CNN, Fox reporters attacked during Ferguson protests

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Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

With sporadic violence and looting breaking out last night in Ferguson after a grand jury chose not to indict the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, some cable network correspondents were attacked on air.

At just past 1 a.m. EST, CNN correspondent Sara Sidner was hit by rocks. She kept on working, according to Deadline.com: "I'm OK, I'm OK, I've been hit by much worse in my day." Another CNN correspondent Stephanie Elam was threatened after she taped a store being looted.

Earlier, CNN's' Don Lemon was overcome by smoke, which he interpreted as tear gas.

A protester also knocked a cameraman's camera to the ground while Fox News' Steve Harrigan was on the air.

TV critic Brian Lowry of Variety said all this coverage provided a lot of noise and bluster but very little context. If you wanted thoughtful pieces about the case itself, you had to go elsewhere.  (For instance,  here's a fascinating piece in fivethirtyeight.com about why grand juries rarely indict cops.)

What again emerged was cable's near-addiction to conflict, which the unrest and looting that followed the announcement yielded in abundance. And while one can admire the long hours and bravery exhibited by on-the-scene reporters under trying circumstances, the nature of this sort of coverage yields such a narrow aperture their hard work produces heat, perhaps, but scant illumination.

As CNN's Chris Cuomo noted, so far, this is nothing like the aftermath of the Rodney King protests.

Ratings Monday night were much larger than normal with CNN getting a far greater bump than Fox News. At the 9 p.m. hour, Fox News drew the most viewers with 7.3 million, triple Megyn Kelly's numbers last Wednesday, a more typical night.  CNN brought in 6.3 million viewers at 9 p.m., at least 6 times more than a normal night. MSNBC doubled its numbers with 2.2 million viewers.

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