All three networks had a collective brain cramp, turning a local disciplinary hearing for a discredited North Carolina prosecutor into the Story of the Day. Maybe CBS and NBC had the excuse that their regular anchors were taking a long weekend. The relative inexperience of Russ Mitchell and Lester Holt might have clouded each's news judgment. But ABC's Charles Gibson decided to make the aftermath of the Duke lacrosse team fiasco his lead too. This is now nothing but a local story, hardly worthy of any mention on a national network newscast, let alone leading its agenda.    
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video thumbnailNBCInternational Space Station program problemsRussia partially restores power for computersTom CostelloWashington DC
video thumbnailABCNASA Space Shuttle program: Atlantis missionSpacewalk repairs tear in insulationNed PotterNew York
video thumbnailCBSPalestine politics: Hamas-Fatah factional fightingVictory parade by Hamas supporters in GazaRichard RothWest Bank
video thumbnailCBSMilitary personnel suffer mental health problemsPsychiatric shortfall for stress, brain traumaDavid MartinPentagon
video thumbnailNBCSen James Webb (D-VA) hails from military familyOpposes Iraq War even as USMC son serves thereChip ReidVirginia
video thumbnailNBCSouth Africa apartheid aftermath: reconciliationCharity honors slain woman, hires her killersJohn LarsonMilwaukee
video thumbnailCBSReal estate housing market prices continue to fallHomebuyers' costs increase with interest ratesAnthony MasonNew York
video thumbnailNBCAirline travel: discount and regional carriersOhio-based Skybus has tickets as cheap as $10Kevin TibblesNo Dateline
video thumbnailABC
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Diet and weight-loss products proliferateNew O-T-C drug Alli enjoys brisk early salesJessica YellinWashington DC
video thumbnailABCCollege sports: Duke lacrosse scandal aftermathProsecutor Nifong resigns as District AttorneyJim AvilaNew York
CLOUDED JUDGMENT IN NORTH CAROLINA All three networks had a collective brain cramp, turning a local disciplinary hearing for a discredited North Carolina prosecutor into the Story of the Day. Maybe CBS and NBC had the excuse that their regular anchors were taking a long weekend. The relative inexperience of Russ Mitchell and Lester Holt might have clouded each's news judgment. But ABC's Charles Gibson decided to make the aftermath of the Duke lacrosse team fiasco his lead too. This is now nothing but a local story, hardly worthy of any mention on a national network newscast, let alone leading its agenda.

The drama that should have been Story of the Day was playing out in orbit 200 miles above Earth on the International Space Station. The computers on board had crashed. They are "essential," CBS' Daniel Sieberg explained, because "they fire on-board thrusters, occasionally needed, to maintain the Station's position in space and keep its solar panels pointed towards the sun." The ten people on board have been instructed "to move as little as possible to avoid jarring the Station," ABC's Charles Gibson (subscription required) told us. "They will even have to minimize exercise and limit toilet flushes."

Perhaps the networks downplayed the story's prominence because of the "international" part. The "frustration after frustration" felt by mission control as it tried to reboot the computers was felt by Russians not by NASA, ABC's Gibson reminded us. Only ABC had a reporter on the scene: Jim Sciutto told Gibson that the Russian technicians, "some of them former cosmonauts," told him they had never faced "a problem as difficult and as intractable as this one." NBC's Washington-based Tom Costello traced the problem back to the NASA astronauts' connecting "a new solar unit to the Station. Russian engineers believe a power surge crippled their computers." By the end of the day, faulty switches had been circumvented and only two of the six computers were still dead.

Meanwhile ABC's Ned Potter showed us a spacewalk by astronaut Danny Olivas to fix a six-inch-long rip in the insulating fabric of Space Shuttle Atlantis, which is docked at the Space Station. Potter showed us the spacewalker's eye view from Olivas' helmetcam. "He used a surgical staple gun and some pins…looking a little like a contractor on someone's roof."

VICTORY CHEERS & FUNERAL CURSES No network had a reporter on the Gaza Strip for the victory parade by supporters of Hamas. They waved the radical Islamist party's green flag after five days of street fighting that left at least 90 dead. ABC aired voiceover videotape. NBC and CBS had reporters on the West Bank. CBS' Richard Roth found Hamas in a "generous mood, calling for reconciliation with the Fatah movement it drove out." Fatah still controls the West Bank, which may now benefit because of the rift with Gaza: "The United States, Europe and Israel say they will support Palestinian moderates by resuming financial aid to the West Bank, which was cut off a year ago." NBC's Tom Aspell found Fatah militiamen marching too--in a funeral procession not a victory parade. They "cursed Hamas for destroying Palestinian unity."

WAR DRIVES MEN MAD There are one million US combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, CBS' David Martin told us, and according to the Pentagon's latest mental health survey between one third and one half suffer psychological problems upon their return from the battlefield. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski explained that the most common problems are combat stress and traumatic brain injury. Both Pentagon correspondents covered the report that pointed to two main causes why mentally-ill veterans fail to receive the psychiatric care they require: the stigma "could end their military careers," as Miklaszewski put it; second, "the military just does not have enough mental health professionals," Martin asserted--only 600 in the entire army.

