CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM APRIL 20, 2007
An exhaustive week of coverage of the campus killings at Virginia Polytechnic Institute comes to a close. Gradually the massacre is receding from prominence: today's three-network total of 24 minutes of coverage follows previous daily totals of 26, 38, 54 and 62. There is no excuse for this excess. The week's grand total of 204 minutes of coverage is only the fourth occasion since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, that the networks' Story of the Week exceeded 200 minutes. The other three concerned the flooding of New Orleans (263 min and 213 min) and the invasion of Iraq (204 min). How ridiculous is that?    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR APRIL 20, 2007: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailNBCVirginia Tech campus massacre leaves 33 deadNational mourning observances organizedTom CostelloVirginia
video thumbnailCBSVirginia Tech campus massacre leaves 33 deadHokie school spirit thrives in face of tragedySharyn AlfonsiVirginia
video thumbnailCBSVirginia Tech campus massacre leaves 33 deadKiller bought guns using mental health loopholeArmen KeteyianNew York
video thumbnailABC
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Guns: firearms control regulations debateNo drive by Democrats for tighter federal rulesJake TapperCapitol Hill
video thumbnailCBSAttorney General Alberto Gonzales under fireSupport from Republican senators erodesJim AxelrodWhite House
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesPresident Bush notes deadly consequence of surgeJim MiklaszewskiPentagon
video thumbnailABC
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Iraq: sectarian Sunni vs Shiite violence escalatesBaghdad neighborhood walled off in defenseHilary BrownBaghdad
video thumbnailABCTropical rain forests of Amazon depleted in BrazilExcessive logging threatens vital ecosystemJohn QuinonesBrazil
video thumbnailNBCPet food for cats and dogs tainted, recalledMelamine doctoring in China may be deliberateRon AllenNew York
video thumbnailNBCVirginia Tech campus massacre leaves 33 deadSaturation coverage obscured other news storiesBob FawWashington DC
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
OVERKILL An exhaustive week of coverage of the campus killings at Virginia Polytechnic Institute comes to a close. Gradually the massacre is receding from prominence: today's three-network total of 24 minutes of coverage follows previous daily totals of 26, 38, 54 and 62. There is no excuse for this excess. The week's grand total of 204 minutes of coverage is only the fourth occasion since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, that the networks' Story of the Week exceeded 200 minutes. The other three concerned the flooding of New Orleans (263 min and 213 min) and the invasion of Iraq (204 min). How ridiculous is that?

The week was scheduled to come to a ceremonial end with organized simultaneous national noontime mourning. Those observances led each newscast, but they were somewhat upstaged by one last news development. The sister of the suicidal killer issued a statement of apology on behalf of her family. Sun-Kyung Cho released it in written form via the Associated Press, in contrast to her brother's florid multimedia presentation that went to NBC News. CBS' Katie Couric read extended extracts: "We are humbled by this darkness. We feel hopeless, helpless and lost." The sister confessed that she feels like "I did not know this person." She called her brother "quiet and reserved," someone who "struggled to fit in."

Both ABC and CBS were impressed by the resilience of the spirit of the Hokies, the student body's nickname for itself. CBS' Sharyn Alfonsi observed that "this community is all maroon and orange" as its baseball team started playing and its marching band kept playing. ABC named all the students its Person of the Week for refusing to let what happened "define or destroy their school," as Charles Gibson put it. He praised the student newspaper Collegiate Times. He admired the students' solidarity: "Everyone grieved together." He got a kick out of campus fashion sense: "Every student on campus, it seemed, was wearing a sweatshirt. Tech this. Tech that."

As stirring as those tributes are, they overlooked the fact that the student body was not attacked by an outsider. The mentally-ill gunman was a Hokie, too. ABC's David Kerley recounted the "intense ongoing discussion" about Seung-Hui Cho's odd behavior in the university's English department, but when professors contacted the administration, they were "given no warnings about his mental health problems or run-ins with police." Andy Cook, Cho's onetime roommate, told NBC's Tom Costello that he was "quiet and withdrawn" back in 2005: "I would never have been scared of Seung." Costello characterized the mood on campus: "Why, with so many clues, did they not see this coming?"

On a trivial note, the sister's apology cleared up once and for all, how to name the gunman. She goes western-style with her family name last. NBC, until today, had persisted with the Korean order, identifying the 23-year-old killer student as Cho Seung-Hui. Finally Costello switched to Seung-Hui Cho in his introduction to his report--although the news division's change must have come late. In Costello's pre-taped portion Cho still came first.


THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS Yesterday, NBC's Pete Williams reported on Cho's arsenal and ABC's Jake Tapper reported on the loophole in the gun control laws that allowed him to purchase his weapons legally despite a mental health diagnosis as potentially violent. Now CBS' Armen Keteyian followed up on both angles. Keteyian reported on Cho's online purchase of a .22-caliber pistol in February: "Cho appears a sophisticated shopper, intent on getting the latest model, brand new." The federal BATF is now reviewing whether Virginia's loophole to the mental health gun ban--the one that does not disqualify out-patients--is legal, Keteyian added.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, ABC's Tapper (subscription required) inquired why Democrats, normally gun control advocates, had not used the intense coverage of this killing as an opportunity to press their cause. He offered two explanations: many of the newly elected Democrats in the class of 2006 are gun rights activists; and after Al Gore's defeat in states like Tennessee and West Virginia in 2000, the party had decided that gun control was a losing issue. Tapper recalled one political anecdote. What should Democrats do about gun control? Shut the hell up! Tapper showed the latest advertising campaign by protectpolice.org. That is funded by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City--so nowadays the nation's leading gun control advocate is a Republican.


POOR JIM AXELROD It looks as though someone at the CBS assignment desk is picking on White House correspondent Jim Axelrod. It was noted yesterday (text link) that Axelrod's month-old scoop that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' resignation is "inevitable" has yet to be vindicated. Today Axelrod had to file yet another story about how Gonzales is still on the job even though the pressure to resign "kept coming." Now Gonzales is holding on to his job despite the pleas of Sen Jeff Sessions (R-AL)--who urged the Attorney General to have "a frank discussion with the White House"--and the ridicule of Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's The Daily Show.


TEAR DOWN THESE WALLS NBC covered President George Bush from the Pentagon. The Commander-in-Chief acknowledged that his policy of reinforcing the US troop presence in Baghdad--the so-called surge--had caused "one of the highest numbers of US casualties," according to NBC's Jim Miklaszewski. "We can expect that pattern to continue," Bush warned. All this even though the Shiite militias have decided to lie low for the time being. Inside-the-Beltway military analyst Michael O'Hanlon warned Miklaszewski that if the Mahdi Army decides to rejoin the fight, "we are in big trouble."

In Baghdad itself, ABC's Hilary Brown (subscription required) told us that entire Sunni neighborhoods are being surrounded by 12-foot-high US-built concrete walls. Borrowing a phrase from the American suburbs, the military euphemism for Adhaminyah is a "gated community." Brown called it "further dividing the city along sectarian faultlines" turning Adhamiyah into "virtually a no-go area."


CANNOT SEE THE FOREST ABC was the only network to assign a reporter to mark Earth Day. John Quinones filed a preview of ABC's primetime environmental special Planet Earth 2007 from the Amazon jungle. As it started to rain, he called the rain forest the "grocery store and pharmacy" for native people, a veritable "Garden of Eden." He showed pretty pictures of parrots and snakes and trees and blossoms. "After decades of talking about saving the rain forest it is being decimated at the rate of 50m acres a year."


SPIKED A new suspicion has emerged about the tainted pet food that caused kidney damage to cats and dogs. Perhaps the toxic fertilizer melamine did not adulterate wheat gluten by accident. Perhaps the gluten was intentionally spiked with the chemical in China during processing. CBS' Nancy Cordes offered the possible explanation that the Chinese "mistakenly thought that the animals' bodies would break the chemical down" making it not only harmless but positively beneficial. NBC's Ron Allen suggested that the added chemical would inflate the apparent protein levels of the imported gluten. So far Beijing has not permitted an FDA inspection of suspected plants.


THERE WOULD BE NO NEED FOR TINKERS NBC implicitly conceded the excesses of its Virginia Tech coverage by assigning Bob Faw to survey the week's events that would have made headlines if the shooting spree had never happened.

Some were indeed significant: mid-Atlantic floods killed six…Sudan disguised its planes as neutral aid transports in order to smuggle arms into Darfur…another corporate CEO was convicted of embezzlement. Some were silly: Presidential candidate John Edwards paid $800 for a pair of haircuts in Beverly Hills…the latest competitor was eliminated from American Idol. As long as we are playing what ifs: if the shooting spree had happened one week earlier, Don Imus would no doubt still have a job. As Faw noted: "Timing is everything."


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 are from New York City: the mayor is preparing to tax cars using gridlocked streets…on Wall Street the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached another record high.