As news of the school siege broke, commercial NTV broke into its regular programming and a news presenter read out reports of Russia's latest terror attack.
The first TV pictures from the siege, of troops surrounding the school and dragging civilians to cover, appeared on state-owned Russia TV.
The story was the lead item in all television and radio news, pushing aside the suicide bomb attack on a Moscow underground station just hours earlier, which killed 10 people and wounded 51.
Russia TV did not break into programmes but carried news of the school siege in its regular news bulletins.
"Three people have been killed and children have been placed at the windows as human shields," Ekho Moskvy radio reported from the siege in the town of Beslan.
Television footage from outside the school showed men in camouflage with heavy-calibre machine guns taking up positions on the perimeter and other men in civilian dress with light automatic rifles pacing nervously.
At one point, a flak-jacketed soldier pulled a girl aged about seven in a floral print dress and a red bow in her hair around a corner, followed by an older woman, apparently fleeing from the school.
Heightened tension in Moscow itself was captured by Ekho Moskvy radio during the morning: "Moscow awaits new terrorist attacks," it announced.
Ekho Moskvy said police guarding schools on the first day of the school term received photographs of female terrorist suspects reported by the press to be at large in the city.
Newspaper headlines told a similar story. "Crusade. Suicide-bomber terrorism is gathering pace", said Kommersant. "Again a terrorist act" headlined Vedomosti.
In one bulletin, an Ekho Moskvy correspondent took a vox-pop of opinions on the streets of Moscow about measures to improve their security.
"People have different views but are generally unsure of what they can do. All agree that the state must lead the fight against terrorism," the radio said.
The press, the radio and commercial NTV television all mulled over theories behind the attacks on the metro station and the two passenger airliners last week.
An Islamic group called the Islambuli Brigades claimed responsibility for the metro bombing, Russia TV reported.
Some papers named a woman believed to be last night's suicide bomber and said she was connected to the two Chechen women suspected of blowing up the airliners.
But Gazeta voiced anger at ordinary Russians' increasing sense of vulnerability.
"How many more victims are needed for the authorities finally to admit and draw conclusions from the obvious fact: the methods used at present to fight terrorism are totally ineffective. In one week there are 100 innocent Russians killed and nearly 60 injured."
BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.