NBC Nightly News Uses D.C. Power Outage to Argue for More Infrastructure Spending

On the heels of a power outage that struck key government buildings in Washington D.C. and surrounding areas in the Maryland suburbs on Tuesday, NBC Nightly News seized on the story to advocate for the increased infrastructure funding and the need to defend against “cyber attacks.”

In a tease at the top of the broadcast, interim anchor Lester Holt told viewers that the incident has raised “questions about our nation’s power grids” which senior White House correspondent Chris Jansing expanded upon in her report.

After devoting the first portion of the segment to the numerous places that lost power (including the White House and numerous Smithsonian museums) and the headaches that were caused, Jansing noted the reason for the outage: “What happened? The power company says all this caused by this, a transmission line fell off its foundation.”

While Jansing mentioned that the reason for the power outage was “a relatively small thing,” she added that it’s “pointing to a big problem.”

Following a soundbite from a Navy admiral with the U.S. Naval Command, Jansing began building the case for more funding:

We do know the U.S. electric grid loses power almost three times more often than it did in 1984. Much more than any other industrialized nation. Japan loses power an average of 4 minutes a year, but in the northeast U.S., 214 minutes, according to a University of Minnesota analysis and it just keeps getting worse. The main reasons? Aging infrastructure and increased demand from hotter summers, but now, experts worry about the growing cyber threat.

Jansing closed out her report by arguing that “there's widespread agreement the power grid has to be updated and protected from cyber attacks” with the issue being the cost “as it often is in Washington.”

“Experts put the price tag anywhere from several billion to hundreds of billions of dollars to update a system so old, some of it is based on technology dating back to Thomas Edison,” said Jansing.

While NBC Nightly News used the occasion to push for more funding, fellow newscasts ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir and the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley did not raise the topic during their respective segments on the outage.

The relevant portions of the transcript from NBC Nightly News on April 7 can be found below.

NBC Nightly News
April 7, 2015
7:00 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Knocked Out]

LESTER HOLT: On this Tuesday night, knocked out. A widespread power failure in Washington. The state department, metro stations, and museums, even Oprah and the First Lady left in the dark. Tonight, questions about our nation's power grids.

(....)

7:01 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Power Failure]

HOLT: The halls of power in Washington, D.C. were without power for a time today, as the lights blinked out from the White House to the Capitol and well beyond and given the times we live in, a lot of people briefly wondering if there was some kind of attack. For some, it lasted for just moments, others were without power for quite some time and there were parts of the government left to carry on in the dark while elsewhere, forcing evacuations at some of the city’s famous museums. All of it raising a lot of questions about how prepared the government really is for a bigger emergency. Chris Jansing is on the story for us tonight. 

CHRIS JANSING: The lights went out at the State Department right in the middle of the daily briefing. 

(....)

JANSING: Even the Energy Department lost power. So did the White House, though the backup generator kicked right in. 

(....)

JANSING: Talk show icon Oprah Winfrey, speaking at an event honoring Maya Angelou, just kept talking. 

(....)

JANSING: What happened? The power company says all this caused by this, a transmission line fell off its foundation, a relatively small thing pointing to a big problem. Even acknowledged by Pentagon brass. 

(....)

JANSING: We do know the U.S. electric grid loses power almost three times more often than it did in 1984. Much more than any other industrialized nation. Japan loses power an average of 4 minutes a year, but in the northeast U.S., 214 minutes, according to a University of Minnesota analysis and it just keeps getting worse. The main reasons? Aging infrastructure and increased demand from hotter summers, but now, experts worry about the growing cyberthreat. 

(....)

JANSING: In fact, there's widespread agreement the power grid has to be updated and protected from cyber attacks. The problem, as it often is in Washington, is money. Experts put the price tag anywhere from several billion to hundreds of billions of dollars to update a system so old, some of it is based on technology dating back to Thomas Edison.

NB Daily Environment NBC NBC Nightly News Video Government & Press Lester Holt Chris Jansing
Curtis Houck's picture


Sponsored Links