Morning radio host Don Imus is syndicated by CBS' radio network and simulcast by NBC's cable news channel. So when he referred to the mostly black female players on Rutgers University's basketball team as "rough girls" and "nappy-headed whores" both CBS and NBC had some in-house reporting to take care of. Imus' apology--on his own airwaves and on those of African-American political leader Al Sharpton--was the Story of the Day and the lead on CBS. Imus called himself "a good person who said a bad thing." CBS officially called the words "completely inappropriate." NBC announced that MSNBC would suspend its simulcast of Imus in the Morning for two weeks.    
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video thumbnailCBSRadio morning show host Don Imus under fireSlur against black female hoopsters, apologizesRichard SchlesingerNew York
video thumbnailCBSIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesHuge Yankee Go Home rally by Sadrists in NajafMartin SeemungalBaghdad
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesUSArmy to extend some rotations by 120 daysJim MiklaszewskiPentagon
video thumbnailABCAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingGen David Rodriguez braces for spring offensiveDiane SawyerAfghanistan
video thumbnailNBCNorth Korea develops nuclear weapons programDiplomacy stalls over frozen assets disputeAndrea MitchellPyongyang
video thumbnailABCIllegal immigration increases, sparks backlashThriving black market in ID document forgeriesPierre ThomasWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSICE border controls along Mexico lineRocks thrown at agents over fence in Yuma AzKelly CobiellaMexico
video thumbnailABCZambia suffers high infant mortality rateLives saved by widwives, simple birthing kitsBill WeirZambia
video thumbnailCBSComputer archives provide total personal recallMicrosoft engineer documents life's every detailJohn BlackstoneSan Francisco
video thumbnailNBCVideogames titles, design, development trendsFavorites among elderly include virtual bowlingGeorge LewisSeattle
IMUS IN THE EVENING Morning radio host Don Imus is syndicated by CBS' radio network and simulcast by NBC's cable news channel. So when he referred to the mostly black female players on Rutgers University's basketball team as "rough girls" and "nappy-headed whores" both CBS and NBC had some in-house reporting to take care of. Imus' apology--on his own airwaves and on those of African-American political leader Al Sharpton--was the Story of the Day and the lead on CBS. Imus called himself "a good person who said a bad thing." CBS officially called the words "completely inappropriate." NBC announced that MSNBC would suspend its simulcast of Imus in the Morning for two weeks.

What elevated a casual, demeaning slur into a major news story was the fact that Imus provides a forum for serious discussion of public policy before a mass audience. CBS' Nancy Cordes (no link) called Imus' guest list "a Who's Who? of politics and media." CBS' Richard Schlesinger characterized Imus as the "thinking man's shock jock, a smart aleck who is actually smart" and NBC's Rehema Ellis explained that Imus is "not just a shock jock" but a "major stop for politicians and journalists" including many leaders of her own news division. Pointedly, she wondered if "that will change."

ABC's Dan Harris dubbed the two hour questioning by Sharpton of Imus a "contrition mission." He saw Imus fume as Sharpton refused to sit in the same room with him whenever the radio show took commercial breaks. Imus explained that his "agenda is to try to be funny." Sharpton told Harris that Imus should be fired for "mainstreaming racism." NBC's Ellis reminded us that back in 2000 Imus had publicly pledged to stop using "racially insensitive language."

As for federal regulators, CBS' Cordes reassured Imus that "he has nothing to fear from the FCC." Only indecency is prohibited. So stations get fined for showing Janet Jackson's nipple but not for airing Imus' slurs.

UPDATE: the relationship between Imus and major leaders of the MainStreamMedia seems to be the unresolved issue in this story. At the liberal Media Matters blogger Kathleen Henehan (text link) takes ABC's Harris to task for implying that Imus' institutional loyalty is to NBC's Tim Russert and overlooking appearances twice in the past two months by ABC's own Charles Gibson. Meanwhile a tipster at TV Newser takes the opposite view, telling Brian Stelter (text link) that there is a "dirty little secret" that Imus' interviewees from NBC News and Newsweek are not guests, but appear under a contractual relationship. "They do not appear at 6:30am in the morning every third week for their health!" Stelter's tipster exclaims.

UPDATE: a reader objects to the spelling used above as an error: "You have Imus' statement as 'nappy-headed whores.' He actually used the word 'hos,' as in 'nappy-headed hos.' In theory they're similar, but as far as slang and social semantics, there actually is a difference."

SADR OR SADDAM? The fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad--when that huge statue of dictator Saddam Hussein was toppled--inspired massive anti-occupation protests in Najaf by supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr. All three networks covered the protest from Baghdad, where a 24-hour curfew had been imposed. CBS' Martin Seemungal observed that, again, the Shiite al-Sadr "has proved that he commands an enormous following among Iraq's largest religious group." NBC's Mike Taibbi noted that the Yankee Go Home rally included Iraqi soldiers and police officers in uniform: al-Sadr's message urged both "to join his followers in fighting American forces."

Both ABC and CBS tracked down Khadim Yabani, the Iraqi weightlifter who featured prominently in that day's photojournalism back in 2003. He was the one who swung the sledgehammer against the statue's pedestal before the Marine Corps pulled it down. "We are going into the fifth year and we are suffering from problems more than we used to suffer in Saddam's time," he told CBS' Seemungal. He told ABC's Hilary Brown (subscription required): "At the time I was proud but now I just feel regret because nothing has improved. It would have been better that Saddam had never been overthrown." Brown then gave the official US military view: "If Saddam had still been in power, the protest would not have been possible."

