CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM FEBRUARY 22, 2007
The networks really did make a good faith effort to preserve their reputations as purveyors of serious news. They each, appropriately, consigned the fate of that late Playmate to a flippant placement low in their rundown. Instead, NBC led with an Investigation into porous security along the Afghanistan border. ABC chose the backlash against the cervical cancer prevention vaccine. CBS went to Baghdad for the latest twist in terrorist bombmaking. But because of that split vote, Anna Nicole Smith ended up with the most total time on all networks combined. Like it or not, she was the Story of the Day.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR FEBRUARY 22, 2007: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailCBSIraq: terrorist carbombs attack civilian targetsChlorine added to explosions to boost toxicityLara LoganBaghdad
video thumbnailNBCIraq: terrorist carbombs attack civilian targetsChlorine added to explosions to boost toxicityJane ArrafBaghdad
video thumbnailNBCPakistan-Afghanistan border crossings are openNo inspections on Peshawar-Jalalabad highwayLisa MyersWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSIran nuclear weapons program suspectedIAEA report finds continued uranium enrichmentJim AxelrodWhite House
video thumbnailABC
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Iran nuclear weapons program suspectedIAEA report finds continued uranium enrichmentMartha RaddatzWashington DC
video thumbnailABCHuman Papilloma Virus STD can cause cancerBacklash against anti-virus vaccine increasesMike von FremdDallas
video thumbnailABC
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Movie theater snacks vary from culture to cultureBollywood potato outsells Hollywood popcornRobert KrulwichNew York
video thumbnailCBSPlaymate Anna Nicole Smith dies, aged 39Tearful judge in Fla assigns funeral locationKelly CobiellaFlorida
video thumbnailABCPlaymate Anna Nicole Smith dies, aged 39Tearful judge in Fla assigns funeral locationJim AvilaNew York
video thumbnailNBCPlaymate Anna Nicole Smith dies, aged 39Tearful judge in Fla assigns funeral locationMark PotterMiami
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
TABLOID VICTORY The networks really did make a good faith effort to preserve their reputations as purveyors of serious news. They each, appropriately, consigned the fate of that late Playmate to a flippant placement low in their rundown. Instead, NBC led with an Investigation into porous security along the Afghanistan border. ABC chose the backlash against the cervical cancer prevention vaccine. CBS went to Baghdad for the latest twist in terrorist bombmaking. But because of that split vote, Anna Nicole Smith ended up with the most total time on all networks combined. Like it or not, she was the Story of the Day.

Chlorine is the extra ingredient in the carbombs of Baghdad, emitting toxic fumes that burn eyes and lungs after exploding. Lara Logan led CBS' newscast with video clips from an unnamed jihadist Website showing guerrillas in gas masks assembling purported chemical warheads. She then played a CBS-made computer animation of a US military raid on a suspected bombmaking factory near Fallujah. The raid claimed to have uncovered a half-built truckbomb and other vehicles equipped with chemicals. The chlorine is easy to obtain in Iraq, NBC's Jane Arraf explained, because it is necessary to purify drinking water. Her colleague Robert Bazell recently traveled to Iraq to report on war-zone healthcare: he was on hand in Balad in January for the first diagnosis of a chlorine casualty. Arraf cautioned against hyperbole: "Chlorine does not afflict mass casualties."


A PARTIAL OBSERVER ABC's coverage from Baghdad consisted of an interview with its in-house military consultant Jack Keane. ABC's use of Keane, a former acting Chief of Staff of the Army, is always problematic because the viewer can never tell whether he is talking from a military point of view, his former career, or a journalistic one, his current occupation. For example, when he told anchor Charles Gibson that "we will need well into the summer" he was not referring to ABC News plans to provide accurate coverage--the "we" he was talking about was US occupation forces.

Keane's general problem is compounded by the particulars in this case. Amazingly, Gibson pointed out, he was "one of the architects" of the very "surge" plan that he was sent to Iraq on an eleven-day trip by ABC News to evaluate. For example, Keane confessed this flaw in his own plan: "The military timetable to accomplish this mission and the political timetable are not the same. The political timetable is probably shorter." So, if the mission is not feasible, given civilian control of the military, why did he recommend it?

All that aside, Keane offered this top-line conclusion: "The situation has gotten considerably more dire certainly."


