COMMENTS: A Day of News that is as Slow as Molasses

What a slow day for news! There was not a single story that was newsworthy enough to warrant coverage by a correspondent from all three networks. NBC, with Brian Williams anchoring in Washington, kicked off with highlights from Karl Rove's memoir Courage & Consequences; neither of the other two newscasts mentioned the book. ABC selected statistics from California on increasing numbers of mothers dying in childbirth; neither of the other two newscasts mentioned the trend. CBS started in Boston where a new full-body scanning machine is being tested at the airport; neither of the other two newscasts mentioned it. There was no news that qualified as Story of the Day. Instead a feature investigation on CBS attracted most time--a probe of bungled police work in a Cleveland serial murder case.

NBC groped for the puniest of news hooks for Andrea Mitchell's report on Rove's book. George Bush's political architect is launching his book tour just as elections are being held in Iraq. So Mitchell focused on Rove's explanation for his White House's case for war in the build-up to the 2003 invasion. Mitchell came so close to accusing Bush and Rove of fabricating a case for war but then stepped back. She quoted Rove as writing that without a threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, "Congress was very unlikely to have supported the use-of-force resolution." Yet those WMDs did not exist. "So then did Bush lie us into war?" She quotes Rove: "Absolutely not."

Mitchell offered no further explanation from Rove's own words. So that bald denial just lay there. What was left was tease. Rove, we were told, has been booked for a three-part interview on NBC's Today.

As frustrating as that tease was, at least all three newscasts now have a correspondent in Iraq ahead of the weekend's elections. CBS had Elizabeth Palmer file on Wednesday. Now Miguel Marquez files from Baghdad for ABC. "An incredible place to see," he exclaimed, delighting at the now-bustling Shorja Market. NBC's Richard Engel was embedded with the USArmy's First Armored Division in Nasiriyah yet had little to show for it: "Troops are mostly confined to their bases. They rarely leave without Iraqi permission. It is a training mission now."


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