NBC's decision to send anchor Brian Williams to Baghdad to check on the progress of US military operations made the Iraq War the Story of the Day. Both NBC and CBS covered the advance of the USArmy's 82nd Airborne Division into Baghdad's Sadr City section. ABC ignored the war in Iraq. Instead both ABC and CBS led with the ongoing scandal over the treatment of casualties disabled by the conflict.    
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video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesGen Ray Odierno inspects pacification of RamadiBrian WilliamsIraq
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesUS military begins sweep of Baghdad's Sadr CityRichard EngelBaghdad
video thumbnailCBSIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesUS military begins sweep of Baghdad's Sadr CityAllen PizzeyBaghdad
video thumbnailCBSMilitary combat casualties suffer disabilitiesHouse panel probes conditions at Walter ReedDavid MartinPentagon
video thumbnailNBCVice President Dick Cheney has health concernsSuffers blood clot after flying round the worldAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailABC2008 Rudolph Giuliani campaignResilient appeal because of September 11th fameJake TapperWashington DC
video thumbnailCBS2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton campaignSelma Ala event highlights husband Bill's roleGloria BorgerWashington DC
video thumbnailABC
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Iraq: education system survives amid violenceBaghdad student wins rare visa to Maine collegeDan HarrisMaine
video thumbnailABCPuberty onset factors in pre-teen girls analyzedChildhood obesity linked to early occurrenceJohn McKenzieNew York
video thumbnailNBCHappiness is universally desirable attributeUIllinois professor isolates key causal factorsDawn FratangeloNew York
IS THE SURGE WORKING? NBC's decision to send anchor Brian Williams to Baghdad to check on the progress of US military operations made the Iraq War the Story of the Day. Both NBC and CBS covered the advance of the USArmy's 82nd Airborne Division into Baghdad's Sadr City section. ABC ignored the war in Iraq. Instead both ABC and CBS led with the ongoing scandal over the treatment of casualties disabled by the conflict.

NBC's Richard Engel entered Sadr City, the Shiite stronghold previously patroled by the Mahdi Army militia, while anchor Williams flew into the Sunni city of Ramadi by Blackhawk helicopter with Gen Ray Odierno. Williams found "a more peaceful" Ramadi but empty, "almost a ghost town." He was surprised at the unanimity of the officers he talked to. They all told him that local residents tell them that they do not want the US military to pull out of al-Anbar province. "The US has been handing out cash to certain tribes here," Williams noted. NBC's in-house military analyst Wayne Downing, a retired USArmy general, explained that there had been "a lot of heavy patrolling" in Ramadi to make the visit safe.

In the teeming Sadr City, a six-square-mile slum with a population of two million, NBC's Engel found a peaceful insertion of military forces. The Mahdi Army "seems to have just faded away. Its fighters no longer patrol the streets. They have even taken down their propaganda posters." Before the troops went in, there had been "meticulous" planning with local civic leaders, CBS' Allen Pizzey explained, negotiating time for the militiamen "to hide their weapons and disappear." Engel spoke to US military commanders: "They are not naive. They know the Mahdi Army is playing possum. US forces hope that now, if they can impose some sort of security, the people of Sadr City get used to it, like it, and then will not welcome the militias back in." On the other hand, the local police is "very sympathetic to the Mahdi Army."

CRIPPLED Conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center were kept in the headlines by House committee hearings there. Gen George Weightman, who was relieved of command of the hospital last week, apologized for his shortcomings. ABC's David Kerley (subscription required) highlighted the "maze of paperwork and red tape" causing frustrating waiting lists. Dana Priest (at the tail of the Miklaszewski videostream), the Washington Post reporter who first exposed the squalid out-patient quarters at the hospital, predicted to NBC's Williams that the scandal of dysfunctional bureaucracy, substandard housing and patient neglect would go nationwide. As CBS' David Martin put it: "If this could happen at Walter Reed, the crown jewel of military hospitals, what about all the other facilities where wounded soldiers are treated?" The buzz in Pentagon corridors, noted NBC's Jim Miklaszewski, is that Kevin Kiley, the Army Surgeon General and former commander of Walter Reed, will soon be fired too.

