"A day that began with a series of news events long in the making — a protest rally, a congressional vote — unexpectedly morphed into chaos on Wednesday, prompting a slow-dawning reaction by the TV networks and the rest of the media," reports The Washington Post's Jeremy Barr and Paul Farhi. "As many screens were fixed on the joint session of Congress debating challenges to Joe Biden’s electoral victory, the story began to change about 1:15 p.m. Eastern time: Protesters from a rally promoted by President Trump began to converge by the thousands on the U.S. Capitol, cheered on by Trump himself. What began as Trump-orchestrated stagecraft quickly turned into mob action that had TV commentators grasping for ever more extreme adjectives — 'insurrection,' 'anarchism,' 'domestic terrorism'....Late-arriving law enforcement officials, including National Guard troops, appeared to restore some order around sunset, but not before a series of disturbing images rolled across TV screens. The footage included video of rioters smashing windows to enter the Capitol and interlopers roaming about unimpeded in the House and Senate chambers and occupying offices, including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)...The chaos picked up steam at an hour when most of the television networks focused primarily on the congressional process. It took time for many reporters and producers to realize what was going on and shift their coverage as congressional correspondents turned into war correspondents, phoning in reports as they ducked for cover. Across all the networks, on-air reporters interviewed members of Congress and asked whether they could reveal their location; most declined to do so for security reasons. At 2:22 p.m., the situation was still calm enough for Fox News correspondent Griff Jenkins to observe: 'It has been peaceful, I should point out. Everything we have seen so far has been nothing but peaceful.' His anchor colleague Martha MacCallum early on described the breaching of the building as 'a huge victory for these protesters' because they had disrupted a process that Trump had objected to. The tone began to change within minutes."
The insurrection looked like a set piece from an “it can happen here” dystopian story of American anarchy: "For paralyzing, terrifying hours, news anchors could hardly contain their shock as what they expected to be a day of dramatic but anticlimactic legislative theatrics turned into a scene of failed-state chaos," says James Poniewozik. "Two decades ago, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the common refrain was that the chaos looked like a scene from a disaster movie. This time, it was a set piece from an “it can happen here” dystopian story of American anarchy, and it was the most inside of jobs. And everyone knew he was watching. They would have known even if he hadn’t announced it. Donald Trump has been an obsessive binge-watcher of TV coverage of his own presidency, for hours a day. Of course he would be glued to its next act."
TV news outmatched President Trump on a dark day: "For all that Trump’s use of social media has been heralded, he was and remains a creature of television, and — today — television outmatched him, placing in counterpoint violent and disturbing images the American people could judge for themselves with Trump’s own words," says Daniel D'Addario. "The man in the red tie on the White House grounds preached love and understanding to an army of marginalized true believers only he could still believe are misunderstood in their quest for justice. (That the man who once preached shooting looters on sight reassured these insurrectionists that “we love you, you’re very special” is almost so obvious a contradiction to let pass without comment, but these times have tended to allow bad actors’ deeds to go uncommented-upon for too long.) Once Trump flickered away, gone in 62 seconds, the searing and troubling images of a day of chaos remained, easily legible for what it was, and who’d led it to the doors of the Capitol and inside."
Why was CNN using political pundits to cover a law enforcement crisis?: "Yes, the politics are important and they would be remiss to ignore the root causes of today’s crisis. But we could use a more measured and technical approach to this tinderbox," says Ariana Pekary. "It would be nice to know why the Capitol Police failed so spectacularly this afternoon. How did the Trump supporters end up in an armed standoff? Why is it taking so long to respond? Where is Mayor Muriel Bowser? If this happened in any other country, they’d call on one of a myriad of law enforcement experts. The choice to rely on political talking heads is not helpful."