NBC led with Iraq coverage, but not with the Sadrist rally. Jim Miklaszewski reported that Gen David Petraeus had requested that the Pentagon approve a continuation of the troop build-up in Baghdad by slowing down rotations. Petraeus has asked that four brigades, 18,000 troops, have their year-long tour in Iraq extended by four months. "The surge has put the USArmy under even greater stress," mused Miklaszewski.

KABUL DREAMS ABC aired the second of its limited-commercial newscasts, which are scheduled for each Monday of April. Unlike last week when its rundown consisted of its normal seven packages plus one extra-long feature, this time ABC made use of its extra editorial time by making several of its packages longer than average while retaining the normal story count. Thus its lead, a survey by Diane Sawyer from Paktia province in Afghanistan of US preparations for the Taliban's spring offensive, was longer than usual.

Sawyer received a briefing from Gen David Rodriguez about what to expect when the snow melts and the fighting season starts. Sawyer asked whether he believed Taliban claims that they have 6,000 guerrillas and 1,000 suicide bombers poised to attack. "Half that," Rodriguez replied. Sawyer also listened to President Hamid Karzai's complaints that his country's reconstruction had been underfunded compared with Iraq's, at four times less per person. If Kabul had received the same cash as Baghdad, "it would be like heaven here," Sawyer quoted Karzai as dreaming. None of the other two networks filed from Afghanistan, although Lara Logan covered fighting by British-led NATO troops there for CBS last Thursday.

ROAD TO PYONGYANG NBC was the only network to have a reporter accompany Bill Richardson--former UN Ambassador, Governor of New Mexico and Democratic Presidential candidate--to North Korea. The diplomatic deadline for dismantling Pyongyang's plutonium processing plants is looming and likely to be missed, Andrea Mitchell predicted, because of $25m in frozen assets. "The entire agreement could collapse and with it any hopes of resolving the nuclear stalemate." The money was supposed to have been returned by the United States to the North Korean regime by now. "When they get the money, the North Koreans said, they will let nuclear inspectors back in immediately."

FENCING OPERATIONS Immigration is percolating as an item on the nightly news agenda. Both ABC and CBS used President George Bush's inspection of controls along the Arizona-Mexico border as a news hook to file a follow-up feature. In addition, last Friday, ABC's Harris covered the illegal immigration shouting match on Fox News Channel between Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera and last Thursday CBS filed a matching pair of features on The New America: Sharyn Alfonsi on the marginal extra costs of coping with an influx of immigrants; Sandra Hughes on the significant extra attendant benefits.

Now ABC's Pierre Thomas explored the thriving black market in forged identity documents that make it possible for immigrants living here illegally to obtain work nevertheless. Thomas outlined one Mexico-based network that has franchises selling fake ID--green cards, Social Security cards, driver's licenses, passports--in 28 US cities. As long as ID looks legal, the benefit of the doubt goes to the immigrant: employers are guilty of racial discrimination if they refuse to hire just because papers might be forged.

CBS' Kelly Cobiella rode in a Border Patrol vehicle along the dirt track next to the border fence in Yuma. It had its windscreen covered with steel mesh--and soon Cobiella discovered why, as a rock was lobbed over the fence and crashed onto the hood. She went over to the Mexico side and found a deserted back alley strewn with trash, with plenty of loose rocks. Is this vandalism? Not according to the Border Patrol agent Cobiella spoke to. He was convinced the rocks are thrown by "smugglers, guides, gangbangers."

PAY THE MIDWIFE ABC has assigned Bill Weir to a global feature series entitled Key to the World to fill the expanded newshole on its four low-commercial Mondays. Last week, Weir went to the Pacific island of Kiribati. This time, it is the village of Chikankata in rural Zambia where a lack of basic healthcare means a high infant mortality rate, not to speak of frequent childbirth deaths for mothers. A woman there may have six babies, Weir observed, because "she hopes three will survive…Parents wait a week before naming their babies so they do not grow too attached." Most are born in a dusty village or by the side of a road. Sometimes sawgrass is used to cut the umbilical cord.

Weir showed us CBKs: Clean Birthing Kits consist of the rudimentary tools--soap, gloves, razor, clamp, a sheet of plastic--for sanitary childbirth. Health officials used to give them away but soon discovered that pregnant women value them more highly, and are therefore more likely to use them, if they have purchased them for 60c from a midwife. And the mark-up the midwife charges helps her stay in business.

MEMORY GAMES For closers, both CBS and NBC chose media technology. NBC's George Lewis found that the elderly represent a growing demographic of videogame players. Some play memory games to keep mentally sharp; others prefer action. Nintendo's Wii is a hit at a Chicago retirement home where virtual bowlers never bowl alone--and do not have to lug around a ball.

On CBS, John Blackstone introduced us to Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell. Bell has equipped himself with a digital camera that takes a picture automatically every 30 minutes and a digital tape recorder that is constantly listening. Bell documents and archives every single detail of his whole life. Computer memory is so inexpensive, at $1 for a gigabyte, that he never trashes anything. He has a file of 50,000 family photos and his e-mail inbox has stored 110,278 messages. Bell plans a system to help people "record and recall their entire past."

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, President Bush's visit to the border was covered with videotape only…gasoline prices continue to increase…Iran claims to have improved its uranium enrichment centrifuges…unseasonably cold spring weather persists through much of the east.