Friday night is typically a quiet time for news but at 9 PM ET President Donald Trump addressed the nation and announced that the United States, alongside Great Britain and France, had launched air strikes against Syrian chemical weapons sites. With this, cable news sprung into action and went into breaking news mode for the night.
MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN were all live later than usual and Fox News and CNN were live throughout the night with continuing coverage.
CNN Tonight with Don Lemon aired until 2 AM, an extra two hours longer than usual for Lemon. At that point, CNN US simulcast CNN International’s CNN Newsroom (a simulcast that occurs with some frequency but irregularly). Cyril Vanier and Bianca Nobilo anchored CNN Newsroom from 2 AM until 4 AM at which point George Howell and Natalie Allen took over anchoring. Howell and Allen anchored until 6 AM at which point the regularly scheduled New Day Saturday took over. CNN/CNNI were able to utilize CNN’s number of international correspondents from around the world. Nima Elbagir reported from London, Jim Bitterman was in Paris, Sam Kiley in Moscow, and Nick Paton Walsh in northern Syria.
Fox News was also live throughout the night. Fox News @ Night with Shannon Bream was live an additional hour until 1 AM. From 1 AM until 5 AM, Kelly Wright and Jackie Ibanez co-anchored live coverage. At 5 AM, Fox & Friends took over coverage. International correspondent Mike Tobin contributed reporting from Israel.
MSNBC’s The 11th. Hour with Brian Williams was live longer than usual as he started an hour earlier at 10 PM. MSNBC’s breaking news anchor was then live until 1 AM for a total of 3 hours. During the night, Williams interviewed Danny Makki, a freelance journalist based in the Syrian capital city of Damascus. Ayman Mohyeldin was live for the 1 AM hour and then MSNBC resumed live coverage at 4 AM with British Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech. After that, MSNBC was live again at 6 AM.
Coverage of military operations are typically a strength for cable news due to the strong visuals and ability to cover the topic for hours on hand. Such breaking news oftentimes can lead to a boost in the ratings, but ratings will not be available until Monday and Tuesday (Nielsen’s defines a day as starting at 3 AM).