04/19/2013 05:28 am ET Updated Apr 19, 2013

Watertown Shooting Coverage: Networks In Breaking News Frenzy

The late-night shootout and subsequent manhunt for the suspects in the Boston bombing attacks played out in riveting real time on networks and online (see update below).

Viewers woke up on Friday morning to wall-to-wall coverage of the massive manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year old suspect still at large. All the broadcast and cable news networks aired live coverage from Boston.

The major morning shows devoted their programs to the story. ABC News and CBS News continued coverage past 9 a.m., while "Today" bypassed the normal fourth hour programming hosted by Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford.

By early afternoon, the networks were still doing non-stop coverage, though they switched anchors: Brian Williams took over for Savannah Guthrie, who had been reporting on the story for seven hours, on NBC News. Anderson Cooper anchored coverage for CNN, while Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos reported for ABC News.

CNN and NBC News put their feeds on delays to avoid showing anything excessively violent. Events grew so intense that reporters were told to get back and stay down, according to CNN. Reporters and police clashed several times, with police warning media not to broadcast the locations of homes being searched, as that would compromise officer safety.

The coverage began late Thursday night, and gained steam as the hours passed. Eventually, every network was devoting wall-to-wall coverage to the hunt.

Authorities launched an immediate investigation after news broke that an MIT officer had been shot late Thursday night. Cable networks reported the shooting towards the end of their primetime lineups, but were careful to say that it had no connection to the bombing at that time.

While national networks mostly turned off for the night, local Boston news stations sprung into breaking news mode, as the scene where the MIT officer was shot quickly turned into an attempted car-jacking, violent shootout and manhunt.

The local stations, along with the usual army of journalists, armchair investigators, and civilians flooding Twitter, had already been glued to the story for hours when national stations jumped in.

By 1:20 a.m. on Friday, CNN broke in with live coverage from the Boston suburb of Watertown, just after a major firefight took place between officers and shooters.

A few minutes later, Fox News broke in with coverage. About ten minutes after that, MSNBC turned to the shootings in Watertown. Mara Schiavocampo anchored NBC's coverage. Jake Tapper and Drew Griffin reported for CNN. Bill Hemmer eventually took over for Fox News.

Given the hour, networks were not always deploying their top anchors. Viewers who may not have ever seen "World News Now" or "Early Today" were quickly introduced to new faces.

Coming off a week of embarrassing and at-times reckless misreports on the bombing, anchors exercised extreme caution in connecting the early morning events in Watertown to Monday's bombing. Just before 2:30 a.m., The Boston Globe went out ahead of other publications and reported that the incidents were in fact related, and that one of the two suspects from the Marathon bombing was in custody.

Just after 4:00 a.m., NBC News confirmed that the shootout was related to the bombings. After that, police confirmed that one suspect had died.

UPDATE: -- 3:30 p.m. By 3:30 p.m., broadcast networks including NBC and ABC cut away from their special broadcasts, with CNN continuing on air. Cable networks continued with their wall-to-wall coverage of the manhunt.

Below, see some of the tweets from the chaotic night:


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