CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM DECEMBER 14, 2006
The staggering decline in the incidence of breast cancer led all three network newscasts. The drop-off happened three years ago but it was still newsworthy because it was so steep--and because it had a likely known cause. Some 14,000 fewer women had tumors in 2003, mostly because they had stopped taking estrogen supplements. NBC's Brian Williams was so pleased: "There is very good news on the subject of breast cancer."    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR DECEMBER 14, 2006: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailNBCBreast cancer coverageIncidence fell in 2003 after HRT estrogen haltRobert BazellNew York
video thumbnailABCBreast cancer coverageIncidence fell in 2003 after HRT estrogen haltJohn McKenzieNew York
video thumbnailNBCSen Timothy Johnson (D-SD) hospitalizedUndergoes surgery for bleeding in the brainChip ReidCapitol Hill
video thumbnailCBSUSArmy is almost fully deployed, needs extra forcesChief of Staff warns of near breaking pointDavid MartinPentagon
video thumbnailNBCUSArmy is almost fully deployed, needs extra forcesChief of Staff warns of near breaking pointJim MiklaszewskiPentagon
video thumbnailABCIraq: education system survives amid violenceTeenage music student continues schoolingDan HarrisBaghdad
video thumbnailCBSHigh schools fail to prepare students for collegeUS test scores lag compared with foreign testsThalia AssurasVirginia
video thumbnailCBSCollege students convert to evangelical ChristianityUWisc coeds switch from booze to worshipKelly CobiellaWisconsin
video thumbnailABC
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Arlington Cemetery tombs decorated by wreathsAnnual Maine tribute inspires volunteersJohn DonvanWashington DC
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
BREAST CANCERS BLAMED ON ESTROGEN The staggering decline in the incidence of breast cancer led all three network newscasts. The drop-off happened three years ago but it was still newsworthy because it was so steep--and because it had a likely known cause. Some 14,000 fewer women had tumors in 2003, mostly because they had stopped taking estrogen supplements. NBC's Brian Williams was so pleased: "There is very good news on the subject of breast cancer."

NBC's Robert Bazell called halting estrogen supplements "an obvious cause" of the 7% year-over-year decline. ABC's John McKenzie showed us the monthly timeline: "within just weeks" of women being instructed to halt Hormone Replacement Therapy, the cancer incidence started to drop.

Williams is correct. It is always pleasant to be able to report good news. But this eagerness left gaping holes in the coverage.

What about the bad news? How many post-menopausal women contracted breast cancer because they took HRT before 2002? How many of them died as a result? Why were doctors prescribing a potential killer? What made them think it was safe? What pharmaceutical companies benefited from pushing HRT? What other similar supplements are used nowadays with similar potential safety problems?

Just because the glass is half full, journalists should not avoid reporting that it is half empty.


TAKE TWO OF THESE… Instead, ABC and CBS brought in their in-house physicians to tell women the circumstances under which Hormone Replacement Therapy is indicated. ABC's Timothy Johnson (no link) warned that "behind the scenes" experts are still debating the extent of the impact of HRT on cancer: do not take the hormone "long term," he advised. CBS' Jon LaPook recommended that many women with menopausal symptoms can still take "a relatively lower dose of hormones" for a few years.


STABILIZED Even though all three networks led with the breast cancer statistics, the health of Sen Timothy Johnson was the Story of the Day, the one that attracted the greatest volume of coverage.

Yesterday's speculation about an imminent transfer of control of the Senate to the Republicans relaxed: "The political talk really did die down," ABC's George Stephanopoulos (no link) observed.

First, there is historical precedent for incapacitated senators keeping their seat. Sen Joe Biden, for example, did not serve yet kept his seat for seven months after a brain aneurysm, CBS' Gloria Borger recalled. Second, the emergency brain surgery Johnson underwent was "successful," CBS' Sharyl Attkisson told us. He is listed as "appropriately responsive to word and touch." Third, it is just tasteless to concentrate on grabbing political power under these circumstances. As NBC's Chip Reid put it: "Johnson is very well liked on Capitol Hill and today there was an outpouring of concern and hope for the quiet man from South Dakota."

CBS brought in-house doctor Jon LaPook back for double duty to explain the senator's brain condition. LaPook's description of arterial-venous malformation was not very interesting but his visual aids were totally state of the art.


