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     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM APRIL 10, 2007
The abject apologies by morning radio host Don Imus for his insults against the women's basketball team of Rutgers University did not put the matter to rest. All three networks led with the team's response in an organized press conference. Dignified and self-possessed, they evinced the diametric opposite of the whorish behavior Imus had attributed to them. The players deserved the attention they received for their rebuttal--but then the networks went overboard. NBC followed up with a couple of extended interviews. ABC and CBS filed sociological features. The flap is only over a single hurtful insult on a morning drive radio show--not worthy of Story of the Day status for two straight days.    
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video thumbnailNBCRadio morning show host Don Imus under fireRutgers women hoopsters repudiate his slursRehema EllisNew Jersey
video thumbnailCBSRadio morning show host Don Imus under fireInsults seen in historical, cultural contextRichard SchlesingerNew York
video thumbnailABC
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Radio morning show host Don Imus under fireNo taboo in media against racist, sexist slursDeborah RobertsNew York
video thumbnailNBCDiabetes coverageDangerous experimental treatment in BrazilRobert BazellNew York
video thumbnailABCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesSecretary Gates may extend tours to 15 monthsJonathan KarlPentagon
video thumbnailCBSIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesDispute over war funding legislation unresolvedJim AxelrodWhite House
video thumbnailNBCIraq: terrorist bombers attack civilian targetsSuicide attacks by women are hard to preventRichard EngelBaghdad
video thumbnailCBSIraq: war-zone journalists at risk of violenceKidnapped Italian reporter shot at US roadblockLara LoganNew York
video thumbnailABCSudan civil war: ethnic cleansing in DarfurHolocaust Museum, Google Earth monitor genocideBill BlakemoreNew York
video thumbnailABC
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Dinosaur paleontology makes new discoveriesPittsburgh museum reconfigures its skeletonsNed PotterNew Jersey
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
RUTGERS HOOPSTERS RESPOND The abject apologies by morning radio host Don Imus for his insults against the women's basketball team of Rutgers University did not put the matter to rest. All three networks led with the team's response in an organized press conference. Dignified and self-possessed, they evinced the diametric opposite of the whorish behavior Imus had attributed to them. The players deserved the attention they received for their rebuttal--but then the networks went overboard. NBC followed up with a couple of extended interviews. ABC and CBS filed sociological features. The flap is only over a single hurtful insult on a morning drive radio show--not worthy of Story of the Day status for two straight days.

The highlights of the players' press conference were relayed as the team announced that they would meet in person and in private with the radio host next week. CBS' Nancy Cordes ticked off the attributes of the hoopsters--plays five instruments…studying to become a doctor…high school valedictorian--as they displayed "uncommon poise for students so young." ABC's Dan Harris called the basketball team's achievement "incredible." The coach got the players into shape after a losing start and they "roared back and made the NCAA finals." As for the radio show itself, NBC's Rehema Ellis announced that Imus had lost one sponsor, office supply retailer Staples, and may lose a second, Bigelow Teas.


WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? For sociological background, CBS' Richard Schlesinger focused on the racial aspect. He cited criticism that Imus' insult was "especially stinging because of its timing." It came just as the black players on the team were overachieving while so many other African-Americans struggle with failures, such as high incarceration rates, below average incomes, low educational attainment. Schlesinger quoted Essence magazine's Susan Taylor as pointing out that "nappy-headed whore" was a historical reference to the ante-bellum era when black women were literally bought and sold as sexual slaves "on an auction block naked, standing before the crowds, bidding on them."

ABC's Deborah Roberts (subscription required) concentrated on the sexist component, noting that "it is no secret that the hip-hop world has made millions using the same sort of crass language that Imus did." Roberts suggested that the word itself is the source of the outrage, not its misapplication to the basketball players: she wondered whether "there is a newfound intolerance towards insults and those who spew them."

NBC was the most egregious in spending inappropriate time on the story. Anchor Brian Williams traveled to New Jersey to interview Rutgers' team captain Essence Carson--who, by the way, styles her hair straight not "nappy-headed"--and coach Vivian Stringer. In all, NBC devoted fully ten minutes to the story as Williams searched for the moral lesson in the contretemps. "I was going to come here today and ask you if you were going to turn this into a positive but talking to you it seems like you have already started that process," he suggested to Carson. "Can you really turn this into a positive and redemption? Can this be the lesson from this some day?" he asked Stringer. There was no news value in airing either woman's comments at such length.

UPDATE: at the conservative newsbusters.org Brent Baker (text link) interprets Schlesinger's observations as "victimology, as if African-Americans have no control over their destiny" and objects to the reference to slavery. In the context of the "whore" insult, sex slavery seems apt and Baker's point is not well made. However, if Essence magazine is equating the scanty clothing that athletes wear with the nakedness of slaves on the auction block, then that analogy is completely wrong. The more women engage in athletics, displaying their bodies to public gaze in the process, the better.


