Hostages freed; A-Rod gossip...

Behind The News
July 3, 2008 1:10:00 PM PDT
I know little of her politics, but I know one thing about Ingrid Betancourt, the former Colombian Presidential candidate who was freed along with 3 Americans and 11 others yesterday: she has the right stuff. No question.

Cool, calm, articulate, totally composed and together, despite six years in captivity - held hostage by leftist rebels in the jungle of Colombia.

And what a dramatic story -- the government sending in commandos, posing as rebel sympathizers to transport the hostages, and then, in a script right out of a Hollywood action movie, airlifting the hostages to safety, and capturing a rebel leader. Betancourt's story is simply riveting, as she studied these "transporters" on the helicopters. They didn't seem like rebels, she told reporters. And then when she saw the man who had tormented her for so many years, bound and naked on the helicopter floor, one of the commandoes said, we're from the government, and you're now free.

The helicopter nearly fell from the sky, she says, from everyone jumping up and down in joy.

And the picture today of her reunion with her children, now young adults - well, it brought tears to my eyes. And I know I'm not alone.

As for the three Americans, they too are facing a reunion with their family members. The three men are "contractors" with Northrop Grumman; although their work on a "counter-narcotics mission" for the Pentagon in 2003 when their plane went down certainly raises the specter that they are spooks of some kind. They are now in Texas and we may hear from them tonight at 11.

The rescue remains the most dramatic story out there today.

But it's not the juiciest. Those would belong to the gossipy stories involving a certain former supermodel who's divorcing her straying husband by having the proceedings open to the public and humiliating her children; and the absolutely tabloidy and tawdry shenanigans involving a certain Yankees All Star Third Baseman, a certain superstar entertainer, the ballplayer's wife and a fabulously esoteric rock star.

I am not here to talk about whether or not Alex Rodriguez or his wife - proud parents of two children, the youngest of whom is 2 months old - are out gallivanting at Madonna's apartment till all hours or are with Lenny Kravitz in Paris. Don't care. I do feel bad for their children, who will someday be able to Google their parents' histories in a nanosecond.

But I bring all this up because you will notice two things about the A-Rod story - the first is that it's all over the website; the second is that it's not all over our airwaves.

There's no mystery to it all. There are often times when a story is on the website and not on our newscasts, and vice versa. We have limited time during our newscasts - and the web is fairly limitless. But there's also the feeling that the extramarital affairs are not the kind of fare for the newscasts -- unless it becomes a bigger story; unless, say, (and this is just one possible example) it affected the Yankees on the field.

There's another logic to our decision. People make a conscious decision to read or not read a story on the web. They have to click on it. In our newscasts, it's a less affirmative decision. Yes, they can click the "off" button on the remote, or change channels; but over-the-air (I guess it's mostly cable now), it's we who are programming. On the web, each person can program her or his own little newscast and read what they want.

Arguments pro and con, in this era of new media.

I'd be interested in your comments -- to bill.s.ritter@abc.com. As always, let me know if I can use your name. Oh, and by the way, there will be no column on Friday, because of the July 4th holiday, although we'll have a full lineup of newscasts, and, yes, I'll be working.

Speaking of the holiday, tonight Lee Goldberg is tracking the weird weather we're expecting this weekend; it will not be all sunshine, but it won't be a total washout either. There will be other problems this weekend. At Robert Moses State Park on Long Island, which is an incredibly popular beach destination, folks will find it difficult to park this weekend. Erosion earlier this week means that state workers will be repairing a couple of parking lots - and the expectation is that parking capacity will be less than half of normal.

Charming.

And in New Jersey, folks in Teaneck will not have access to any of their town's three public pools this weekend. All are closed -- one permanently because of "structural instability" and the other two because of maintenance problems.

Charming, again.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Marvell Scott, in for Scott Clark, with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.


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