The Cutline

MSNBC takes flak for its Libya coverage, or lack thereof

Joe Pompeo
The Cutline

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As reports of the rebel incursion into Tripoli began to arrive late Sunday afternoon, news coverage of the advance in the Libyan capital was at first conspicuously absent from American television, leaving viewers to tune in to the online feeds of Britain's Sky News (seen at right) and Al Jazeera English.

Even as Fox News and CNN (in that order) interrupted their regularly scheduled programming with live dispatches from Tripoli, MSNBC stayed with the documentary programs "Body Snatchers of New York" and "Caught on Tape." The network's decision did not go unnoticed.

"Note to the robot that runs MSNBC: You're missing the story of the summer," tweeted Slate's Jack Shafer.

"Major fail for MSNBC," said The Daily's Hunter Walker. In another tweet, Walker called the decisoin "beyond embarrassing."

Reached for comment last night, an MSNBC spokeswoman told The Cutline, "We've been monitoring the news closely and have broken into taped programming several times in the past few hours." The network was live by 8 p.m. Eastern time.

In the end it was the partially News Corp-owned Sky News that "emerged as the runaway winner in the battle of the broadcasters," as The Guardian's Patrick Foster put it. Foster writes:

While journalists from the BBC and other networks were contained within the city's Rixos Hotel by armed guards loyal to Gadaffi, Alex Crawford, Sky's special correspondent, scooped all her rivals by broadcasting dramatic live footage from within the advancing rebel convoy.

Her bravery won legions of fans. At one point on Sunday night, Crawford was trending worldwide on Twitter, while Baroness Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, said her reporting was "quite astonishing".

Crawford was not the only female correspondent on the forefront of the Tripoli story. Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr and CNN's Sara Sidner also garnered recognition for their composed and thorough reporting in a tense and dangerous situation.

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