A very light day of news contained only one story that was newsworthy enough to warrant coverage on all three nightly newscasts. It was the next step in the continuing fallout from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center: the hospital's former commander was ousted from his job as Surgeon General of the Army. CBS led with Gen Kevin Kiley's departure. ABC and NBC led with the rising price of gasoline.    
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailCBSMilitary combat casualties suffer disabilitiesArmy Sgn Gnl ousted, ex-head at DC's Reed CenterDavid MartinPentagon
video thumbnailNBCMilitary personnel suffer mental health problemsVA finds high Post Traumatic Stress incidenceRobert BazellNew York
video thumbnailCBSMilitary combat casualties suffer disabilitiesBrain injured soldiers qualify for private careArmen KeteyianChicago
video thumbnailABC
sub req
Iraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesGen David Petraeus outlines difficulty of taskTerry McCarthyBaghdad
video thumbnailABCOil, natural gas, gasoline pricesSeasonal switch of grades causes shortagesDean ReynoldsChicago
video thumbnailABC
sub req
Oil services business Halliburton under fireShifts headquarters from Houston to DubaiJohn CochranWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCMaple syrup season starts early in VermontTraditional family farm forced to innovateLisa DanielsVermont
video thumbnailNBC2008 Rudolph Giuliani campaignNeeds to shore up conservative base supportRon AllenNew York
video thumbnailCBS2008 Presidential General Election field overviewPossible Republican candidates wait in wingsGloria BorgerWashington DC
video thumbnailABC
sub req
Capitol Hill townhouse shared by politiciansQuartet of Democrats are untidy male roommatesJake TapperCapitol Hill
MORE REED BRASS OUSTED A very light day of news contained only one story that was newsworthy enough to warrant coverage on all three nightly newscasts. It was the next step in the continuing fallout from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center: the hospital's former commander was ousted from his job as Surgeon General of the Army. CBS led with Gen Kevin Kiley's departure. ABC and NBC led with the rising price of gasoline.

The medical plight of combat casualties on the homefront attracted more attention than the war itself. All three Pentagon correspondents covered Kiley's ouster. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski consulted his unnamed sources: "Kiley sealed his fate when he appeared to play down decrepit conditions" at the hospital's out-patient quarters. Defense Secretary Robert Gates "had Kiley in mind," CBS' David Martin remarked, "when he delivered a scathing public rebuke of the army." ABC did not file a full report: in a brief stand-up Jonathan Karl (no link) observed that the Walter Reed scandal had now forced out more high-ranking army officials than "even abu-Ghraib."

On NBC, Robert Bazell followed up with statistics on mentally ill combat veterans: almost one third of all Veterans Administration patients were diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or some other psychiatric problem. Bazell theorized that repeated attacks from roadside bombs, so-called Improvised Explosive Devices, are more likely to drive a soldier mad than the battles of previous wars.

PINCER MANEUVER Only ABC filed a story from Iraq, as Terry McCarthy (subscription required) obtained the sit-down with Gen David Petraeus that NBC's Brian Williams obtained last week when he anchored from Baghdad. McCarthy called the pressures on Petraeus "enormous," caught between the Pentagon, which wants to start pulling out troops this fall, and his own generals, who want to maintain current troop levels for at least another year.

THE PRIZE There was not much to the gasoline story that qualified it for a lead item on ABC and NBC: the national average price of a gallon is now over $2.50. CBS' John Blackstone already filed his report on high California prices last Friday. NBC's Tom Costello recited a list of high-priced localities for substitute anchor Campbell Brown and added that many Gulf Coast refineries have still not recovered from Hurricane Katrina. On ABC, Dean Reynolds explained that the refinery switch from winter to summer grades of gasoline always causes shortages at this time of year.

The day's interesting oil story was filed by ABC's John Cochran (subscription required). Houston-based Halliburton, "the biggest private contractor in Iraq" will move its corporate headquarters from Texas to Dubai in the Persian Gulf. Cochran shot down speculation that Halliburton, which receives $10.5bn in government contracts of which $2.7bn may have been overbilled, planned to avoid paying federal taxes. On paper, the company would still be US-registered.

HEATING UP NBC and ABC both touched on the consequences of global warming climate change. Miquel Marquez offered gloom and doom for ABC's A Closer Look as a forest fire sprang up in southern California. Marquez worried that a prolonged western drought has turned the region's fall fire season into a year-round event. NBC's Lisa Daniels took a lighter, human interest approach. She showed us a crusty Vermonter and his maple trees, forced to change his family's ways after eight generations in the syrup business. In the old days "it was a sure thing, tapping begins on the first Tuesday in March." Now milder winters have the sap rising earlier, generating free publicity for Montpelier's Morse Farms.

