Cancer has been such a hot-button topic this past week that a routine report from the American Cancer Society was propelled to headline status. Both CBS and NBC led with revised screening guidelines for those women at the highest risk of breast cancer and it was Story of the Day. ABC, by contrast, chose escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf, as the stand-off between Britain and Iran intensified.    
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Iran military expansion feared in Persian GulfBritain's PM Blair protests capture of sailorsJim SciuttoLondon
video thumbnailCBSIran military expansion feared in Persian GulfBritain's PM Blair protests capture of sailorsElizabeth PalmerLondon
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesPresident Bush, Speaker Pelosi swap soundbitesDavid GregoryWhite House
video thumbnailABCIraq: sectarian Sunni vs Shiite violence escalatesRevenge killings by off-duty police in Tal AfarTerry McCarthyBaghdad
video thumbnailNBCBreast cancer coverageMRI screening recommended for high-risk womenRobert BazellNew York
video thumbnailCBSWar on Cancer research effortsNational Cancer Institute funding hikes refusedWyatt AndrewsWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSPancreatic cancer coverageCBS News producer overcomes 10% survival oddsSandra HughesCalifornia
video thumbnailCBSFood industry marketing targeted at childrenChildren's TV ads dominated by junk food brandsBill WhitakerLos Angeles
video thumbnailNBCMarried couples sometimes have to live apartCommuter spouses have long-distance lifestyleRehema EllisNew York
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Internet anonymous messages can ruin reputationsShaming leaves permanent digital record onlineRon ClaiborneNew York
BREAST CANCER EDGES OUT BRITISH SAILORS Cancer has been such a hot-button topic this past week that a routine report from the American Cancer Society was propelled to headline status. Both CBS and NBC led with revised screening guidelines for those women at the highest risk of breast cancer and it was Story of the Day. ABC, by contrast, chose escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf, as the stand-off between Britain and Iran intensified.

Teheran grabbed attention with exclusive news video from al-Alam TV showing the 15 British sailors and marines who were taken prisoner last week from the waters south of the Shaat al-Arab. All three networks showed Leading Seaman Faye Turney, the sole female sailor among the 15, and her English language soundbite: "Obviously we trespassed into their waters."

All three covered the controversy from London. Prime Minister Tony Blair ridiculed Iran's claim that his sailors were in Iranian waters when they were captured. He told the House of Commons that at first Iran had claimed a location that was in Iraqi waters and therefore no violation: "After this was pointed out to them, they subsequently gave a different set of coordinates." NBC's Jim Maceda saw Britain "hardening its position" with a "diplomatic freeze with Iran" and ABC's Jim Sciutto (subscription required) heard Blair "ratchet up the pressure," while observing that "Britain has few good options." Meanwhile CBS' Elizabeth Palmer called it "territorial confusion" and quoted a "conciliatory statement" from Iranian diplomats, saying that "close contact and cooperation could resolve the dispute."

In Washington, CBS' David Martin sat down with former spy Don Riedel now at the Brookings Institution to get his predictions about how the Iran-Britain stand-off will play out. The onetime CIAer called Iran "much more tough and vigorous" and envisaged another hostage crisis, 1979-style. Riedel paraphrased Teheran's message: "Don't mess around with us because we can mess around with you. You are very, very vulnerable in Iraq these days."

ABC's White House correspondent Martha Raddatz continued her tour of the Persian Gulf region. She filed Exclusive video from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower on naval maneuvers in what she argumentatively called "the Arabian Gulf." Both ABC and NBC mentioned the Arab Summit convened by Saudi Arabia in passing. No network sent a reporter to cover the deliberations.

MODEL OF SUCCESS In Washington, George Bush and Nancy Pelosi exchanged words over funding for the Iraq War. The Speaker wants the money tied to a promise to withdraw US troops: "Calm down with the threats. There is a new Congress in town…This war must end." The President wants no such thing: "I am going to veto it." CBS took the Capitol Hill angle with Sharyl Attkisson. She characterized the President as criticizing Democrats for "the worst kind of meddling." NBC covered the feud from the White House with David Gregory: "The Democrats face the fallout of being the architects of withdrawal," was how he put it, without countenancing the possibility that Democrats might receive kudos from their supporters, not fallout. Gregory observed that the President insists his strategy is succeeding. When Bush quoted a couple of Iraqi bloggers to bolster his case, Gregory called that an "unusual step."

Bush's argument was undercut by bloody events in Iraq. Both ABC's Terry McCarthy and NBC's Tom Aspell reminded us of the President's frequent invocation of Tal Afar as a model of US military success in Iraq--the city had been cleared of insurgents, pacified and security had been handed over to local forces. "The story of Tal Afar gives me confidence in our strategy," Bush had declared last year. "In this city we see the outlines of the Iraq that we and the Iraqi people have been fighting for."

Those claims looked hollow after the rampages in Tal Afar of the past 24 hours. NBC's Aspell described initial attacks that "tricked and killed 85 people, mostly Shiites. The bombers had hidden explosives under sacks and had gathered a crowd with the offer of free flour." Then "after nightfall, Shiite gunmen, including police officers, seek bloody revenge in a Sunni neighborhood," ABC's McCarthy narrated, abducting and killing as many as 60 men. The Tal Afar strategy, McCarthy noted, "is broadly the same as the new security plan for Baghdad today."

