe.

Will update as needed.

Update #1: MSNBC Website adds:

A plane believed to be carrying eight people has crashed in southwest Alaska, authorities said on Tuesday.

It was feared that former Sen. Ted Stevens was on board the flight, but officials have not been able to confirm that, local station KTUU TV reported.

Alaska National Guard spokesman Maj. Guy Hayes said the Guard was called to the area about 20 miles north of Dillingham at about 7 p.m. Monday after a passing aircraft saw the wreckage.

There were possible fatalities, Hayes said. State and federal officials said severe weather has hampered the rescue operation.

About five good Samaritans were on scene early Tuesday helping the crash victims, Hayes said. He said he was told by Alaska State Troopers that there were “eight or nine” people on board, though a spokeswoman for the troopers, Megan Peters, refused to comment.

Update #2: Checking other news sources, all saying the same thing.  CNN, to this point, silent on the subject.  Nothing said on MSNBC yet.

Update #3: 9:14 am ET, nothing yet on Fox.  CNN site mentions crash, not a word about Stevens. Drudge still leading with Obama’s gray hair and that he “attacks Bush.”

Update #4: 9:22 am ET, CNN web story cites “survivors and fatalities,” still no mention about Stevens.   News website has a “Breaking News” Banner saying Stevens “may” have been aboard the flight.   web site has a story saying Stevens “may” have been aboard, but no news yet from rescue crews.

Update #5: 9:34 am The Associated Press also cited an unnamed official as saying Stevens may have been on board.

Update #6: 9:42 am A woman at the Regional Operations Center told The Associated Press all further information was pending notification of next of kin.

Update #7: 9:45 am Chuck Todd just broke that Former NASA Head Sean O’Keefe and his son were possibly on the plane, and that Ted Stevens was possibly on the plane, trying to confirm.

Update #8: 9:51 am MSNBC Reporting on the air now, EADS North America CEO and former NASA head under Bush Sean O’Keefe, Ted Stevens, some survivors some fatalities, rescuers STILL not there.  Good Samaritans were on hand to assist, but nobody removed from the scene yet.  Chuck Todd waxing eloquent about Ted being “a pretty tough guy” who “walked away from a plane crash before.”

Update #9: 9:55 am MSNBC confirms that O’Keefe and at least one son were on the plane, have not confirmed Stevens.  MSNBC has been getting “multiple reports” about Stevens being on the plane.

Update #10: Thanks to Kossack AnnetteK, Reuters confirms Stevens on the plane, no word if dead or alive.  The link you posted, Annette, no longer functional.

Update #11: Reuters (same link as above) reporting half on the plane were killed.

Update #12: NTSB says 5 of 9 dead in the crash, CBS News website reporting.

Update #13:
According to ABC News website, a congressional source told Reuters that Stevens was on the plane.

Update #14: CNN Website, updated at 10:06 am ET, still no mention of Stevens or O’Keefe.

DIARIST NOTE: I think we’ve entered the part of the story development where the networks and news agencies know more than they’re letting on, but are allowing the NOK notifications to take place.  Then, by the end of the morning, there will be a flurry of activity.

Update #15: ABC News website FINALLY catches up, says Stevens was on the plane.

Update #16: 10:37 am ET MSNBC on air reporting all nine killed.  It was in the “Breaking News” Graphic, and they are not the most accurate.  They are now correcting themselves.  5 killed.

Update #17:
10:40 a.m. CNN finally gets around to mentioning O’Keefe on the plane.  Not a word about Stevens yet.

DIARIST NOTE: Seems as if someone started a front page entry on this subject about an hour after I began this diary.  I think the conversation in here has been much more civil and cordial, so I will keep this diary going if nobody minds.

Update #18: At 10:57 am ET, CNN’s website has finally gathered enough information to conclude that Stevens was “reportedly” on board.  This is why they ARE your #1 name in news!

Update #19:
From the latest Reuters report –

Stevens, 86, was on a fishing trip in Alaska with former members of his staff and their family, the congressional source said, adding that the plane either crashed by a lake or into the water. Stevens’s wife, Catherine, was not on the plane.

DIARIST NOTE:  I’m fairly certain that, it being summertime in Alaska where the sun is up a good part of the day, and the fact that it is now around 7:30 am 12 hours after the crash folks on hand have a pretty good idea who is alive and who is dead.  Those on the scene have no doubt been in radio or satellite telephone contact with those still trying to get there.  So, now the waiting is just to make sure all the relatives are notified before there’s a press conference or press release giving out the names of the dead and injured.  I speculated that might be by noon ET, but now I’m thinking early to mid-afternoon before we know anything for certain.

Update #20: MSNBC says Alaska Air National Guard is on the scene.  They are saying the number of dead vs. living could change.

DIARIST NOTE: If you want to gloat over this man’s misfortune, please do it someplace else.  We’re just discussing the evolution of a news story here.  If it is your desire to wallow in the same kind of crap that we rightfully scoriate the wingers for, please find another thread.  Thank you.

