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We may all be Londoners today, but the TV media is as U.S.-centric as ever

By early evening London time (and midday here), just as the streets of that wounded city were returning to some semblance of normality, the television tale of today's horrific attacks had jumped back across the pond.
Gone were the earlier scenes of chaos and carnage from the streets of London, replaced by images of bomb sniffing dogs and security personnel in U.S. cities. As British Prime Minister Tony Blair's words to his damaged nation receded into the background, television pundits began speculating on what today's attacks might portend for us. By the time new U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff held his eight-minute noontime press conference to raise the mass transit threat level and yet reassure citizens that there "was no specific credible information suggesting an imminent attack in the United States," the story had morphed from a tragedy that happened over there to anxious questions about what might happen here.
In other words, it took less than seven hours for television news to turn the London attacks -- that by the late morning body count had caused around 400 casualties including more than 30 dead -- into a U.S.-centric story. Locally, the major Boston affiliates stayed with network coverage all morning. And for those keeping score, CNN claimed to have broken the bombing story first among the cable nets, at 4:48 a.m. our time.
The global village shrinks fast when it comes to terrorism. And in a stark symbol of how simple technology connects us, CNN aired grainy but discernible video of the scene inside a bombed London subway car that came from someone's camera phone.
By late morning, MSNBC was taking reports from correspondents stationed in New York and San Francisco about heightened security measures on public transportation systems there. CNN reported that a police officer boarded a bus in New York and chillingly described to passengers what a suicide bomber might look like. On the Fox News Channel, Neil Livingstone, labeled a "terrorism analyst" (a post-9/11 job description if ever there was one), speculated that U.S. officials might find themsleves forced to limit what passengers can bring aboard trains and subway cars. But he acknowledged that trying to figure out where terrorists would strike next is "a maddening exercise."
One clear subtext of the quickly evolving TV coverage was the potential domestic political implications of the attack. ABC called on George Stephanopoulos for the view from Washington, but he was forced to admit that with the president out of the country at the G8 summit, official Washington was scattered throughout the country and the world. Several correspondents noted that today's events posed the first serious "test" for the largely unknown Chertoff, who has inherited a threat warning system that has been widely criticized for being unncessarily vague and unduly frightening. In his press conference, carried by all the networks, Chertoff kept it brisk, brief and bureaucratic.
And any major attack like today's was bound to raise the ultimate hot button political question. Is the U.S. strategy in Iraq a liability or asset in the broader war on terror? To her credit, NBC's Katie Couric raised the subject with Arizona Senator John McCain, asking whether the Iraq conflict had "fanned the flames of extremism worldwide."
The former Vietnam POW insisted we were doing the right thing in the Middle East, asserting -- with maybe the most frightening sentiments uttered all morning -- that "if we lose in Iraq, we'll be fighting in Phoenix and New York."
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