The three network newscasts followed identical formulas to preview the State of the Union address by President George Bush. All three anchors were sent to Washington. All three networks led with their White House correspondent highlighting Bush's domestic priorities. All three followed with their Sunday morning anchors' skepticism about an enthusiastic Democratic response.    
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video thumbnailABCState of the Union address by President BushKey proposals on energy, healthcare, IraqMartha RaddatzWhite House
video thumbnailNBCState of the Union address by President BushKey proposals on energy, healthcare, IraqDavid GregoryWhite House
video thumbnailCBSIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesGen Petraeus previews new role for Senate panelDavid MartinPentagon
video thumbnailABC
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Iraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesUSArmy patrol in Baghdad survives IED attackChris CuomoBaghdad
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesCombat surgery unit operates in Green ZoneRobert BazellBaghdad
video thumbnailNBCCIA undercover agent's name leaked: perjury trialOpening statements depict White House schemingKelly O'DonnellWashington DC
video thumbnailABCBush Presidential Library to be located in DallasSome opposition on Southern Methodist campusMike von FremdDallas
video thumbnailCBSMovie industry in China specializes in costume epicsMassive sets built in southern city of HengdianBarry PetersenChina
video thumbnailCBSPrescription drug costs escalateConsumer Reports offers money saving WebsiteWyatt AndrewsFlorida
STATE OF THE UNION LOCKSTEP The three network newscasts followed identical formulas to preview the State of the Union address by President George Bush. All three anchors were sent to Washington. All three networks led with their White House correspondent highlighting Bush's domestic priorities. All three followed with their Sunday morning anchors' skepticism about an enthusiastic Democratic response.

NBC's David Gregory called Bush's domestic energy and healthcare agenda "an attempt to widen the lens" and ABC's Martha Raddatz quoted the spin from White House aides that they are "bold and refreshing ideas." But all three correspondents put them in context. For example, CBS' Jim Axelrod (no link) shrugged: "With his Iraq policy so unpopular, will anybody really be listening to what he wants to do here at home?"

The Sunday morning anchors found it hard to be optimistic for the President. "It is Iraq," stated NBC's Tim Russert flatly. CBS' Bob Schieffer (no link) characterized Bush as "resigned" to the fact that his build-up plan will be opposed in a Congressional resolution. ABC's George Stephanopoulos offered one silver lining: when Bush proposes ethanol as an energy alternative to gasoline, he will get plenty of support from the corn-growing states of the midwest.

LIBERATOR PETRAEUS The Senate Armed Service Committee met to hear Gen David Petraeus preview his new command of US troops in Baghdad. Both CBS and NBC had their Pentagon correspondent cover the hearings. Petraeus is the author of the army's manual for how to conduct a counterinsurgency. It calculates that a city the size of Baghdad requires patrols by 120,000 troops, not the combined 85,000, US and Iraqi, that Petraeus will be commanding. "Even by his own numbers the current plan comes up short," NBC's Jim Miklaszewski concluded. CBS' David Martin saw his mission as another liberation of Iraq: the first was from Saddam Hussein's rule, the second "from the sectarian violence that has engulfed Baghdad…His chances of success are anything but certain."

BLOOD AND GUTS The US military on the ground in Baghdad received high marks from both NBC and ABC. Good Morning America anchor Chris Cuomo (subscription required) found adventure while traveling with a patrol in the Ghazaliya neighborhood. His HumVee was hit by a boobytrap bomb planted under a pair of roadside corpses. "Glass showers down…this is not panic…the gunner spits out glass but never misses a beat." No one was injured. "Welcome to Baghdad!" Cuomo shook the captain's hand in thanks.

NBC's medical reporter Robert Bazell traveled to Baghdad's Green Zone to watch a Combat Support Hospital in action. He was on the scene as nine wounded soldiers from a USArmy Stryker brigade were medevaced in after a grenade attack and observed two simultaneous surgeries in a single blood-drenched theater. "I have been to hospitals throughout the United States and I have never seen anything like the bravery of the wounded troops and the intensity and dedication of these men and women who are treating them."

NIGER ANNIVERSARY It was four years ago in the 2003 State of the Union speech that the President mentioned a Niger-Iraq uranium trade, which led to a contradiction by diplomat Joseph Wilson, which led to damage control by the White House, which led to the revelation that Wilson's wife Valerie Plame was a spy, which led to a leak investigation, which led to perjury charges against Lewis Libby, former Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Both ABC and NBC sent reporters to cover the trial's opening arguments. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell is preparing to cover her own boss, DC Bureau chief Russert, on the stand. The prosecutor is alleging that Libby lied when he said that Russert told him about Plame's undercover status and Russert will be called to deny such a conversation. ABC's Pierre Thomas summarized the prosecution case against a "White House campaign to discredit critics of the war in Iraq." The defense "lashed out at the White House" for making Libby the fall guy to protect Karl Rove, the President's political operative.

SECOND HERBERT HOOVER When Bush retires, his Presidential Library will be located at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The plan to add the Bush Policy Institute has run into some opposition on campus for fear that SMU will lose its reputation for academic independence and become identified with this administration's political ideology. Critics cited the Hoover Institution, a right-wing think tank founded by the retired Republican president at Stanford University, as an unwelcome precedent. ABC's Mike von Fremd took A Closer Look: SMU "should be so lucky" that its Institute could emulate Hoover, a foreign policy professor told him.

LIGHTS, ACTION The Academy Awards nominations attracted a routine report about winners and losers from Josh Mankiewicz--"blockbusters did poorly…instead first-timers were in Hollywood's spotlight"-- for NBC and a look at Hollywood's budding new rival from CBS' Barry Petersen. He traveled to the city of Hengdian in southern China where a dozen massive movie sets have been built to make such costume epics as the recently-completed Marco Polo miniseries. Its replica of the Imperial City is bigger than the real thing in Beijing. The magnificent sets make so much money as tourist attractions that the entrepreneur who built them allows production companies to film there for free.

REHAB Only last Thursday, CBS' Bob Orr--along with NBC's Tom Costello and ABC's Lisa Stark--was exposing Consumer Reports magazine's disgrace at having falsely labeled infant car seats as unsafe in crash tests. CBS' Wyatt Andrews offered rehabilitation swiftly. As part of the Prescription for Savings series, Andrews offered an endorsement for Consumer Reports' Best Buy Drugs Website. It uses Oregon Health and Science University research to check heavily-advertised pharmaceutical brands against cheaper generics and over-the-counter products in order to suggest cost savings without any loss of efficacy.

Andrews' examples of over-priced prescription brands included Lunesta and Nexium, both of which advertise heavily during the nightly newscasts.

This could be construed as an admirable example of editorial independence, being willing to bite the hand that pays the bills. But if CBS Evening News really had its audience's best interests at heart, why would it allow its newscast to be associated, even if only by juxtaposition to commercials, with products that Consumer Reports believes are bad buys? Wouldn't it just not sell time to those products in the first place?

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: State Farm insurance settles storm surge damage claims with Mississippi homeowners wiped out by Hurricane Katrina…commando forces continue their raids against suspected al-Qaeda cells in Somalia…a helicopter flown by Blackwater security contractors is shot down in Iraq…Howard Hunt, Bay of Pigs veteran and leading plumber in the Watergate burglary, dies, aged 88.