DIABETES TRIPLE PLAY A medical development was the other story that warranted coverage by reporters from all three networks. The Journal of the American Medical Association described an experimental treatment for juvenile diabetes on 15 patients that may restore insulin production to a malfunctioning pancreas.

Interestingly, the three networks chose differing angles.

NBC's Robert Bazell was the only correspondent of the three to mention the fact that the experiment had been conducted in Brazil. He focused on the ethics of outsourcing such risky procedures to poorer populations: "Hospitals in this country would be extremely reluctant to give permission for such a potentially life-threatening experiment." ABC's John McKenzie (subscription required) emphasized the risks: the treatment uses five days of chemotherapy to "destroy the existing immune system," making the body vulnerable to infection before the patient's healthy cells are reintroduced. The technique, McKenzie explained, is designed for newly-diagnosed diabetes patients, those who have "insulin-producing cells left to save." On CBS, in-house physician Jon LaPook used the buzzword "stem cells" to describe the experiment--not the embryonic stem cells that many pro-lifers object to, but the patient's own. LaPook also called the chemotherapy "a gentle form."


IN AND OUT After NBC's Jim Miklaszewski led yesterday with Iraq, ABC's Jonathan Karl followed up with more details on Gen David Petraeus' plan to extend military tours of duty. Karl reported that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is preparing to slow the speed of rotations so that every soldier spends 15 months instead of 12 in Iraq. CBS' Jim Axelrod updated us on the feud between President and Congress over whether strings should be attached to the $100bn funding for the war. He characterized George Bush as a "frustrated parent watching his kids act out" as he complained about the Democrats' troops-out requirements. Axelrod then quoted Sen Harry Reid, the Democrats' leader, replying that under Republican leadership, Bush had "a big rubber stamp here…that is not the way it is now." Anonymous White House aides assured Axelrod there will no negotiation between the two sides.


SUICIDES & SPIES Both CBS and NBC reported on events on the ground in Iraq. NBC's Richard Engel told us that a small number of suicide bombers--just seven so far--have been women. He talked by telephone to an anonymous 20-year-old woman called Maha who claimed to be planning to be the eighth. She became depressed and suicide-minded after both of her brothers were killed by Shiite death squads and her home was burned. She was then recruited as a potential terrorist. Engel noted that women have an advantage over men if they plan to blow themselves up since Iraqi cultural norms do not permit men to pat down women: "Insurgent leaders know women will pass right through checkpoints."

Lara Logan filed an Exclusive for CBS on the journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who had been held hostage for 28 days in Iraq two years ago and then freed by Nicola Calipari, an Italian spy. Calipari had been killed and Sgrena wounded by an American soldier named Mario Lozano at a highway checkpoint as they made a nighttime getaway from her kidnappers. Lozano's lawyer suspects that Calipari refused to stop at the checkpoint because he wanted to keep secret the ransom he paid for Sgrena's release. The killing of Calipari has resulted in Italian murder charges against Lozano. Logan sat down with the tearful accused killer: "I get nightmares. I think about that guy almost every day." Lozano insists he was firing in self-defense, believing the car was attacking him--"I am just an infantry soldier doing my job"--but he will not go to Italy to stand trial.


FROM A DISTANCE On ABC, Bill Blakemore provided free publicity to an online project run jointly by the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC and the satellite picture providers at Google Earth. The project is designed to dramatize the full extent of the ethnic cleansing of Darfur in Sudan by the janjaweed militias. Blakemore demonstrated how to click and zoom: red fires signify obliterated villages; blue lines signify the flight of villagers to refugee camps; bars show the camps' populations. Blakemore called it "a God's eye view of some of the ugliest crimes of man."


CONNECTED TO THE TAIL BONE ABC had Ned Potter (subscription required) file a second, less gruesome, museum-based feature. Advances in paleontology have exposed the traditional postures of museum dinosaurs as "mostly wrong." They did not drag their tails along the ground as they ran, for example, and the bones of the vertebra have too much air between them. Potter visited a workshop where Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum is reconfiguring its dinosaur skeletons. With new discoveries being made all the time, Potter reckoned that "decades from now" the dinosaur bones will have to be re-reassembled.


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: a House panel investigating the firing of those eight US Attorneys issued sub-poenas for Justice Department documents…the Senate began debate over federal biotechnology funding for embryonic stem cell research…China faces charges at the World Trade Organization for allowing copyright piracy…the father of the late Anna Nicole Smith's daughter has been identified.