MAGNETIC It is all very well for the American Cancer Society to recommend annual magnetic resonance screening to supplement mammography for all women with a 20% lifetime risk for breast cancer. How does it expect those women to comply? Many hospitals do not have MRI machines. The tests cost ten times as much as mammograms, $2,000 per scan. Most private health insurance does not cover such screening. CBS' Kelly Wallace quoted estimates that 1.4m women fall under the new guidelines: "It will not be cheap," adding an annual $1bn to healthcare costs nationwide. ABC's John McKenzie explained that MRIs expose suspicious blood flow--as opposed to the tumors found by mammograms--but because they are so sensitive "there are many more false alarms, requiring many unnecessary biopsies."

For NBC, Robert Bazell was careful to point out that the ACS guidelines, if adopted nationwide, represent a windfall for his bosses at General Electric, which manufactures MRI machines: "What the Cancer Society is trying to do is to get more hospitals to buy the machines; more radiologists trained to read them for breast cancer; more insurance companies to cover them, including Medicare. That should bring down the cost and make them more widely available."

Both ABC and NBC anchored their newscasts from Washington. NBC's Brian Williams took advantage of the trip to cover lobbying for breast cancer research on Capitol Hill. He sat down with singer Sheryl Crow, who wants the federal government to spend $40m on a study of possible environmental causes. Crow admitted that news events have made her role superfluous: Elizabeth Edwards' announcement "really usurped" her.

ANDREWS THE ADVOCATE CBS continued its Cures, Costs & Controversies series on the overall War on Cancer. Wyatt Andrews abandoned the norms of objective journalism to become an advocate for the biotech sector. He noted that federal research funding through the National Cancer Institute has been essentially unchanged since 2003, after six years of previous continual growth. As a result, clinical trials are available to 3,000 fewer patients. Andrews quoted a scientist and senator lobbying for funding increases to resume and Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong equating cancer deaths with dropping a September-11th-sized "bomb"--whatever that means--"every two days." But Andrews presented nobody to articulate the contrary case for the current no-growth policy.

After the high profile cases of Edwards' breast cancer spreading to her bone and White House spokesman Tony Snow's colon cancer spreading to his liver, in-house physician Jon LaPook explained that cancer kills when it spreads to vital organs: "90% of cancer deaths occur because of where cancer ends up--not where it begins." That is why so many patients "even though their original tumor has been removed" are given chemotherapy, in an attempt to kill undetectable microscopic cells.

CBS closed with an in-house human interest profile of a cancer patient. Its own news producer Diane Ronnau returned to work, pancreatic cancer in remission, despite being given just a 10% chance of survival. Sandra Hughes showed us the harrowing before-and-after pictures of Ronnau at work…and burst into tears.

GETTING FAT Only CBS assigned a reporter to the criticism of television published by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Bill Whitaker summarized its report Food for Thought, an analysis of which products are advertised in programing targeted at children: "unhealthy foods full of sugar, salt and fat." Whitaker quoted a Harvard Medical School professor's call for a ban on such spots, even though "the government has no appetite for regulating food companies." But Whitaker failed to cover his own industry: how much do TV broadcasters and cable companies rake in from those marketers?

NOT CHEATING NBC continued The State of our Unions series. In contrast to our complaints Monday about Carl Quintanilla's lack of statistics to bolster anecdotal generalizations, Rehema Ellis, properly, produced some numbers for her report on so-called commuter marriages, the 3.6m people who do not live full-time with their spouses, a 40% increase in less than a decade. Ellis noted that many of these marriages are military ones. She did not add that, presumably, many others involve incarceration.

Instead, Ellis' example ignored both barracks and penitentiary. She chose a husband who lives with his wife weekends in Florida and then works weeks as a contractor in Philadelphia. Their routine to keep their love alive makes it a rule always to talk on the telephone last thing at night and first thing in the morning. Ellis, discreetly, did not spell out the unspoken implication underlying such a rule.

THE IMMORTAL PART OF MYSELF The fault of rampant anecdotalism this time belonged to ABC's A Closer Look feature. Ron Claiborne (subscription required) offered yet another trend piece about how the Internet is taking us to hell in a handbasket. Remember NBC's Lisa Daniels on how cannot be trusted? Or ABC's Dan Harris (subscription required) on how e-mail messages can become addictive? Or CBS' Daniel Sieberg on how teenagers online can turn into cyberbullies?

Well, Claiborne's contribution was to decry online shaming: a permanent digital record can turn a harmless post of anonymous criticism about some social faux pas--aggressive driving, promiscuous dating, sexual humiliation--into a forever-ruined reputation, permanently Googleable. Claiborne's complaint did seem overblown: the vanity license plate of the "alleged bad driver" from North Carolina was IDRVFAST.

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: as mentioned, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah hosted a summit of Arab nations…plastic bags are banned as environmental polluters from grocery stores in San Francisco…retailer Circuit City fired its well-paid workers to replace them with cheaper labor.