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK NBC adopted an Iraq theme for its In Depth feature going into Father's Day weekend. Capitol Hill correspondent Chip Reid chose the Creedence Clearwater Revival song Fortunate Son for his interview with anti-Iraq-War Vietnam veteran James Webb, Democratic Senator form Virginia, and his USMC lance corporal son Jimmy Webb, freshly returned from combat in Iraq. His platoon mates play I ain't no senator's son "real loud and yell," the young Marine joked. How does it feel to have a senator for a father? "I was really glad he won because I knew he threw everything he had into the campaign--and he is a real poor loser."

INSPIRED TO FORGIVE It is a Friday, so all three networks closed with standard issue inspirational features. ABC's Person of the Week and CBS' Assignment America found themselves stuck in the same rut. Both chose a young woman artist who paints pictures that benefit children. CBS' Steve Hartman gave us Shelby Johnson, a 19-year-old juvenile dermatomyositis patient, of Memphis; ABC's Charles Gibson chose Amanda Dunbar, aged 22, the youngest member of the Texas Women's Hall of Fame.

NBC made a different choice for its Making a Difference series. John Larson told us about a success in the Truth & Reconciliation process in South Africa in the aftermath of the apartheid regime. The parents of Amy Biehl, the blonde anti-apartheid activist from Wisconsin who was murdered by a mob of black Africans in 1993, participated in T&R. They started a foundation in their daughter's name, which included on its staff the four men who received amnesty after confessing to her death. Now, Larson told us, Ntobeko Peni travels with Linda Biehl, the mother of the woman he killed, "to speak about violence and forgiveness."

HOUSES, PILLS, PLANES Each of the three networks had its own consumer news. CBS was the most serious, with Anthony Mason tracking the impact of the recent rise in mortgage interest rates over the past five weeks. The hike has increased the monthly payment on a median 30-year fixed-rate loan by $76. That extra payment to the bank means lower prices paid to sellers. Economist Mark Landi of Moody's told Mason that by the time prices bottom out homes will be worth 10% less than at the height of the real estate bull market.

In-house physician Nancy Snyderman offered the preview of the over-the-counter diet pill Alli on Tuesday for NBC. Now it is on sale, Jessica Yellin (subscription required) took A Closer Look for ABC and it is "flying off the shelves" despite what Yellin called "potentially embarrassing and unpleasant side effects." She spelled out how Alli works. It "prevents the body from absorbing 25% of the fat you eat. That fat must be purged from your system"--before lapsing into euphemism--"which can come with extreme intestinal discomfort."

NBC offered marvelous publicity to Skybus, the new discount airline, that sells seats for as little as $10 a trip. Kevin Tibbles told us that extras are added once that ticket is bought online: $10 to head the line when boarding; $5 to check bags; $10 for an in-flight turkey sandwich. Still it sounds like a great deal…if you are interested in Columbus Ohio. Skybus only has that one hub and only flies four planes. It is a great deal for any traveler whose itinerary includes Columbus and the metropolises of Bellingham Wa, Oakland Cal, Burbank Cal, Kansas City Mo, Fort Lauderdale Fla, Greensboro NC, Richmond Va--or, for you political junkies, Portsmouth NH.

THEY SHALL SUE The only possible excuse for deciding to lead with Michael Nifong's resignation as District Attorney of Durham NC was that the networks had an ethical duty to overcompensate after publicizing the false rape charges he leveled against a trio of Duke University lacrosse players. But they had already discharged that obligation when they covered their exoneration in exhaustive detail (text link) in April.

So what was the story? Facing charges of prosecutorial misconduct that may lead to the loss of his license to practice law, Nifong resigned from his elected office, which was not at issue. Nifong's alleged misconduct consisted of prejudicing potential jurors, withholding evidence from defense attorneys and lying to the court. He admitted the first, denied the last and tearfully apologized for the second, explaining that he was overwhelmed with paperwork. NBC's Ron Mott and CBS' Byron Pitts were sent to North Carolina to attend the hearings. ABC's Jim Avila covered them from New York.

NBC's overcoverage extended to anchor Holt's q-&-a with MSNBC's legal eagle Dan Abrams (at the tail of the Mott videostream). Abrams explained that Nifong's admittedly inflammatory comments on the courthouse steps may also have been defamatory. He predicted a civil lawsuit from the exonerated former defendants.

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: Chairman Peter Pace of the Joint Chiefs of Staff revealed that he had not resigned but had been fired…the man who fired him, Defense Secretary Robert Gates traveled to Baghdad to pressure the Iraqi government to enact political reforms…a USAF F-16 fighter jet crashed during combat in Iraq…Ehud Barak, the former Prime Minister of Israeli, rejoined its cabinet…another top staffer at the Justice Department connected to the firings of the eight US Attorneys resigned.