CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM DECEMBER 13, 2007
Sports was the Story of the Day. The Mitchell Report on the abuse of steroids by major league baseball players was the lead item on all three of the network newscasts. George Mitchell, the former Senate Majority Leader, led the investigation into performance enhancing drugs at the request of Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball. Mitchell listed 77 major leaguers as cheats by name, including the preeminent pitcher and hitter of the past decade--Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. Cheating superstars certainly are newsworthy but so is the United Nations Bali Conference on global warming. In a display of warped priorities, no network has so far seen fit to assign a correspondent to cover that meeting. On the three newscasts combined steroids (17 min v 1) entirely outmuscles Bali.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR DECEMBER 13, 2007: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailCBSBaseball players steroids abuse investigatedMitchell Report finds cheating by superstarsArmen KeteyianNew York
video thumbnailCBSWar on Drugs: steroids abuse by teenagersHealth dangers for HS athletes' growing bodiesJohn BlackstoneSan Francisco
video thumbnailNBC2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton campaignUnsure negative response to challenge by ObamaAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailCBS2008 Iowa caucuses previewedDes Moines Register Dems' debate is amicableJeff GreenfieldIowa
video thumbnailNBCDeath Penalty controversiesNew Jersey ends executions, life prison insteadPete WilliamsWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCBreast cancer coverageGenetic test to avoid unnecessary chemotherapyRobert BazellNew York
video thumbnailABCNutrition trends: active bacteria in health foodsProbiotics marketed for digestive tract benefitsNeal KarlinskySeattle
video thumbnailABCWinter weatherSnowstorm slows traffic in NYS, New EnglandRon ClaiborneNew Jersey
video thumbnailCBSPhilanthropy and charitable donation trendsHouse hearings into abuse by funds for veteransSharyl AttkissonCapitol Hill
video thumbnailNBCLight bulb energy conservation ends incandescentsReplaced by energy-efficient solid state LEDsMark PotterMichigan
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
NATIONAL PASTIME’S STEROIDS ERA Sports was the Story of the Day. The Mitchell Report on the abuse of steroids by major league baseball players was the lead item on all three of the network newscasts. George Mitchell, the former Senate Majority Leader, led the investigation into performance enhancing drugs at the request of Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball. Mitchell listed 77 major leaguers as cheats by name, including the preeminent pitcher and hitter of the past decade--Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. Cheating superstars certainly are newsworthy but so is the United Nations Bali Conference on global warming. In a display of warped priorities, no network has so far seen fit to assign a correspondent to cover that meeting. On the three newscasts combined steroids (17 min v 1) entirely outmuscles Bali.

"Players cheated. Teams profited. The union dodged. And the league looked the other way," was the precis of the report by ABC's John Berman (no link). He called the list of cheats "breathtaking--the greatest hitter of a generation, the greatest pitcher of a generation, a searing indictment of a generation." The Mitchell Report "did not so much end one era in baseball as pry it wide open," commented CBS' Armen Keteyian. "Illegal drugs were part of the line-up of every team in baseball beginning in the mid '90s."

On NBC, Mike Taibbi pointed out that "there were just a few sources providing most of the names"--Brian McNamee, a New York Yankees fitness coach, and Kurt Radomski, a New York Mets clubhouse attendant--"so this is just a piece of the story." CBS anchor Katie Couric (no link) was on assignment for 60 Minutes to profile Yankees' slugger Alex Rodriguez. "What is your reaction to the investigation?" "Well Katie, you are putting me in a tough spot. I mean these are guys that I play with. They are my teammates, friends and people that I respect, people that I play with every day." They include pitcher Clemens, whose lawyer officially denied that McNamee had been injecting him in the buttocks with the steroid Winstrol since 1998.

Both NBC and CBS followed up with interviews for perspective. Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim told CBS substitute anchor Harry Smith that steroids abuse has abated in the major leagues but cheating has not: "The new drug of choice is Human Growth Hormone." On NBC, Keith Olbermann of MSNBC's Countdown suggested to anchor Brian Williams that the motive for Mitchell's suggestion that Commissioner Selig should not punish the cheats was in order to "shame the union into going along with actual blood testing" for HGH.


TEENAGE TESTOSTERONE "In sheer numbers far more teenagers have turned to steroids," reported CBS' John Blackstone, citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control that 700,000 high school students had abused them. CBS' in-house physician Jon LaPook told Blackstone that "there is nothing scarier than a boy between the ages of 14 and 21." He described "the dangerous confluence of physical strength and really poor judgment. Now throw some extra testosterone into that. Watch out." George Mitchell himself told ABC anchor Charles Gibson (no link) that "the effect of steroids on youngsters can be much greater than that on adults because they are already going through serious hormonal changes."

At $200 each, steroids testing is far too expensive for most states to require for its high school athletes, CBS' Blackstone pointed out. The exception is Texas, where $6m will be spent to screen 25,000 teenagers.


AVOIDING THE ROUGHHOUSE All three networks focused on the Democrats on the campaign trail. CBS substitute anchor Harry Smith had Jeff Greenfield debrief him on their afternoon debate. Greenfield corrected Smith: "A debate is a discussion of opposing views." He accounted for the Democrats' lack of discord by pointing to Sunday when the newspaper that moderated the confab makes its endorsement: "Nobody wants to play roughhouse and offend the good people who run the Des Moines Register."

