CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM MARCH 29, 2007
The testimony of Kyle Sampson was the Story of the Day. It was the only development considered newsworthy enough to warrant coverage by a reporter from all three newscasts. Sampson is the onetime Chief of Staff of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions about the ouster of those eight federal prosecutors. CBS led with Sampson. NBC chose the continuing dispute between Iran and Britain over 15 captured seamen. ABC selected identity theft from customers of retailer TJ Maxx.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR MARCH 29, 2007: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailNBCJustice Department fires eight US AttorneysAtty Gnl Gonzales involved, ex-aide testifiesPete WilliamsWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSJustice Department fires eight US AttorneysAtty Gnl Gonzales involved, ex-aide testifiesJim AxelrodWhite House
video thumbnailCBSIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesResult of veto of funding bill is unpredictableSharyl AttkissonCapitol Hill
video thumbnailNBCIran military expansion feared in Persian GulfUN Security Council concern over British sailorsJim MacedaLondon
video thumbnailABCBank credit card database invaded by hackersRetailer TJ Maxx' 45m cards identity theftBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailNBCWar on Drugs: methamphetamine abuse, addictionProduction of potent Ice brand shifts to MexicoMark PotterTennessee
video thumbnailABCCollege tuition costs escalateSpending on faculty, maintenance, amenities, aidBetsy StarkConnecticut
video thumbnailNBCBreast cancer coverageNBC News reporter recalls year of chemotherapyAnne ThompsonNew York
video thumbnailABC
sub req
WWII: Tuskegee Airmen broke racial barriersHonored in Congressional Gold Medal ceremoniesCharles GibsonNew York
video thumbnailCBSInside-the-Beltway press corps holds annual partySwaps jokes with President Bush, aide Karl RoveKatie CouricNew York
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
SAMPSON AGONISTES The testimony of Kyle Sampson was the Story of the Day. It was the only development considered newsworthy enough to warrant coverage by a reporter from all three newscasts. Sampson is the onetime Chief of Staff of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions about the ouster of those eight federal prosecutors. CBS led with Sampson. NBC chose the continuing dispute between Iran and Britain over 15 captured seamen. ABC selected identity theft from customers of retailer TJ Maxx.

Even though the hearings were on Capitol Hill, none of the networks assigned its Congressional correspondent to Sampson's questioning. NBC and ABC used their men on the Justice Department beat. ABC's Pierre Thomas pointed out that when Sampson testified that Gonzales decided to fire those US Attorneys he "flatly contradicted his boss." However, Thomas added, Sampson also contradicted Democratic suspicions that the prosecutors were fired because they "targeted Republicans and were dragging their feet on investigating Democratic politicians." NBC's Pete Williams, too, noted Sampson's repeated insistence that "none of the prosecutors was forced out for improper reasons." At one White House meeting Sampson recommended that Patrick Fitzgerald be fired, the US Attorney who prosecuted Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide Lewis Libby: "They just looked at me. I immediately regretted it. I withdrew it at the time. I regret it now."

CBS had Jim Axelrod at the White House quote an official statement: "The President is confident the Attorney General can overcome these concerns." Mused Axelrod about George Bush: "He certainly seems dug in." CBS' Sunday morning anchor Bob Schieffer of Face the Nation offered political analysis of the fallout. Gonzales is "in a terrible position," Schieffer observed. He has just three options available: he did not know what was going on in his own department; he did not want to know what was going on in his own department; he knew what was going on but chose not to be truthful about it. "Not good."


STRINGS OR NO STRINGS The political analysis on ABC turned to that other clash between Congress and White House. George Stephanopoulos, anchor of Sunday morning's This Week tried to read the tea leaves about the conditions under which the Iraq War would be funded. The President does not have the votes to support his insistence that no strings be attached to the spending bill. The Democrats in Congress do not have the votes to override his veto of a bill with those troops-out strings attached. Stephanopoulos stated that "no one knows" what will happen. "This is one of the highest-stakes confrontations since the government shutdown in 1995." Just one thing is certain, he double-negatived: both sides will "never allow no money to get to the troops." NBC mentioned the conundrum in passing. CBS assigned Sharyl Attkisson on Capitol Hill to read the body language between President and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The pair appeared together at a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda and talked for several minutes on stage, where no one could eavesdrop: "It proved to be a challenge to lipreaders."


