Network morning shows were supposed to have lavish Halloween celebrations on Wednesday -- perhaps the ultimate example of what their critics would call a move to entertainment over news. Instead, sober anchors spoke over pictures of burnt-out neighborhoods, as the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy continued to be felt.
"Today" opened with grim, ghostly images of fires lighting up the pre-dawn sky on the Jersey shore. Up in a helicopter, Natalie Morales said she had taken her children on some of the rides the storm had ruined. On CBS, Charlie Rose looked at images of Breezy Point, the Queens neighborhood almost totally destroyed by fire, and murmured that they had seemed to "penetrate" with people everywhere.
New York papers were filled with funereal, dramatic scenes. The New York Times had a haunting picture of Breezy Point running across the entire top of its front page. "AFTER THE DEVASTATION, A DAUNTING RECOVERY," its headline said.
"APOCALYPSE N.Y.," the Daily News' wraparound front page read. The New York Post chose one word: "DESPAIR."
There were signs that things were getting back to normal. In New York, local stations had been preempting the national morning shows for days. That ended on Wednesday. The presidential campaign began creeping into coverage earlier into show lineups.
On CNN, Soledad O'Brien sparred with George Pataki, the former Republican governor of New York, about Mitt Romney's stance on FEMA, sparking such an argument among her various guests that she threatened to get on the table they were all sitting around and shush them.
Another sign of a return to routine: the re-emergence of Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb on the fourth hour of "Today." They had been pulled in favor of Sandy coverage for days, but Kotb tweeted that they would be back on the air.
"Come see us," she tweeted. "We've missed you."