ROAD TO JALALABAD NBC's lead was filed by Lisa Myers in Washington DC but it was reported by a pair of NBC News producers from Pakistan. With the Pentagon so worried about pro-Taliban guerrillas infiltrating Afghanistan from Waziristan, the tribal province of northwest Pakistan, producers Iqbal Sapand and Mushtaq Yusufzai tested the true state of border security. It turns out that the imagined threat of stealthy al-Qaeda subterfuge is unhinged from reality. There is thriving, peaceful commerce along the highway between Peshawar and Jalalabad, with 200,000 daily crossings and cursory border controls. The pair traveled there and back by bus without even having their papers checked. "Locals told NBC it is always this way." Myers asserted. "Militants need not brave the elements and inhospitable mountain terrain to enter Afghanistan. For $4 they can take the bus."


CENTRIFUGE CANNOT HOLD The international story covered by all three networks concerned the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency to the UN Security Council about Iran's uranium enrichment. ABC's Martha Raddatz (subscription required) called it "damning in every way." The IAEA found that the Iranians are "pressing ahead with their work in open defiance of world powers," as NBC's Andrea Mitchell put it. Teheran is accelerating the build-up of its centrifuge program, and will soon have 1,000 in operation. "So now it is back to the Security Council," said CBS' Jim Axelrod, where "tougher sanctions are no sure thing. Both China and Russia could block them" since each is already doing "plenty of business with Iran."


LOVE SHOTS NBC's Don Teague and Nancy Snyderman covered the growing furor over that cervical cancer vaccine yesterday. Shots of Gardasil, made by the hard-lobbying Merck Pharmaceuticals, prevent most infections by the sexually-transmitted virus that can lead to the deadly tumor. Now ABC chose the same reporter-plus-in-house-doctor combination for its lead. In Dallas, Mike von Fremd found a "spontaneous backlash" against the order by Republican Governor Rick Perry that all pre-teen girls in Texas be required to get the shot. "Some parents argue that it encourages children to have sex," von Fremd declared, painting the implausible picture of syringes as aphrodisiacs.

Dr Timothy Johnson (no link) told anchor Gibson that there is "absolutely no evidence" that this vaccine boosts a young girl's libido and, anyway, even a non-sexually-active daughter "could not guarantee that her husband would not transmit the virus" when she eventually got married. But if boys are infected too, why is Gardasil not being jabbed into them? Johnson did not address that and Gibson did not ask.


HELLO POTATO! If the networks are vulnerable to any criticism for pandering in the case of Ms Smith, it is that they each found a soft or celebrity feature to follow that celebrity news. In their defense, the features were fun. NBC chose the British royal family: Dawna Friesen filed the same story (minus Lawrence Olivier) on Prince Harry going to war--"it is in his family's blood"--that Mark Phillips filed for CBS on Tuesday.

ABC and CBS went to the movies. For CBS' preview of the Academy Awards ceremonies, Bill Whitaker (no link) found soundtrack mixer Kevin O'Connell, now nominated 19 times, yet without a single Oscar on his mantelpiece. After his 19th nod for Apocalypto, "O'Connell is more than ready for his close-up." ABC's Robert Krulwich (subscription required) offered cross-cultural comparisons of the snacks we eat at the movie theater. He contrasted Hollywood popcorn with Bollywood vada pav and papa chat--and created the catchphrase resounding through the corridors of ABC News: "Hello Potato!"


TAXI DRIVER Properly, the story of Anna Nicole Smith, equal parts fascinating and insignificant, should have been the closing item on each newscast. "You cannot avoid it," asserted CBS' Katie Couric, referring to the incessant coverage by her competitors on the daytime cable TV news channels, "a 24-hour-a-day soap opera."

Ostensibly the Fort Lauderdale hearing concerned the disposal of Ms Smith's delectable corpse. "After four days of theatrics in the courtroom the fighting parties figured it out for themselves behind closed doors in less than half an hour," said CBS' Kelly Cobiella. Smith is to be buried in The Bahamas "guaranteeing the tabloid shows and cable networks another few days of wall-to-wall coverage."

But Judge Larry Seidlin, the former cab driver from The Bronx, upstaged even Anna Nicole as he juggled 18 feuding attorneys. From New York, ABC's Jim Avila played a delightful series of judicial soundbites: "We are going to burn the candles"…"That baby is in a cold, cold storage room"…"I have been tested by the best"…"Do not get slippery with me"…"There is no circus here." Seidlin ended up in tears, crying on the bench.

NBC's Mark Potter covered the spectacle from Fort Lauderdale itself. "This might have been the type of hearing the way Anna Nicole Smith might have designed it," a former federal prosecutor, turned courtroom observer, suggested. Potter pointed out that Seidlin has been an elected circuit judge in Florida for almost 30 years and "he has many local fans of his style." After this exposure, many national fans, too.


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: the latest flare-up of sectarian outrage in Iraq concerns the alleged gang rape of a Sunni woman by Shiite police officers…standardized testing of high school seniors reveals falling scores in both literacy and mathematics.