Results are in for the first informal contest of Campaign 2008, the so-called money primary. Every campaign is required to declare how much it raises quarter-by-quarter. So the fundraising data for the period that ended in March provides concrete facts to be reported as headline news. Each network led with the Story of the Day, the strength of Barack Obama in the Democratic horse race, virtually neck-and-neck with Hillary Rodham Clinton.    
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2008 Presidential race fundraising intensifiesBarack Obama's 1Q07 $25m rivals Hillary ClintonJake TapperIowa
video thumbnailNBC2008 Presidential race fundraising intensifiesBarack Obama's 1Q07 $25m rivals Hillary ClintonAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailCBS2008 Presidential race fundraising intensifiesJohn McCain lags among GOPers, Mitt Romney leadsBill PlanteWhite House
video thumbnailNBCIran military expansion feared in Persian GulfPresident Ahmadinejad releases British sailorsJim MacedaLondon
video thumbnailCBSCalifornia Moslem accused of turning terroristSentenced to 20 years, parents' leniency pleaJohn BlackstoneSan Francisco
video thumbnailCBSPrisons: juvenile detention abuses allegedTexas frees teens after violence, rape protestsByron PittsTexas
video thumbnailNBCObesity poses major public health hazardGrants offered to help children stay trimRehema EllisNew York
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Internet online commerce volume increasesNJ town goes eBay mad, highest per capita salesJohn BermanNew Jersey
video thumbnailABCComputer users' privacy invaded by spyware softwareRussian hackers steal brokerage account dataBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailNBCTV talent show American Idol fascinates fansOff key singer Sanjaya attracts surprise supportGeorge LewisLos Angeles
GAME ON AFTER MONEY PRIMARY Results are in for the first informal contest of Campaign 2008, the so-called money primary. Every campaign is required to declare how much it raises quarter-by-quarter. So the fundraising data for the period that ended in March provides concrete facts to be reported as headline news. Each network led with the Story of the Day, the strength of Barack Obama in the Democratic horse race, virtually neck-and-neck with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

This truly was horse race coverage. None of the comparisons between Rodham Clinton and Obama touched on differences in ideology or in policy priorities or in sociological or demographic appeals to various voting blocs. Instead CBS' Gloria Borger, for example, played the expectations game. She called Rodham Clinton a "fundraising superstar;" she quoted top HRC aide Terry McAuliffe downplaying Obama's success; she cited the candidate's husband as "the popular Networker-in-Chief."

Obama's $25m may actually represent a stronger showing than Rodham Clinton's $26m. First, it was raised from "100,000 individual donors," noted NBC's Andrea Mitchell, twice as many as Rodham Clinton's. Second, it can almost all be spent in the primary contest, ABC's Jake Tapper (subscription required) pointed out, as opposed to HRC's funds, much of which are earmarked for a general election campaign. Third, CBS' Borger added, Obama proved stronger in online fundraising by a margin of $6.9m to $4.2m.

NBC and ABC both offered political analysis of the Democratic field from their Sunday morning anchors. George Stephanopoulos of ABC's This Week observed that so much of Rodham Clinton's candidacy is "based on the idea that she is the establishment, inevitable candidate, the most electable one." If that image is pierced, voters might defect. Tim Russert (at the tail of the Mitchell videostream) of NBC's Meet the Press, too, declared that Rodham Clinton's "aura of inevitability" has now evaporated. "Obama has demonstrated to the Democratic Party that he is a force and he will stay in the primary game." Russert rehearsed the battle's buzzwords: "young," "fresh," "novel" against "experience," "tested."

Only CBS assigned a correspondent to cover the fundraising on the Republican side. Bill Plante outlined what John McCain now has to do after falling behind Mitt Romney: the onetime campaign finance reform leader has "no choice" but to call on the "movers and shakers who can raise $100,000 or $200,000 each" in order to compete in next February's near-national Super Tuesday primary. "The bottom line is still the same--money. This time spending could reach $1bn."

EASTER PARADE The day's other major event, covered by reporters at all three networks, was the ceremony held in Iran by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to pardon and release the 15 captive Royal Navy sailors and marines. It was a surprise Easter gift from the Islamic Republic to the people of Britain.

None of the networks had a correspondent in Teheran so all three filed from London. NBC's Jim Maceda called it a "bombshell" announcement after "what looked like a vintage press conference" and CBS' Elizabeth Palmer saw Ahmadinejad "basking in his role as liberator" as he "milked today's event for all it was worth." When Teheran claimed that London had promised not to enter its territorial waters, "Britain insists it gave nothing in exchange," ABC's Jim Sciutto (subscription required) stated. "Prime Minister Tony Blair conspicuously did not thank the Iranian government."

