CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM DECEMBER 18, 2006
A pair of trivial stories intruded on serious business at the Pentagon. An on-court brawl in the NBA and a mountaineering adventure in Oregon overshadowed the swearing-in ceremonies for Robert Gates, the new Secretary of Defense. CBS and NBC both led with the story of the lost trio of climbers on Mount Hood: the death of one in a snow cave and the feared loss of the other two down a lethal cliff face qualified as the Story of the Day.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR DECEMBER 18, 2006: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailNBCMount Hood climbing trio trapped by blizzardBody found in snow cave, two still missingKerry SandersOregon
video thumbnailABC
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Iraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesPentagon quarterly report finds worsening crisisJonathan KarlPentagon
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesPentagon quarterly report finds worsening crisisJim MiklaszewskiPentagon
video thumbnailCBSIran military expansion feared in Persian GulfUSNavy adds second aircraft carrier to regionDavid MartinPentagon
video thumbnailABCViolent crime rate increases: FBI statisticsMore armed robbery reported in mid-sized citiesPierre ThomasWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCProstitute murder spree in eastern England: five deadSelf-confessed friend and client arrestedMichelle KosinskiEngland
video thumbnailCBSPolice: Washington DC appoints female top copChief Cathy Lanier worked up through ranksBob OrrWashington DC
video thumbnailABCNBA players' on-court violence punishedSuspensions, fines after Knicks-Nuggets fightJeremy SchaapNew York
video thumbnailABCPublic school teachers merit pay pilot programHouston offers bonuses based on students' scoresGigi StoneHouston
video thumbnailNBCConsumer lending abuses: usurious rates of interestTax preparers offer exorbitant holiday loansKevin CorkeWashington DC
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
HOPE FADES ON MOUNT HOOD A pair of trivial stories intruded on serious business at the Pentagon. An on-court brawl in the NBA and a mountaineering adventure in Oregon overshadowed the swearing-in ceremonies for Robert Gates, the new Secretary of Defense. CBS and NBC both led with the story of the lost trio of climbers on Mount Hood: the death of one in a snow cave and the feared loss of the other two down a lethal cliff face qualified as the Story of the Day.

NBC covered the climbers' plight most heavily: Kerry Sanders led with Kelly James' death some 300 feet below the summit and the as yet futile search for Brian Hall and Jerry Cooke, showing stunning footage of helicopter searches along snow-packed ridges. They are thought to have fallen into The Gullies "where 13 other mountaineers have died in the last 40 years."

Peter Alexander (at the tail of the Sanders videostream) followed up with survival tips for those of us contemplating a December mountain climb. CBS' Jerry Bowen had already shown us how snow caves work last Friday.


STARTING GATES The three Pentagon correspondents took three different angles on Gates' arrival. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski started with the "low-key" swearing-in ceremonies, "typical of the man himself." Declared the new secretary: "Failure in Iraq at this juncture would be a calamity." In a hat tip to Face the Nation on CBS, Miklaszewski quoted Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as opposing any reinforcement of US troops in Iraq.

ABC made Jonathan Karl's coverage (subscription required) its lead: he took the angle of the Pentagon's quarterly progress report on the deteriorating violence in Iraq. The most lethal enemy force has now changed: it is no longer the Sunni insurgency; it is now Shiite militias. "Gates inherits a mess."

For CBS, David Martin led with regional news: to counter Iran's military expansion, the USNavy plans to dispatch a second aircraft carrier to patrol the Persian Gulf. The build-up is planned "to discourage its leaders from spreading Shiite revolution."


LITANY It was a heavy day for crime coverage. ABC's Pierre Thomas covered the latest depressing development. Violent crime continued to get worse during the first half of 2006, according to FBI statistics. Armed robberies are "surging at an extraordinary pace." Thomas recited a litany of causes: gangs in mid-sized cities, recidivism among recently released ex-cons, heavily-armed teenagers and federal resources diverted to Homeland Security.

Factors he did not mention included the depletion of police forces by National Guard call-ups, erosion of gun-control laws, or crime related to methamphetamines or other narcotics.

It is always hard to tell whether unmentioned factors are glossed over because they are irrelevant or because of an oversight. If Tyndall Report readers come across other reporting on factors behind the rise in violent crime, post a link in the comments for us to check out.


TOUGH The networks covered two other crime stories. The first was an arrest in the murder spree in eastern England in which five prostitutes were killed. The development made for a dynamic story because the suspect, Tom Stephens, was a self-confessed friend and client of the drug-addicted sex workers and had granted a BBC radio interview about them while he was still a free man. NBC's Michelle Kosinski showed us Stephens' myspace.com page and played clips both from Stephens--"he claimed he had won the trust of these slain women"--and also from one prostitute he befriended who is still alive: "He was a gentle type, gentle and caring."

CBS had Mark Strassmann cover the FBI's violence statistics and Mark Phillips on the prostitute murders, but posted no link to either brief report. CBS also assigned Bob Orr to a closing profile of Cathy Lanier, former teenage single mother, one-time high-school dropout, up-from-the-ranks beat cop, double masters-degree graduate, the 39-year-old newly appointed Chief of Police of Washington DC. "If you were a guy, I would ask you if you were a tough guy. Are you a tough woman?" "My two brothers would say I am."


GARBAGE TIME It is not clear why the punch-up in the final minutes of a basketball game on Saturday was so newsworthy. The NBA cracked down hard on the teams, the New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets, and the offending players, suspending seven of them.

ABC, the network that owns the TV rights to broadcast NBA games, assigned Jeremy Schaap from its sibling network, ESPN, to diagram the brawl. He fingered Knicks' coach Isiah Thomas, "once the star of the league's nastiest team, the Detroit Pistons of the 1980s," for warning the opposition not to run up the score against his badly-beaten team. Schaap implied that he instructed his players to foul the Nuggets flagrantly. Thomas escaped punishment from the league after the incident, "to the dismay of many observers," as Schaap put it.


FOLLOWING UP News stories left over from last week inspired a pair of background features. The declining diagnosis rate of breast cancer led CBS' in-house physician Jon LaPook to delve into the concomitant improvement of survival post-diagnosis. His Eye on Medicine profiled a trio of patients, each with a different type of tumor, each undergoing a different treatment regime.

The Christmas bonuses lavished on Wall Street bankers last week provided the tenuous hook for A Closer Look into the way public school teachers are paid in Houston. ABC's Gigi Stone examined a program whereby teachers can earn an extra $3,000 each year if their students perform better in standardized tests.


USURY Also in the Christmas spirit, NBC's In Depth report studied so-called Holiday Loans offered by tax preparation businesses to help with the Christmas shopping in anticipation of an income tax refund after the New Year. Kevin Corke found an audio conference call in which Mark Ernst, CEO of H&R Block, denounced the loans as "really not a good value for consumers."

But when one of Block's competitors offered the loans, Block got into the business too. Block bragged that its rates were not nearly as usurious as those at Jackson Hewitt--Block charges only 36% annual interest.


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: six-nation diplomacy on North Korea's nuclear weapons program gets under way…last week's power outages in the Pacific NW prompted residents to resort to unsafe indoor heat, causing killer carbon monoxide…solar-panel-repair spacewalks continue at the International Space Station…an obituary for Joseph Barbera, television animator to the babyboom, dead at age 95