COMMENTS: Energy, Matrimony, Watery

There was a trio of stories deemed newsworthy enough to warrant coverage by a correspondent on all three of the network newscasts. Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama locked in long distance debate over energy policy. Love was in the air throughout California as scores of lesbian and gay couples got legally married. And the midwest floods moved steadily southwards as the swollen Iowa and Cedar rivers drained into the Mississippi. NBC and CBS, with Iowan Harry Smith substituting for anchor Katie Couric, both led with the floods, which were Story of the Day. ABC chose another story entirely as its lead--projected $7bn to $13bn annual losses for the beleaguered domestic airline industry.

Both NBC's Kerry Sanders and CBS' Cynthia Bowers filed from the Iowa banks of the Mississippi River, across the water from the small town of Gulfport Ill, which had been inundated by a levee break. Bowers explained that record high water marks had already crested at Iowa City on the Iowa River and Cedar Rapids on the Cedar River. "The floodwaters are a toxic stew," warned NBC's Sanders, a mixture of raw sewage and diesel fuel and agricultural chemicals. The pollution may have ruined hunting and fishing in Iowa, CBS' Bowers worried, washing away pheasant nests and creating the specter of a massive fish kill as far down stream as the Gulf of Mexico.

ABC's flood angle was A Closer Look at the "nasty transportation snarl" caused by waters across the nation's midsection: Chris Bury (embargoed link) told us that 200 miles of north-south Mississippi River barge traffic were shut down for two weeks and at least ten east-west major freight railroad lines were inundated and rendered impassable. A typical agribusiness two of 15 barges carries the same cargo as 200 railroad cars or 900 highway tractor trailers. The disruption "means higher prices for everything that moves in or out of here by train, truck or boat."


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