BREAKING POINT For once the news from the health beat and the Senate chamber removed Iraq from the headlines. Nevertheless, the consequences of the war made news on Capitol Hill. All three Pentagon correspondents paid attention when Gen Peter Schoomaker warned at House hearings that "the army is stretched so thin it could break," as ABC's Jonathan Karl put it.

CBS' David Martin attributed the Chief of Staff's loosened tongue to his imminent change of boss: with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on his way out "Schoomaker broke ranks and went public." He called for the National Guard to be used more. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski noted that current rules limit the reserves to one deployment every six years.

Current recruiting and training methods cannot grow the regular army more quickly than 6,000 soldiers per year, Martin added. If any of the Pentagon reporters were feeling a draft, none mentioned it.


ECHO EKI Remember that signature war correspondent's profile filed by Peter Jennings from Bosnia back in 1994 when he had a boy named Eki Foco, then aged twelve, explain what life was like during the Siege of Sarajevo?

In Baghdad twelve years later, ABC's Dan Harris tapped into his network's tradition by bringing us the "small and stifling" world of Dan Azad, a high school music student. Young Dan speaks good English because he once lived with an aunt in Texas. He plays the oboe at home nights because it is too dangerous to leave his house. He never goes to the movies because there are no movie theaters in Baghdad. And his best friend was shot dead right next to him as the pair walked down the street.

CBS ran a couple of features on the third anniversary of the capture of the former dictator Saddam Hussein. Byron Pitts profiled Col Steven Russell, the now-retired officer who helped lead the manhunt. He is organizing a group, Vets for Victory, to boost support for the war effort. "To war-weary Americans, however," Pitts mused, "victory is proving more elusive than a tyrant in a spider hole." From Baghdad, "the deadliest city on the face of the Earth" Randall Pinkston cited an opinion poll result: 95% of Iraqis found security superior under the Baath regime than it is now, post-liberation.


BLUE RIBBON BLUES Unlike the saturation coverage bestowed on the blue-ribbon commission report by the Iraq Study Group, the panel that produced Tough Choices Tough Times was ignored by ABC and NBC. Only CBS' Thalia Assuras was assigned to the critique of America's schools: "Students are falling behind those in even some of the poorest countries." The panel called for the abolition of school districts, pay raises for teachers and college-level qualification required for teenagers by age 16.


PAJAMA PARTY On a lighter note, CBS' Kelly Cobiella went to Madison for the series Wired for Faith. She contrasted two groups of students at the "top ten party school" University of Wisconsin: fancy-dress-clad drunken party animals (she even showed us a literal falling-down-drunk on State Street) and worshippers at Campus Crusade for Christ. Jesus is apparently on the march against the demon drink. Cobiella showed us a new Christian-only dorm being built by Presbyterians with an underground tunnel to the next-door church so co-eds can pray in their pajamas.


WREATHS Viral online networking by veterans is credited with publicizing the annual tribute to the military dead by Morrill Worcester, a maker of balsam wreaths. Each December for the past 14 years Worcester has traveled from Maine to Arlington Cemetery to decorate graves with wreaths. This year, word spread on WreathsAcrossAmerica.org and hundreds of volunteers arrived to help him.

The story was a no-brainer for a newscast closer, combining as it did Christmas sentiment with yellow-ribbon patriotism. NBC's Bob Faw's angle was to profile Worcester and his Maine neighbors. ABC's John Donvan (subscription required) chose the volunteers…and gave us the money shot when the dawn wreathlaying halted in the Virginia mist as a cortege carried the latest flag-draped coffin past the array of white headstones.


MENTIONED IN PASSING The network newscasts do not assign correspondents to all of the news of the day. If Tyndall Report readers come across videostreamed reports online of stories that were mentioned only in passing, post the link in comments for us to check out

Today's examples: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is sworn into office…Stock prices boom as the Dow Jones Industrial Average closes at a new record high…First Lady Laura Bush contradicts the Iraq Study Group in an MSNBC interview: the ISG says Iraqi violence is underreported; she says it is paid too much attention…Rock music mogul Ahmet Ertegun, aged 83, fell over at a Rolling Stones concert, lapsed into a coma and died.