Update #21: CNN aired a statement from a Stevens family spokesperson, basically saying that their thoughts and prayers are with everyone who was on the plane and their families, and they continue to work closely with rescuers and investigators.  Tony Harris gave the spokesperson an opportunity to “move the story forward” by saying whether or not Stevens was even on the plane.  He refused to do so.  Harris asked, “Can you confirm or deny that Stevens was on the plane?”  The spokesperson said, “No, I can’t.”

Update #22: 12:33 pm Multiple Kossacks report that KTUU in Anchorage is saying a close family friend says Stevens is dead.  I would find it hard to believe that the TV station would go with that without good reason.

Update #23: Reuters is reporting Stevens is dead.  They are confirming the KTUU story as told by a family friend.

Update #24: The latest from Reuters .

Former Republican U.S. Senator Ted Stevens was among those killed when a small plane crashed in Alaska on Monday night, local television station KTUU said on its website on Tuesday, quoting a longtime family friend.

KTUU quoted Dave Dittman, a former aide to the senator, as saying he was among the dead. There were conflicting reports about how many people were aboard the plane. Federal safety officials said early information indicated nine people were aboard and up to five were killed, while another source close to the matter said only eight were aboard and five were dead.

I wouldn’t call it rock-solid yet, but it seems like a pretty reliable semi-confirmation.

Update #25 1 pm ET CBS News Website reporting KTUU story.  So is ABC News website.

Update #26: 1:18 pm ET CBS News website saying 2nd Anchorage TV station confirming Stevens death.  They also cite “a family friend.”

Update #27: 1:24 pm Kossack cleduc2 reports that ABC is “backing off” of its report that Stevens is dead.

DIARIST NOTE: From a Public Relations point-of-view, this is being horribly mismanaged by the Stevens PR machine.  Right now, the family either KNOWS he is dead or KNOWS he is alive.  They’ve had boots on the ground there since last night.  Folks in Alaska are generally armed with satellite telephones.  It just seems to me that the thing to do is to either confirm, deny, or say you don’t know and WHY you don’t know.  But to let a family friend go off the ranch like that and make public statements only to have to partially retract them, and then God forbid we find out that Stevens WAS killed, it makes for a PR nightmare.  It reminds one of that Simpsons episode where Monty Burns was shot and declared dead.  ”Then, he was taken to a better hospital where his condition was upgraded to ALIVE!”

Now, I know we’re talking about a personal family tragedy, but Ted Stevens was a public figure who will leave a legacy for good or evil.  You would think that his PR machine would have this figured out and would be able to manage the story better than this.

Update #28: 1:40 pm ET CNN has the Alaska Air National Guard on the phone.  They have boots on the ground at the site.  They’re saying 3 are injured.  Won’t confirm fatalities or who was on board.

DIARIST NOTE: 2:03 p.m. Seems we’re getting closer to an answer.  MSNBC reporting that three survivors have been extracted.  In addition to Stevens and O’Keefe, MSNBC says they are aware of other names involved in the crash but are awaiting confirmation.  When these three folks are taken from the hospital in Dillingham and airlifted to Anchorage, it will be difficult to keep folks who work at that dinky little medical clinic there to resist the hounding they’re gonna get from the national media.  So we should know before too much longer.

Update #29: 2:24 pm A “Source” confirms to CNN that Former Sen. Stevens is dead.

Update #30: I would consider this official.

A source familiar with ongoing rescue efforts confirms to CNN that former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens has died in a plane crash near Dillingham, Alaska.

The private plane carrying Stevens and a former head of NASA crashed Monday night in a rugged stretch of Alaska. The crash left at least five people dead, but at least three survivors.

FINAL NOTE: As I said, I figure that CNN doesn’t officially confirm something unless they have a good reason to do so.  I imagine MSNBC and FOX will fall in line soon.  In fact, MSNBC.com quotes a family spokesperson as saying Stevens is gone.  Fox News hasn’t caught it yet.  Neither has Reuters.  But the Associated Press has details.

A spokesman for the family of Ted Stevens says the former senator has died in a plane crash in Alaska.

Mitch Rose tells The Associated Press that the family had been notified that the 86-year-old Stevens was among those killed.

And with that, I believe I’ll close off this diary.  I haven’t commented on Stevens as a man or as a senator.  Just as a person of note, and how the media has handled this nearly day-long revelation of his death.  It’s hard to call a person’s death at 86 “untimely.”  Words that will be used will include “ironic” and “tragic.”  But I think this diary has been an excellent example of how news develops from a rumor, to a nearly-confirmed story, then back to the status of rumor, until the final confirmation.

Thanks to the those who commented for keeping it (largely) non-partisan and classy.  And I invite you all to visit my regular Internet home, Parky Bill’s PD Place .  Pull up a stump and hang around awhile.

Thanks for your kind attention, thanks for all the tips and recs.  And please try to remember… we’re progressives.  We’re about LIFE.  We’re about TRUTH.  We’re about making the world a better place, and not lining our own pockets at the expense of our planet-mates.  In the hurly-burly name-calling world of political discourse, we forget that all too often.  Let’s try to remember it more.

See ya!

POSTSCRIPT Thanks to an astute e-mailer who sent me this NASAWATCH link.

According to a family source both Sean O’Keefe and his son Jonathan survived the plane crash but they are both rather banged up.

Thanks, Paul.  Let’s hope that happy bit of news is true.


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