NBC has the only newscast that pays scrupulous daily attention to the fluctuations on Wall Street. With its specialist sibling financial network CNBC, NBC has a corporate interest in making the NYSE seem newsworthy. In 2006, for example, NBC paid more attention to the stock market than its rivals combined (68 min v ABC 22, CBS 39). But when stocks suffered their largest single-day sell-off since the fall of 2001, those differences dissolved. All three networks chose it as their lead and covered it with the same intensity.    
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailNBCNYSE-NASDAQ closing pricesDJIA drops 416 points, worst day since 2001Maria BartiromoCNBC
video thumbnailABC
sub req
NYSE-NASDAQ closing pricesDJIA drops 416 points, worst day since 2001Betsy StarkNew York
video thumbnailABC
sub req
Afghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingBagram AFB suicide bomb as VP Cheney visitsJonathan KarlKabul
video thumbnailCBSAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingVP Cheney holds talks with President KarzaiDavid MartinPentagon
video thumbnailCBSIraq: Baghdad Summit convenes regional powersUS agrees to attend, meet with Iran and SyriaJim AxelrodWhite House
video thumbnailNBCMilitary combat casualties suffer disabilitiesWounded soldiers flown to hospital in ICU planeRobert BazellGermany
video thumbnailABCHuman Papilloma Virus STD can cause cancerCDC surveys cervical cancer viral risk in womenJohn McKenzieNew York
video thumbnailCBSCivil-Rights-era cold case murders reopened by FBIPledges to probe unpunished racist lynchingsBob OrrWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSSchool students suffer from homework overloadCal grade school bucks trend, nixes assignmentsJohn BlackstoneCalifornia
video thumbnailNBCCollege student attitudes surveyed: high self-esteemSelf-published online media foster narcissismBob FawWashington DC
ALL EYES ON WALL STREET NBC has the only newscast that pays scrupulous daily attention to the fluctuations on Wall Street. With its specialist sibling financial network CNBC, NBC has a corporate interest in making the NYSE seem newsworthy. In 2006, for example, NBC paid more attention to the stock market than its rivals combined (68 min v ABC 22, CBS 39). But when stocks suffered their largest single-day sell-off since the fall of 2001, those differences dissolved. All three networks chose it as their lead and covered it with the same intensity.

Each newscast kicked off with a double-barreled lead: an alarming report by a financial correspondent followed by a reassuring interview with a market maven. The recent trend at NBC has been to assign most of the economic beat to the specialists at CNBC. This story was no exception. Cable anchor Maria Bartiromo had the lead--" the meltdown was fast and furious"--and in-house stock picker Jim Cramer (at the tail of the Bartiromo videostream), host of Mad Money, handled the follow-up: "I think it is a buy not a sell," he advised. "I would not be worried on Main Street."

CBS' Anthony Mason used the terms "disastrous" and "breathtaking" to describe the 416-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average after the stock market in Shanghai lost almost 9% of its wealth overnight. ABC's Betsy Stark (subscription required) called it a "plunge--a frightening reminder of how interconnected financial markets around the world really are and how quickly they can unravel."

For analysis, ABC and CBS turned to industry insiders. Floor trader Art Cashin of UBS opined that "worry is probably too strong a word…This is something to be watched," he told CBS' Katie Couric. "If it stays nervous then we are going to get nervous." On ABC Sam Stovall (no link) of Standard & Poors offered this jargon to anchor Charles Gibson: "Adjustments are likely to occur over the next couple of days but at best it is going to be a pullback or a correction and certainly not the beginning of a bear market."

TRAVELING COMPANION ABC has been the only network to send a correspondent to accompany Vice President Dick Cheney on his Asian trip. Jonathan Karl had already filed from Japan (subscription required), Australia and Pakistan. Now he was on hand at Bagram AFB in Afghanistan (subscription required) when a suicide bomb coincided with Cheney's unscheduled overnight stay at the base, a delay caused by bad weather. The bomb, which killed 23, was detonated at the base's main gate: "The bomber never got anywhere near the Vice President," Karl stated.

CBS and NBC covered the incident from back in Washington. The White House "insisted this is not a sign of the Taliban's strength," noted NBC's David Gregory. His unnamed military sources denied that Cheney was its target. At the Pentagon, CBS' David Martin took the opportunity to catch up on the military threat to President Hamid Karzai's government from Taliban camps across the border in Waziristan "beyond the reach of the Pakistani government," that his network overlooked while it was yesterday's lead on ABC and NBC. Martin quoted one inside-the-Beltway analyst's fears that the United States' Pakistan policy is "one bad event away from this going down the tubes."

