News broke, then broke again. Then again. Everything was pouring out of the television live last night, and the Marion Barry trial reports came so quickly that even the most unflappable courthouse reporters stood before the cameras with their hair messed up and an edge-of-panic nervousness in their voices.

"This is what you call raw reporting," said Susan King on Channel 7, WJLA. You'd have known this already -- with the sound off -- by the look on her face.

TV was ready for this. They'd had a few practice runs -- on Tuesday and Thursday -- when bits and pieces of news came out of the trial. But still, last night's trial coverage had a freshness, a spontaneity, a finish-lineexcitement. It was a news director's nightmare, and yet, sublime. There were glitches and good saves. Stations went to man-on-the-street responses, then interrupted them for more news. The anchors kept their hands folded in front of them and held on for dear life.

At 5:45, a partial verdict.

At 6:09, it was announced that the jury was undecided.

At 6:19 -- while all the stations had legal experts elaborating on the significance of the two verdicts -- it was announced that Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson had declared a mistrial -- that the jury couldn't reach a decision on 12 of the 14 counts.

"Gordon, they are calling people back to the chamber!" a quaking Bob Strickland on WUSA said to anchor Gordon Peterson. "I think I better get back now!"

And it was a camera angle crap shoot. Channel 9 -- WUSA, the CBS affiliate -- quickly figured out which courthouse door Barry was coming out of, while Channel 7's Susan King was still saying that nobody knew what door the mayor was coming out of. Channel 4 and Channel 5 found the mayor too, and Seven remained lost in a mob. Its cameras showed hordes of media and spectators jumping over shrubs and running in some unknown direction. Follow them!

Soon, everybody had the mayor in their camera sights. Barry inched his way through the bodies around him, all around the courthouse. It was a slow promenade. He wore a broad smile. He looked right into lenses. His eyes caught the flashes of countless bulbs. He wiped his face. He reached out his hands victoriously. Microphones on endless extension poles stretched out over 20 or 30 people to catch anything he might have to say.

He had no comment.

Seven -- the ABC affiliate -- had the coolest experts. Political consultant Ron Walters and former U.S. attorney Joe diGenova were held captive in a studio. The perspiring diGenova blasted one expert opinion after another -- after each news announcement was made. And WRC's legal expert Abbe Lowell, a Georgetown University law professor, was on the courthouse grounds and tried not to be shaken by the upheavals. "What does it mean," he was asked, "when the jurors come into the courthouse {with a decision} and don't look at the defendant?"

"They don't tend to look at the defendant," Lowell said, "if they've just done something to send him away."

Channel 9 kept Phyllis Armstrong interviewing the owners of French's Cafeteria in Northeast Washington, while the other stations had abandoned their reaction scenes for U.S. Attorney Jay Stephens trying to hold his own outside the courthouse against boos and howls and chants of "Four more years!" from Barry supporters.

Stephens looked around. When the crowd got rolling with insults, he blinked more often. He looked around more often. "This case demonstrates," he said -- every hair in place -- "that the clutches of drug use are above no one." And he took questions.

"Do you regard this as a failure personally?" he was asked.

He quoted Teddy Roosevelt. He held on. The crowd booed. And he added, "I do think it was important that this case was tried."

Channel 7 made the mistake of breaking away from Stephens -- from this gripping but hard-to-watch scene -- to anchor Renee Poussaint. Channel 4 -- the NBC affiliate -- bravely stayed with Stephens and the scene at the courthouse to the bitter end: a horn-blowing celebration in the street with cheering and chanting Barry supporters. Anchor Jim Vance from the studio seemed clearly relieved, as did the others. It's over -- his voice seemed to say -- maybe it's over for good.

Announcements were made about the rest of the night. Channel 7 said it was extending its midnight "Barry on Trial" show from 30 minutes to an hour. The stations, one by one, said they'd be covering Barry's press conference at 2 this afternoon.

For Channel 9, yesterday's trial coverage began the earliest -- at 4. Seven broke into the end of Oprah Winfrey (before 5) to say that some partial verdicts were coming in, and then went to live broadcasts from the courthouse. Four began at 5, its regular time. Channel 5 -- the Fox-owned station -- had several news cut-ins throughout the afternoon.

Dan Rather went on as scheduled -- at 7 -- with the "CBS Evening News," but the local stations delayed Peter Jennings on ABC and Tom Brokaw on NBC to accommodate the trial and they began at 7:30.

Channel 9 got between 300 and 400 phone calls after the initial broadcast of the verdict, and the station's first impression was that the callers were not heavily in favor of the verdict. There were grumblings about the news, as there always are, and people wanted the station to move on to its regular programming.

Throughout the evening broadcast, Four's Tom Sherwood stood on a sidewalk close to Dave Clarke, D.C. Council chairman and mayoral candidate, interviewing him patiently when the news allowed. Anchor Jim Vance asked Clarke about the possibility that Barry could re-announce his candidacy for mayor on Monday. A very brief and telling pause followed. The camera picked up Clarke's uncomfortable reaction -- a fleeting nauseated look that only television can capture. He began a speech -- something about the mayor stepping aside for other candidates. And there, on the street with news flying around them, Sherwood cut him off and broke to Vance.

TV columnist John Carmody contributed to this report.