The loss of $12.7bn in twelve months was enough of a corporate catastrophe for all three networks to lead with the plight of Ford Motors. ABC's Charles Gibson announced that next week he will anchor from Detroit in order to probe the automobile industry's problems. Yet even though Ford overshadowed the rest of the day's news it was not, strictly speaking, the Story of the Day. A trio of features about the War in Iraq logged marginally more time.     
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video thumbnailNBCAutomobile industry in financial troubleFord Motors made record $12.7bn loss in 2006Tom CostelloMaryland
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesSenate resolution led by GOPer John WarnerChip ReidCapitol Hill
video thumbnailABC
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Civil-Rights-era double teen murder investigatedSuspect is former Klansman and deputy sheriffPierre ThomasWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCCIA undercover agent's name leaked: perjury trialVP Cheney was active in organizing media spinKelly O'DonnellWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSGeorgia nuclear weapons smuggling plot foiledSting operation snares Russian uranium sampleBob OrrWashington DC
video thumbnailABC
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Lebanon politics: anti-government protestsOpposition spurred by slow post-war rebuildingDavid WrightLebanon
video thumbnailABCEnergy conservation and alternate fuel useEthanol will be primary substitute for gasolineBetsy StarkNew York
video thumbnailCBSHealthcare reform: universal and managed careMassachusetts compulsory insurance into effectKelly WallaceBoston
video thumbnailCBSWar on Cancer research effortsNCI budget cuts may alienate young scientistsKatie CouricWashington DC
FORD MOTORS HAS A BAD YEAR The loss of $12.7bn in twelve months was enough of a corporate catastrophe for all three networks to lead with the plight of Ford Motors. ABC's Charles Gibson announced that next week he will anchor from Detroit in order to probe the automobile industry's problems. Yet even though Ford overshadowed the rest of the day's news it was not, strictly speaking, the Story of the Day. A trio of features about the War in Iraq logged marginally more time.

NBC's Chip Reid followed up on the Democrat-led resolution in the Senate against President George Bush's troop build-up in Iraq. As was suggested yesterday by ABC's Jake Tapper, the likely final resolution is the one drafted by Republican John Warner instead. Reid filed a profile of the Virginia Senator, "widely respected on all things military." The long-time stalwart supporter of the war became disillusioned after his latest visit to Iraq in October and on Capitol Hill that shift was taken as a "tipping point."

The other two Iraq features both concerned the toll exacted by the war on the National Guard. For CBS' American Heroes series, Cynthia Bowers traveled to rural Illinois where Paris, population 9,000, has suffered five local guardsman killed, aged 26, 23, 23, 21 and 44. On NBC, Martin Savidge looked at last weekend's downing of a Blackhawk helicopter that killed all twelve on board: all were guardsmen and Savidge offered thumbnail biographies of each, "a cross section of the army and America…older citizen soldiers with families, mortgages, car payments and dreams." Together they were parents of 34 children.

ABC did not contribute an Iraq feature.

USED CARS If there is a silver lining for Ford, it is that the majority of its losses were one-time costs associated with "massive restructuring charges," the euphemism NBC's Tom Costello used for laying off 52,000 workers and closing nine plants.

Then there are the dark clouds. CBS' Anthony Mason cited its $23bn in debt. Ford is putting "all of its US assets, in effect the entire brand, up as collateral." ABC's Bill Weir (subscription required) pointed to slumping sales of SUVs and pick-up trucks: "In an era of expensive gas bigger is no longer better." Costello was told by his auto industry sources that "Ford's product line is simply boring." An analyst told him simply that "this may not be a viable enterprise"

COLD CASE CRUSADERS NBC's Pete Williams broke the story of an arrest in the 1964 murders of a pair of Mississippi teenagers yesterday. Formal charges against James Seale, aged 71, a reputed former Klansman and retired deputy sheriff, for kidnapping the two black students, Henry Dee and Charles Moore, attracted the attention of all three networks. They all credited investigative journalism with helping break the case.

