Finally the networks' nightly newscast have discovered the brewing scandal at the Justice Department. When Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had eight US Attorneys fired in the middle of their terms, was he in cahoots with political operatives at the White House? Last week, only CBS assigned a correspondent to cover Senate hearings on the axed prosecutors. Now all three networks led with the link between the White House and the Justice Department making it the Story of the Day.    
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video thumbnailCBSJustice Department fires eight US AttorneysClose cooperation with White House revealedJim AxelrodWhite House
video thumbnailABC
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Justice Department fires eight US AttorneysClose cooperation with White House revealedPierre ThomasWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSJustice Department fires eight US AttorneysAttorney General role is to resist politicsBob OrrWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCPresident Bush on five-nation tour of Latin AmericaEnds trip in Mexico with talks on border policyKelly O'DonnellMexico
video thumbnailCBSMilitary gays: don't-ask-don't-tell policyJCS Chairman Pace calls homosexual acts immoralDavid MartinPentagon
video thumbnailABCIraq: weapons of mass destruction investigationCIA bio-labs informant was known fabricatorBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailCBSReal estate home mortgage foreclosures increaseFinance firms for sub-prime lenders go brokeAnthony MasonNew York
video thumbnailNBCVideostreams shared online in viral networksGoogle sued by Viacom for YouTube video piracyAnne ThompsonNew York
video thumbnailNBCBaseball spring trainingRed Sox' Japanese pitcher has mystery gyroballKerry SandersFlorida
video thumbnailABC
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Iditarod dog sled race in AlaskaFinishing line in Nome waits for leading teamTerry MoranAlaska
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER Finally the networks' nightly newscast have discovered the brewing scandal at the Justice Department. When Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had eight US Attorneys fired in the middle of their terms, was he in cahoots with political operatives at the White House? Last week, only CBS assigned a correspondent to cover Senate hearings on the axed prosecutors. Now all three networks led with the link between the White House and the Justice Department making it the Story of the Day.

CBS and NBC both led with the White House angle as e-mails between chief counsel Harriet Miers, who has since resigned, and Gonzales' Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson, who has now resigned, revealed a discussion about replacing every single one of the nation's 93 US Attorneys at the start of George Bush's second term. That list was eventually whittled down to eight. CBS' Jim Axelrod quoted one exchange about circulating the list of "weak" prosecutors "to Karl's shop" referring to White House operative Rove. That is significant, NBC's David Gregory explained, because "the White House role was not disclosed to Congress by Justice Department officials."

ABC led with Pierre Thomas (subscription required) from the Justice Department. He quoted Gonzales as testifying that the prosecutors were "fired due to poor performance" despite the fact that most received positive ratings in their final job evaluations. CBS' justice correspondent Bob Orr explained that one of the key duties of the Attorney General is to insulate his prosecutors: "They are supposed to operate beyond the reach of politics." Gonzales conceded fault in the passive voice--"I acknowledge that mistakes were made here"--yet refused to resign. NBC did not assign Pete Williams, its justice correspondent, to a follow-up angle.

NBC and ABC both did follow-up with political analysis. George Stephanopoulos, anchor of ABC's This Week found it "striking how little support the Attorney General has among Republican senators on Capitol Hill." Tim Russert, of NBC's Meet the Pressused the same words, called it "quite striking" that Congressional criticism of Gonzales is bipartisan.

By the way, CBS' Katie Couric offered this behind the scenes snippet: Axelrod's brother Peter is a prosecutor who worked for one of the fired US Attorneys. The brothers "have an agreement never to talk to one another about their work."

SOUTH OF THE BORDER The President himself was in Merida for the Mexican leg of his lightly-covered five-nation tour of Latin America. NBC was the only network to have a reporter file on Bush's talks with President Felipe Calderon, but even that was a brief stand-up. Kelly O'Donnell told substitute anchor Campbell Brown that immigration topped the agenda over education, employment, narcotics and security: the 700-mile border fence is "very unpopular here. President Calderon has even compared it with the Berlin Wall."

With this news hook, CBS' Byron Pitts updated us on the lawsuit against the Poconos town of Hazelton Pa for imposing a municipal crackdown on those local landlords and employers who rent to immigrant tenants or hire immigrant workers without legal papers. The law has already encouraged some Latino families to move out of town, Pitts reported. If the Hazelton law stands, 30 towns nationwide stand ready to take over immigration enforcement from federal authorities, with a further 70 debating it.

For NBC's In Depth, Don Teague went to the border itself at Eagle Pass Tex and came to the same conclusion that CBS' Kelly Cobiella drew two weeks ago: jailing clandestine border crossers for as little as two weeks on misdemeanor charges instead of immediate deportation is enough of a deterrent to reduce the volume of illegal entry by 37% along one 200-mile sector of the Rio Grande. Border Patrol agents told Teague they were "putting teeth behind what immigrants once considered little more than a game.