NO MORE THAN GRAVE CONCERN NBC led with a London update from Jim Maceda on the continuing captivity of Britons in Iran. The UN Security Council voted to register "grave concern" over Iran's decision not to release the 15. It turns out that the phrase does not amount to much, diplomatically speaking. Britain wanted stronger language but that was "watered down" after objections by Russia and China. ABC mentioned the Security Council vote only in passing. On CBS, David Martin's spook sources told him that there is "chaos in Teheran about what to do with the hostages." The sailors and marines are not being held captive by the government proper but by the militant Revolutionary Guard--"and that is bad news."

The Revolutionary Guard released videotape of its capture of the Britons on Friday. The video served as a cautionary lesson in the dangers of relying on computer animation to depict events. CBS' graphics department got carried away, imagining armored Iranian gunships towering over helpless British sailors for Allen Pizzey's Friday narration. The actual video revealed mere speedboats with outboard motors.


RUNNING THE NUMBERS Sloppy database management at the parent company for TJ Maxx inspired ABC's lead. Brian Ross reported that computer hackers had obtained 45m pieces of credit and debit card account information over an 18-month period. NBC's Tom Costello also covered TJ Maxx' snafu: "It is not all bad news," he reassured us, relaying the company's assurance that PINs were not compromised, even as he profiled one customer with 100 unauthorized transactions on his debit card.

Ross' worry was that these numbers had been sold on the black market and used for identity theft. He quoted official advice: "Assume you are at risk if you have used your credit card at one of those stores or given your personal information to return merchandise." However he cited only a single example of criminal purchases being charged on those millions of cards: a gang of six has been arrested after suspicious purchases at a Wal-Mart in Florida. So it was hard to tell whether Ross' report constituted a judicious warning of potential vulnerability…or scare tactics.


SECOND HAND SPEED For NBC's In Depth report, Mark Potter told us about the unintended consequence of the successful ban on over-the-counter sales of the ingredients for homemade methamphetamine production. Laboratories have gone abroad and are producing a more addictive brand--nicknamed Ice--in industrial-strength facilities. China is exporting ingredients in bulk to illicit manufacturing plants in Mexico. Mexican labs, in turn, are distributing Ice through channels in Atlanta, Houston, El Paso, Phoenix and San Diego.

Unfortunately Potter was unable to provide much first hand reporting on this story. He did not describe the difference in the high offered by Ice as it damages brain cells. He did not travel to Guadalajara to investigate those mass production labs. And much of the videotape of domestic meth distribution across the southern tier of states was not shot by NBC--it was provided by the public relations department of the Drug Enforcement Agency.


ENOUGH ABOUT ME There has been a recent rash of first person reporting on the network news--not a problem as an occasional flavor, yet not a habit to overindulge in. Last week, NBC's Richard Engel and CBS' stable of war correspondents offered anecdotes of Iraq coverage. ABC has used the brain-damaged Bob Woodruff to report on the brain injuries of combat veterans. Yesterday, CBS' Sandra Hughes illustrated the ravages of pancreatic cancer by profiling her own news producer Dianne Ronnau.

Now two more examples. NBC's coverage of breast cancer continued with Anne Thompson's unapologetic first-person account of her past "year of living dangerously" with chemotherapy. Illustrated by movie clips from Broadcast News and Catch Me If You Can, she shared tales of the support of her family, her selection of wigs, morale boosts from work--and how "horrible" it was, not to have her scalp hair fall out, but her eyebrows and eyelashes too.

ABC's Betsy Stark revealed that her daughter is a student at a pricey private college. The $45,000-per-year tuition and board Stark pays is "$1,000 shy of what an average American household earns in a year." So she reported in the first person from Connecticut College in New London about why tuition at elite schools costs so much. It turns out that her personal back story was not necessary. Her Closer Look would have been just as informative in the third person. A low teacher-student ratio makes faculty expensive. Keeping a campus operating means pricey upkeep and maintenance. Contemporary students demand luxury sports and leisure amenities. And lastly, "as stratospheric tuitions go further out of reach," many students need financial aid, so tuition has to be raised to pay for that.


FLIGHTS OF FANCY There were a couple of formal events inside-the-Beltway--one solemn, one frivolous--that inspired the narration of the anchors back in New York. The solemn one was that ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda. ABC's Charles Gibson (subscription required) paid tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, the "all-volunteer, all-black" WWII fighter pilots, belatedly receiving the Congressional Gold Medal: "They served in a segregated military, defending a segregated America." CBS' Katie Couric narrated the frivolity at the black-tie Radio & TV Correspondents dinner where President Bush offered self-deprecating stand-up comedy and his political operative Karl Rove tried to "bust a move" to a satirical rap song. Couric called Rove's hip-hop dance step "a jaw-dropping performance."


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 lone example was the continuing rash of suicide bomb attacks on markets in Iraq, killing more than 100.