ECONOMY CLASS Vice President Dick Cheney made a public appearance to promise to improve military healthcare--but made news with his own health. He has a blood clot in his left leg, the type that can form after the prolonged sitting in cramped quarters that prevents proper circulation of the blood. So-called Economy Class Condition "can kill," warned CBS' Jim Axelrod. Cheney has just traveled around the world by air--NBC's Andrea Mitchell diagramed his 65-hour, 23,000-mile route to Tokyo to Sydney to Oman to Kabul to London--but ABC's Timothy Johnson found it unimaginable that his traveling conditions resembled economy class in any way: "I suspect he was up an around and walking," Johnson told substitute anchor Elizabeth Vargas.

PERSONAL IS POLITICAL While NBC concentrated on Iraq, both CBS and ABC offered the latest update from the campaign trail: ABC's Jake Tapper looked at Republican Rudolph Giuliani; CBS' Gloria Borger at Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. Both chose the candidates' personal lives as their journalistic hook: Giuliani's distance from his former wife; Rodham Clinton's closeness to her current-and-only husband.

Tapper covered Giuliani's response to his own 22-year-old son's comments that he learned his values from his mother, Giuliani's ex-wife, after a bitter divorce. "These problems with blended families are challenges," the thrice-married former mayor confessed. Tapper called him "coated in political Teflon" for a sole, unique reason, his leadership of New York City in the face of the attacks of September 11th, 2001.

Borger calls it a "delicate mission" for the would-be First Husband: how to support his wife without "overshadowing her…aside from raising money and acting as the Strategist-in-Chief, what is the best way for her to use him?" Borger consulted Bill's longtime political operative James Carville: "It is not a bad problem to have, that you are married to the most popular Democrat in the United States."

STAKE IN THE STORY ABC decided not to go to Iraq--in fact it failed to file a single story with a foreign dateline--but it did cover an Iraqi teenager's arrival in this country. Dan Harris took A Closer Look at a boy he identified as Dan. Harris had first covered Dan at a Baghdad campus where his best friend had been shot before his eyes. That original report had inspired an ABC News-viewing benefactor to pay for a scholarship for Dan to attend Thomas College in Maine.

Harris (subscription required) cast aside conventional journalistic reserve and became personally invested in the boy's progress. ABC News helped lobby the government to grant a rare student visa--fewer than 300 are granted to Iraqi students each year. Harris greeted the boy with long-lost hugs when he arrived at JFK Airport. And he personally escorted the new student to the snowbound campus: "We made it, dude!" Harris celebrated.

FEARMONGERING What have cervical cancer and overweight toddlers got in common? They are both news hooks to exploit fears about girls growing up too fast. The cancer angle, remember, was that a vaccine against a sexually-transmitted virus might encourage the very activity that leads to infection by the virus (that would be sex).

Now comes the overweight story: heavier girls, on average, enter puberty earlier than usual; the earlier the puberty, the more likely girls are to have early sex; so being overweight at age three may lead to precocious promiscuity as a teenager. CBS' Jon LaPook aired this further list of problems that can be triggered by early puberty from researcher Diana Zuckerman: alcohol abuse, illegal drugs, psychological depression, learning difficulties. ABC's John McKenzie, having raised the alarms, concluded too late with this corrective: "In most cases, early puberty is not a serious health problem."

Obviously overuse of hormones in the food supply and excessive body fat in toddlers may be concerns. On the other hand, parental anxiety that little girls will one day grow up to become independent and sexually active is a natural phenomenon as old as the species--and requires neither remedy nor special news coverage.

UNHAPPY DAY Speaking of phenomena that are inappropriate to be covered by a network newscast, check out Dawn Fratangelo's first entry in NBC's The Pursuit of Happiness series. Fratangelo found a professor at the University of Illinois whose life's work is to isolate those factors--genes, relationships, lack of loss, goals, ideas, receiving gifts, laughter--that make people happy. "If you want to be happy, act happy," the professor suggested tautologically.

Can you imagine being given happiness as an assignment and then being given 155 seconds to cover the topic? The philosopher Aristotle himself would have failed at such a sorry task. This miserable topic is the legacy of Executive Producer John Reiss, who left NBC Nightly News last Friday so, at first blush, it looks like evidence of bad blood over the departure. The hapless Fratangelo has our condolences for drawing the short straw in the NBC newsroom.

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: a bungled NATO air raid in Afghanistan that left nine civilians dead…and a terrorist bombing of a Baghdad book market that killed two dozen civilians.