Greenfield enjoyed playing a John Edwards soundbite: "If you want a fighter--to voters, to caucusgoers--you are looking at somebody, I am 54 years old, who has spent his entire life engaged in this fight and winning this fight that we must win." "We are starting to get the message," mused Smith. "He is a fighter." "Very perceptive, Harry." But Greenfield only related and did not rerun Hillary Rodham Clinton's "raucous laugh" when Barack Obama was asked why he had so many of her husband Bill's advisors helping him frame a foreign policy. "I will be happy to take advice from you, Hillary," Obama replied.

Rodham Clinton has tried "several lines of attack on Obama," reported ABC's Kate Snow (no link). "Her campaign has had meeting after meeting looking for the best way to bring Obama down but nothing seems to stick…or worse, it backfires." Snow was referring to Bill Shaheen, a top Rodham Clinton aide in New Hampshire, who expressed trepidation about an Obama nomination to a Washington Post reporter, namely that Obama's acknowledged adolescent narcotics use would escalate into Republican speculation that he had been a drug dealer too. The Rodham Clinton campaign "denied that this was an authorized attack," reported NBC's Andrea Mitchell. Yet Mitchell observed that Rodham Clinton's "allies have been frustrated with the lack of attention to Obama's adolescent drug use leading Obama aides to say this whole episode was deliberate."

ABC continued its weekly Who Is? series on the personal background of the candidates with Joe Biden, and a compelling story it was too. Anchor Charles Gibson (no link) recounted how, just days before the then 29-year-old Delaware Democrat was to be sworn into the Senate as its youngest member, his wife Neilia and their 18-month-old daughter Naomi were killed in a car accident. His eyes red-rimmed, Biden described how he saw suicide as a rational option: "If the love was as great and as profound as you believed it to be why would you still want to live? Why would you want to reestablish your life?"


GARDEN STATE SETS TRENDS "Not since 1965 has a state legislature done what New Jersey's did today," announced Pete Williams. Abolishing capital punishment would seem to be big news, but only NBC assigned a reporter to the vote. ABC mentioned it in passing; CBS not at all. Admittedly the New Jersey vote had a direct impact on few people--there are only eight residents on the state's Death Row. However the DC-based Williams in his In Depth report saw it as "one of the clearest signs yet of how much the country's attitude to the death penalty is changing." Both death sentences (from 300 in 1986 to 128 this year) and actual executions (from 98 in 1999 to 42 this year) are on a downward trend nationwide and five other states may follow New Jersey's lead.


FIRST DO NO HARM No network had a reporter at a conference of breast cancer specialists in San Antonio but both ABC and NBC covered research announced there on chemotherapy. "We have know for decades that we are treating a lot of women with chemotherapy who really do not need it," ABC's in-house physician Timothy Johnson told anchor Charles Gibson--but oncologists have been unable to identify them. Chemotherapy is "the toughest treatment of all" confessed Johnson; "often with debilitating side effects," noted NBC's Robert Bazell. Bazell told us about progress on two personalized medicine tests: one separates the 8% of cancer patients who benefit from anthracyclines from the other 92%; the second, an Oncotype DX test, analyzed 21 genes in order to spare 40% of patients.


CONSUMERS’ CULTURES For its closer ABC sent Neal Karlinsky to the supermarket shelves: "If you have not noticed, probiotics are everywhere," he pointed out, "from specialized yoghurts to smoothies and snackbars--even baby formula." Probiotics is a growing category of in the health food section. They contain active bacteria, designed to improve one's digestion. Karlinsky offered a miniplug for one brand, running a snatch of Yakult's TV ad.


SILENT NIGHT Christmas is coming so each of the three networks invoked a vaguely season news hook for otherwise non-Yule fare. NBC closed with an Our Planet feature from Mark Potter on energy conservation efforts that convert incandescent light bulbs to solid state LEDs. Downtown Ann Arbor in Michigan may be changing its traffic lights but Potter preferred to focus on the energy-efficient Winter Music Parade in Gatlinburg Tenn while anchor Brian Williams showed us the LEDs on NBC's own Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

By the way, should it not be incumbent on any NBC reporter assigned to a light bulb story to mention what is at the stake for its corporate sibling, the lighting division at General Electric? A slap on the wrist for Potter for his silence on the matter.

The season of charitable giving was the hook for Sharyl Attkisson's coverage on CBS of House hearings into fundraising for disabled veterans. The American Institute of Philanthropy evaluated 27 charities on how much gets spent on doing good--how much on expenses and salaries for organizers. The American Veterans Coalition, for example, has paid $800,000 to fundraisers and "did not give a penny" to veterans in 2003. Attkisson listed other AIP black marks for the Blinded Veterans Association, the Disabled American Vets, the Paralyzed Veterans of America and Help Hospitalized Veterans. The AIP gave a thumbs up to Fisher House and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

And both NBC and ABC sent reporters into the cold to cover the first of two winter storms heading for the northeast. ABC's Ron Claiborne was in northern New Jersey; NBC's Rehema Ellis in upstate New York. And yes, Ellis found that all important suburbanite's soundbite: "I think it is going to be a White Christmas."

UPDATE (text link): an NBC viewer has the same quibble about General Electric's lightbulbs, prompting anchor Brian Williams to offer his apology.


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 United Nations Bali Conference, alluded to above…the FDA refused to allow the prescription anti-cholesterol statin medicine Mevacor to be sold over-the-counter…the German airline Lufthansa has purchased a stake in the domestic discount carrier JetBlue.