SEX TALK Gen Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, managed to change the subject from the crisis in military healthcare--to sex. In an on the record interview with the Chicago Tribune, Pace volunteered that he thought that homosexual acts are immoral, as adultery is. All three network Pentagon correspondents explained why the general is now in hot water. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski quoted Pace's boss, Defense Secretary Robert Gates: "Personal opinion really does not have a place" at the Pentagon. CBS' David Martin pointed out that Perfect Pete should not have let his beliefs "out of the closet" since the official military prohibition on open gays in uniform is based on worries about morale rather than disapproval of morals. Martin shared an unofficial estimate that there are 65,000 homosexuals currently serving, while neither asking nor telling. ABC's Jonathan Karl added that even the current Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, which has led to the dismissal of 11,000 troops, has plenty of Democratic critics: they worry that "a thinly-stretched military cannot afford to lose so many people."

STORYTELLING For the second day this week, news from Iraq was hard to find on the nightly news. CBS sent Richard Schlesinger to Norwich University, a military college in Vermont. Students have completed a movie documentary on the bereaved kinfolk of the 25 soldiers from the state who have died in Iraq. Schlesinger reviewed Vermont Fallen: he called it "nothing fancy--just people young and old talking from the bottom of their broken hearts." Schlesinger asked one filmmaker cadet who is due to go off to war when he graduates about lessons learned. What will he tell his worried parents? "Just that I love them."

Brian Ross Investigates on ABC dug into four-year-old failings in espionage. Ross told the story of Curveball, "the supposed insider who revealed Saddam Hussein's biological weapons labs" to German intelligence, which relayed those revelations to the CIA, where they became the "centerpiece of the case" made by Secretary of State Colin Powell when he, erroneously, assured the UN Security Council that Iraq operated such a mobile arsenal. Former CIA spy Tyler Drumheller told Ross that he warned John McLaughlin, then the CIA's second-in-command, not to trust Curveball. Listen to McLaughlin's non-denial denial: Drumheller "never came into my office, sat down, looked me in the eye, and made a case that Curveball was a fabricator."

BET THE HOUSE ON IT A rocky day on Wall Street--the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped almost 250 points--was mentioned in passing by all three networks before they turned to the problems of the real estate housing market. ABC's David Muir counted 900,000 homes in foreclosure nationwide and now several mortgage lenders, too, are on the brink of bankruptcy, exposing pension funds and retirement accounts to risk. Last year, delinquent home payments were confined to the so-called subprime sector--lower income borrowers with poor credit ratings--but now, CBS' Anthony Mason warned, "many borrowers are starting to fall behind in the better loan categories." It may take three full years for the real estate market to absorb these shocks.

NBC's substitute anchor Brown inquired of CNBC's Maria Bartiromo whether housing market woes would spread: "We will see the economy slow down," Bartiromo assured us. Then she offered the half-full version, noting that consumer confidence remains strong. "I think that has to do with the very strong employment market."

PIRATES OR PROMOTERS? The major media story of the day was not mentioned by CBS, even though Viacom, its former parent corporation, was one of the players. ABC mentioned it in passing while NBC assigned a reporter to Viacom's lawsuit against Google, the owner of YouTube for streaming pirated clips from VH1, MTV and Comedy Central's news satire shows The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

NBC's Anne Thompson argued that Viacom and YouTube are not natural enemies. She pointed out that her network, NBC Universal, "has a deal with YouTube" to allow clips to promote its shows on the Website while WNBC-TV's Sree Sreenivasan argued that YouTube's menu of offerings is "enhanced" by old media content. "The crux of the battle between old and new media," Thompson told us, is "how to give consumers what they want in the form they want--and still make money." That last part about the money appears to be the rub.

FLORIDA AND ALASKA Both ABC and NBC picked sports themes for their closing features. NBC chose the arrival of spring, sending Kerry Sanders to the Boston Red Sox' camp in Florida to check into the hype over the gyroball. It is a Japanese-invented pitch that may or may not be thrown by Daesuke Matsuzaka, "Dice-K" as the adoring Red Sox Nation calls its new phenom. Sanders even had NBC's computer graphics department depict the supposed late breaking motion that could be a bluff or could be the next big thing. Whatever, Dice-K memorabilia is flying off the shelves as Boston bars pour Dice-Ktinis.

ABC chose the departure of winter, dispatching Terry Moran (subscription required) to Nome on the shores of the Bering Sea, where the Iditarod dog sled race was about to end. "The last great race on Earth," Moran called it as he narrated stupendous wilderness videotape. How difficult is the Iditarod? Over the past 35 years more people have climbed Mount Everest than have completed the 1,000-mile mushing.

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, as mentioned, included weak prices on Wall Street and two pieces of must-see video: the Stardust Hotel was demolished on the Las Vegas Strip in one of those staged implosions…and in Japan, attempts to rescue a stranded sperm whale backfired as the distressed beast turned on the humans trying to help it, killing one fisherman.