From the Pentagon, CBS' David Martin followed up by consulting experts on winners and losers from the affair. British naval operations received low marks for leaving its search party vulnerable, unprotected by helicopter cover, at the time of the initial arrest. Iran's diplomats received higher marks: allowing such an unexpected release may perhaps signal similar flexibility in negotiations over its nuclear program, Judith Yaphe, a former CIA analyst, suggested.

JOHNNY WALKER BLUE None of the networks had assigned a reporter to the military tribunal for the self-confessed Australian al-Qaeda aide David Hicks. So it was confusing when CBS' substitute anchor Russ Mitchell introduced a followup to the Hicks case, revisiting the incarceration of John Walker Lindh, the Californian Moslem found fighting in Afghanistan in 2001.

Hicks, who had been locked up by the USNavy at Guantanamo Bay for five years, pled guilty when he was finally brought before the tribunal. He received a sentence of time served plus a further nine months. This struck Walker Lindh's parents as lenient so they granted an exclusive interview to John Blackstone to plead for similar consideration for their son, who is facing 15 more years in maximum security federal prison, "not for terrorism, but for supplying services to the Taliban" as Blackstone pointed out.

CBS' legal analyst Andrew Cohen called Walker Lindh "a victim of timing" and implied that he would not be so severely sentenced in the current climate, which is less "intense" and "harsh." To remind us of the mood back then, Blackstone replayed a clip of President George Bush's pre-trial description of the then-20-year-old: "He is working with the enemy." After airing the parent's pleas, Blackstone commented that their likelihood for success is "a longshot."

UPDATE: at the conservative Brad Wilmouth (text link) argues that Blackstone's report exhibits liberal bias because it does not consider that Hicks' sentence was too light and it does not quote anyone unsympathetic to Walker Lindh (although the President could hardly be called a sympathizer). Whether the explanation is bias or some other flaw, it is certainly true that the networks did undercover the Hicks case and the circumstances of his sentencing.

IN LOCO PARENTIS CBS was also the only network to cover the decision by the Texas Youth Commission to release more than 1,000 inmates from its juvenile detention system after the expose of alleged "widespread physical and sexual abuse, neglect, mismanagement and a cover-up," as Byron Pitts put it. Pitts profiled Genger Galloway, the mother of a 19-year-old awaiting his return after four years inside. She showed records of her son's abuse: a broken nose and black eye. Galloway has become an activist for reform of the entire system: "If I, as a parent, took my child and locked him in a closet and I stripped him butt-naked and I pushed another inmate in there with him and let him rape him, they would put me in jail."

FAT CHANCE NBC and ABC both gave publicity to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It has set up a fund to disburse $500m to programs to roll back the fattening of the nation's children. NBC's Rehema Ellis cited CDC statistics that the average ten-year-old is now eleven pounds heavier than 40 years ago. The Foundation argues that spending money now will save the $14bn in annual healthcare costs that are incurred by diseases of childhood obesity. "The grant money is available to anyone with a good idea," ABC's Kate Snow offered, "to make schools healthier places, to limit the junk food available to kids, to encourage healthier exercise."

BID AND ASK ABC filed a couple of features illustrating the pros and cons of online finance. The pros were presented by John Berman (subscription required) in the form of free publicity for eBay, the Internet auction house. The flacks at eBay have calculated that a small town in New Jersey is the location with the highest per capita volume on its Website. So Berman visited bid-crazy Lumberton where fully half of the 12,000 population are members and the local postmaster complains that her parking lot "is full all day long and it is a constant line" of sellers shipping items to winning buyers.

The cons came from Brian Ross Investigates. He warned that computers in public spaces--"airports and hotel business centers"--can be infected with spyware that tracks keystroke patterns. Hackers compile account numbers and passwords to online stock brokerages and sell the data from Websites based in Russia. For example, for $350, Ross could gain control of six trading accounts worth $60,000 and sell off their assets. If such an account happens to be a federal 401(k), fund management refuses to reimburse government workers whose retirement savings are wiped out "because it does not have to legally."

SOUR NOTE The day's newscasts started with one electoral horse race. NBC closed with a horse race of a different color. George Lewis tried to account for the voting popularity of Sanjaya, the off-key big-haired Indian-American singer, on FOX's talent show American Idol. Lewis came up with four theories: ethnic-solidarity ballot stuffing by an automated call center back in India; the sabotage campaign by radio's Howard Stern to have a no-talent prevail; Sanjaya is genuinely popular with the rabidly enthusiastic preteen voting bloc; or, finally, FOX-TV is orchestrating the controversy because it craves publicity. "After all, they are getting free plugs on rival networks."

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 pair of examples: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held talks with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus…a major contributor to the Swift Boat Veterans, the group that campaigned against John Kerry in 2004 on his Vietnam War record, has been appointed Ambassador to Belgium.