All three newscasts covered Julian Assange's release on bail as he fights extradition from Britain to Sweden. Only NBC assigned a correspondent: Peter Alexander repeated the joke that he is now under "mansion arrest." Assange told him that the pace of WikiLeaks.org's release of the State Department's 250,000 leaked documents will now accelerate.
In his Investigates feature on ABC, Brian Ross brought us Farid Seif, a Houston businessman, who checked his loaded handgun onto a Continental Airlines flight in his hand luggage without airport terminal security screeners noticing. The woman who followed Seif in line was stopped for having liquids in her bag.
Earmarks attached to federal spending bills certainly infuriate CBS' Sharyl Attkisson. Wednesday she dripped with sarcasm as she ticked off a beat poem of line items: legumes, maples, fruit, peanuts…beavers, blackbirds… potato pests and noxious weeds…oyster safety…virus free wine grapes…cranberry and blueberry. Now she names the 28 hypocritical senators who voted to ban all earmark spending yet nevertheless inserted their own pet porkbarrel projects into the latest $8bn package. When Majority Leader Harry Reid defended the legislature's prerogatives, arguing that the executive branch should not have sole discretion over spending decisions, Attkisson exploded with incredulity: "Waste & Excess!" she fumed.
ABC anchor Diane Sawyer hailed Mike Jones as "one of the unsung heroes of that school board shooting" in Florida. Hardly. The school safety officer's verbatim press conference was the lead item on NBC, with its In His Own Words feature. Jones took both CBS' Mark Strassmann and ABC's Ryan Owens, separately, into the meeting room where he reenacted his wounding of Clay Duke, the protesting gunman who ended up killing himself. CBS anchor Katie Couric followed up with a three-minute q-&-a with the tearful Jones. ABC's Owens reminded us that Jones had already had his 15 minutes of fame back in 1995 when Oprah Winfrey honored his Salvage Santa program. If that is "unsung" what would heralding someone consist of?
Speaking of Santa, Wednesday's profile of the post office's North Pole mailroom by ABC's David Muir and NBC's Mike Taibbi had the desired effect. Muir flattered ABC's viewers for their generosity in a follow up on the Christmas presents for poverty-stricken children being donated in response to the sample of letters that ABC News posted online. He profiled "just three of the elves we met today."
NBC's Pete Williams filed babyboomer footage of Duck-&-Cover for his update on nuclear warfare civil defense…and CBS' Richard Schlesinger included vintage Charles Kuralt in his 50th anniversary memories of a midair plane crash over Brooklyn…but ABC's John Berman had the best archives in his obituary for Bob Feller, Rapid Robert, the Van Meter Heater: check out the motor cycle speed duel.
The day's best soundbite comes from Dame Daphne Sheldrick from her sanctuary in Kenya. "None of the zoos could help us. You know, they have never had been able to raise an infant elephant themselves," she told NBC's Maria Menounos with marbles in her mouth. True, Menounos mugged for the camera too much in her Making a Difference feature. Yet Dame Daphne saved the day.
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