NON-ANNOUNCEMENT The news of the day on the campaign trail was the announcement by Republican Chuck Hagel that he is not yet announcing his candidacy. CBS' Jim Axelrod told us about his network's poll results that show Rudolph Giuliani's lead over John McCain shrink in just one month from 50%-v-29% among Republicans to 43%-v-34%. NBC's Ron Allen looked at Giuliani's efforts, "even though he is for abortion rights, gun control and gay rights" to make himself more attractive to the party's conservative base, while videotape of a 1989 speech surfaced in which Giuliani advocated for government funding for poor women's abortions. Giuliani's explanation is that "9/11 changed everything," NBC's in-house political analyst Chuck Todd told Allen.

Democrats are happier (57% satisfied) with their eight 2008 options than Republicans are (40%) with the ten in their field, the CBS poll found. NBC's Tim Russert (at the tail of the Allen videostream) agreed: "There are a lot of Republicans who are dissatisfied and open to more people." However "the entry fee is money" and the longer possible candidates wait in the wings the harder fundraising becomes.

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS ABC did not cover the campaign trail, but did mine for political humor for its closing feature. Jake Tapper (subscription required) managed to get an invitation to the Capitol Hill townhouse-cum-dormitory shared by four lawmakers--a pair of senators, Richard Durbin and Chuck Schumer, and a pair of representatives, Bill Delahunt and landlord George Miller--"a dilapidated, dingy, Democratic dump." Tapper showed us the mousetrap that killed a rat, a jar of aging olives in the refrigerator and Schumer's unmade bed as the solons joked over beer and pizza.

KATIE COURIC’S NEWSCAST I am frequently asked to describe the tone and story selection of the CBS Evening News in the six months since Couric became anchor. Is it softer? More like a magazine program than a newscast? Does it carry the traces of Couric's morning pedigree?

Couric deploys a raft of journalistic techniques that create a more anecdotal, more personal tone, less concerned with the abstractions of public policy and the wide view. None of these techniques are innovations. All are used by ABC and NBC, but more sparingly. CBS sets itself apart by its frequency. Today's newscast offered a trio of striking examples of the CBS style:

1.An anecdote stands for a social phenomenon: Armen Keteyian conveyed the plight of active duty military suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury by following the story of a single soldier, Sgt Eric Edmundson. His father "made hundreds of calls and wrote thousands of e-mails" to persuade the army not to discharge him to veterans' care so that he could qualify for superior private healthcare at a rehabilitation clinic in Chicago, which will now treat 100 of his comrades too.

2.Pop culture references illustrate hard news events: Gloria Borger's round-up of potential candidates waiting in the wings to enter Campaign 2008 characterized the contest with a clip from CBS' own reality show The Amazing Race; she anticipated the entry of actor and former senator Fred Thompson by showing a clip from NBC's Law & Order; she showed the YouTube clip of Giuliani in drag with real estate mogul Donald Trump; and she added that Al Gore might get in the race by identifying him as "Oscar winner and former Vice President."

3.The responsibility of community leaders to be role models: Couric's experience in using her own celebrity in the cause of public health--advocating universal colonoscopies--seems to inform the worldview of The American Spirit series. It isolates a general social problem--today's example is the high cancer death rate suffered by the uninsured poor--and profiles an admirable individual's leadership and sacrifice in response. Couric presented oncologist Harold Freeman, who gave up a prestigious career at Sloan Kettering to run the not-for-profit Patient Navigation Program in Harlem NY, helped by funds from Ralph Lauren.

Peppered throughout the newscast Couric found opportunities to abandon the norms of journalistic objectivity to become an emotional partisan for participants in the stories. She found it "very moving" to see the tearful father of the brain injured soldier; she nodded in agreement with the oncologist when he insisted on a "basic level of care for all people, irrespective of their ability to pay;" and when Sharyn Alfonsi filed a story illustrated by movie clips from Almost Famous and The Breakfast Club about the neurology of adolescents, Couric shared a mother's exasperation--"I hear ya!"--with the pouty mood swings of teenage girls.

These examples demonstrate that soft-v-hard is not the interesting question when trying to characterize Couric's approach to the news. More relevant dimensions include personal-v-societal, anecdotal-v-abstract, emotional-v-dispassionate, engagement-v-context, inspiration-v-irony. In each pairing Couric's style favors the former over the latter.

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 examples: President George Bush continues his Latin American tour with a stop in Guatemala…A freight train derails in upstate New York causing a propane fire…a backhoe accidentally ruptures a natural gas pipeline in Texas…former President George Bush suffered from dehydration while playing golf in the desert heat.