LET’S TALK Only CBS assigned a correspondent to the announcement by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that she would open talks with Iran and Syria. She told a Senate panel that she planned to attend the so-called Neighbors Summit convened in Baghdad by the Iraqi government to discuss regional security with eight next door states. Jim Axelrod noted that Rice had "at first rejected the key recommendation" of the Iraq Study Group that she engage in such diplomacy. Axelrod did not examine what inspired her "change in course." The other two networks mentioned the summit only in passing.

BACK FROM IRAQ Instead of diplomacy, the other two networks concentrated on the personal side of the violence in Iraq. NBC's Robert Bazell continued his Wounds of War series, tracing how combat casualties are transferred from hospital to hospital once their condition is stabilized. His cameras showed the interior of the C-17 plane that has been retrofitted as a flying intensive care unit to transport constantly-monitored wounded from Balad in Iraq to Ramstein AFB in Germany.

But Bazell's vivid reporting was overshadowed by the two-part up-close-and-personal on ABC to preview correspondent Bob Woodruff's primetime special To Iraq and Back. First, anchor Gibson introduced A Closer Look at a home video compilation of Woodruff's 13-month convalescence from the near-lethal brain injury he suffered while covering the Iraq War for ABC. He was 36 days in a coma before regaining consciousness. He had to wear a helmet to protect his skull where the bone had been cut out. He had to relearn language. We saw him practice vocabulary with flip cards: "Shaver. Ball. Screw…screw…screwdriver."

Then the still-handsome Woodruff was interviewed by Gibson about the personal impact of his brush with death: "I have got a lot more love for my family and my kids…I just do not know why this has become such a miracle for me…I could see my body sort of floating right below me, floating around in a whiteness…There is no question I am filled with guilt…I realized what I had done to my family, that I blame myself for what I put them through…I am more in love with my wife than I even was before."

DON’T PANIC The Centers for Disease Control entered the controversy about the vaccine that prevents the sexually-transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer. NBC and ABC both assigned correspondents to cover the CDC survey that estimated the incidence of HPV infection among teenage girls and pre-menopausal women. "I speak for many of us who are parents," NBC's Nancy Snyderman presumed, "we found the numbers somewhat unsettling."

Considering that cervical cancer kills fewer than 4,000 women nationwide each year, an enormous number of females aged 14-59--fully 25 million nationwide--carry the virus. ABC's John McKenzie did the math and reckoned that 7.5m of those infected are under 25 years old. However the strain of HPV that can trigger cancer accounts for only 2% of all infections and "usually the body's immune system kills the virus without a woman ever knowing that she has had it."

The newsworthiness of HPV looks less like a widespread public health issue and more like the sexual panic of parents of teenage girls.

WHISTLING DIXIE Back in 1955, the supposed offense committed by 14-year-old Emmett Till in rural Mississippi was to whistle at a married white woman. He was murdered, presumably by the woman's husband and his friends. NBC's Pete Williams told us that case is now closed, since a grand jury found insufficient evidence that the woman herself, now widowed at age 73, was a conspirator with her husband. CBS' Bob Orr estimated that there are 100-or-so cases of unpunished racist killings in southern states from the Civil Rights era, "a festering reminder of an ugly time." He covered the FBI's pledge to reopen them to see if any can be prosecuted: "Agents say they are pursuing promising new leads in more than a dozen."

A LITTLE LEARNING NBC and CBS both touched on the education beat. CBS chose the young end, looking at the vexed question of whether children are assigned too much homework. John Blackstone profiled one San Francisco Bay Area grade school that has banned all home study except for reading. He suggested the pro-homework ten-minute rule of thumb: ten minutes a night in first grade, 20 minutes in second grade and so on. But for those children in Menlo Park, "that rule is old school."

For NBC's closer, Bob Faw's hook was a survey of 16,000 college students that found they are "more narcissistic and self-centered than previous generations." But the focus of his report was to criticize online media for fostering such attitudes. He cited the egocentric title of MySpace and YouTube's slogan Broadcast Yourself and offered this caricature of YouTube content: "If it happens to me it must be important to share with someone, with anyone, everyone."

Is it narcissism that Faw is worried about--or the youthful competition?

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: damage from a hailstorm has delayed the launch of the Atlantis Space Shuttle…Toyota is expanding its automobile production in the United States…the USArmy may have bungled the destruction of an explosives cache in Ramadi, either injuring 30 Iraqi bystanders or killing 18 boys playing soccer.