Anderson Cooper told CNN he and his TV crew were “punched and kicked” by supporters of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. He said on Wednesday morning he was seeing “Molotov cocktails thrown by pro-government forces” at protesters. Reporting from Tahrir Square, Cooper said the crowd was “looking for a fight.”
Cooper’s situation demonstrates how quickly a major news event changes. Just a day before, the then-peaceful protests were being reported by TV news shows on cable and the networks scrambling to educate their audience, and themselves, about the issues involved in the Egyptian protests. The entertainment news shows were able to joke about this. Stephen Colbert spoke truth through humor by saying on The Colbert Report that we were now faced with “the terrifying phenomenon known as ‘other countries.’”
Jon Stewart inaugurated a modification of a previous rubric: “Mess O’ Slightly to the Left O’ Potamia” to analyze media coverage of Egypt. He suggested on Monday night’s Daily Show that Mubarak may have to go into televised exile with other dictators, in what he termed Big Brother: Big Brother Edition, which would find Mubarak sharing a house with four ousted dictators “and Omarosa.”
As the situation overseas unfolds, everyone, from the networks (which were still airing their entertainment programming on Wednesday morning while cable news was showing dramatic breaking-news footage live from Egypt) to cable news opinion channels — Fox News and MSNBC have been furiously busy analyzing the implications of Egypt’s unrest for America — will be continuously shifting their emphasis and tone, based on the gravity of the situation.