On ABC's A Closer Look, Pierre Thomas (subscription required) gave credit to his own network's 20/20 magazine that tracked down Seale in 2000 in a story by Connie Chung, in which she interviewed a former KKK Imperial Wizard turned FBI informant. CBS sent Randall Pinkston to Mississippi where he tipped his hat to "the enterprising work of a local reporter," Jerry Mitchell of The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson. Pinkston and NBC's Williams also cited the investigation of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Neither CBS nor NBC mentioned ABC and ABC did not mention CBC.

SPINNING URANIUM Some of the ins and outs of inside-the-Beltway political reporting were exposed in the testimony at the Lewis Libby trial and NBC's Kelly O'Donnell told us the story. The Vice President's former aide Cathie Martin detailed how Dick Cheney tried to set up a spin zone around the reporting of the purported Niger-Iraq uranium trade. Cheney himself dictated eight talking points to her when he got wind from the CIA that NBC's Andrea Mitchell was digging into the details. Cheney was so eager to pressure Mitchell to present his side of the story that he took Martin off the job and assigned it to Chief of Staff Libby instead. O'Donnell reaired Mitchell's eventual soundbite: "Today the White House said we know now that documents alleging transactions between Iraq and Niger have been forged."

A second uranium trading story surfaced in the Caucasus. A sting operation in Georgia led to the arrest of a Russian trader for trying to sell a four-ounce sample of nuclear-weapons grade uranium. Oleg Khinsagov allegedly promised that he had access to four pounds more. CBS was the only network to cover the case. Bob Orr did so from Washington, not from Tbilisi, and he illustrated the threat posed by Khinsagov's supposed cache with a thriller clip from TV's 24.

NON REBUILDING Last summer David Wright was the first network reporter on the scene in Lebanon when fighting between Israel and Hezbollah broke out. He was in Lebanon again when anti-government protests flared while CBS and NBC offered only voiceover videotape of fighting on Beirut Arab University campus that left three dead. "These images of violent instability stole the thunder from the foreign donors' conference in Paris" at which $7.6bn was pledged for rebuilding, ABC's Wright (subscription required) commented. "The money is sorely needed." He found that the root cause of opposition anger is the government's sluggish rebuilding of the wreckage caused by Israeli bombs and "Hezbollah has exploited that fact."

LOOSE ENDS ABC and CBS tied up some loose ends from Tuesday's State of the Union speech. The President had proposed to advance healthcare coverage with changes to the tax code. CBS sent Kelly Wallace to Massachusetts to investigate a more comprehensive Republican solution to the problem of the uninsured: compulsory coverage. She called enrolling the uninsured with higher incomes "a much tougher task" than signing up the poor. Come July, the uncovered will face tax penalties.

ABC's Betsy Stark looked into the plausibility of Bush's promise to reduce nationwide gasoline consumption by 20% within a decade. He wants to increase conservation and substitute alternative fuels. Stark stated that there cannot be enough corn grown to produce all the ethanol he is calling for. Wheat, woodchips and switchgrass will also have to be used, but those refineries are not even built yet. She called 34mpg fuel efficiency "an achievable goal."

CANCER CUTS Last Wednesday, when all three networks covered the decline in the death toll from all forms of cancer, it was noted that federal funding for the National Cancer Institute was being cut just as its research was starting to pay off. CBS' Katie Couric delved into the implications in her In Focus feature. The NCI has never been able to approve all the research applications it receives--"money has always been tight"--so budget cuts merely increase the refusal rate. Couric argued that the lasting negative impact of the cuts was "a chilling effect on recruiting up-and-coming scientists" by sending the message that basic cancer research is no longer the field of steady annual growth it had been for the past decade.

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: the decline in the real estate housing market continues, according to existing home sales data…political feuding erupts in the Iraqi parliament between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Sunni opposition politicians...Afghanistan may receive a boost of more than $10bn in extra US aid…the President is on the road in Missouri to stage photo-ops for his healthcare tax deduction plan.