CONTAINING LINKS TO 51991 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM APRIL 18, 2007
The campus killer from Virginia Tech grabbed headlines from beyond the grave. An express mail package arrived at NBC News headquarters in New York City from Blacksburg Va. It contained a farewell videotape message as part of a presentation on the motives for his shooting spree. He mailed it to NBC in his hiatus on the morning of the murders, after two were dead, before he killed 30 others and himself. In the package's return address, the English-major-turned-murderer called himself Ishmael.    
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video thumbnailNBCVirginia Tech campus massacre leaves 33 deadKiller mailed farewell video package to NBC NewsPete WilliamsNew York
video thumbnailNBCVirginia Tech campus massacre leaves 33 deadKiller had history of threats, mental illnessLisa MyersVirginia
video thumbnailABCVirginia Tech campus massacre leaves 33 deadPolicies for mentally-ill students scrutinizedDan HarrisVirginia
video thumbnailCBSVirginia Tech campus massacre leaves 33 deadPolicies for mentally-ill students scrutinizedCynthia BowersVirginia
video thumbnailCBSAbortion: restrictions upheld by Supreme CourtBan on partial birth procedure has no exceptionsWyatt AndrewsSupreme Court
video thumbnailABC
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Abortion: restrictions upheld by Supreme CourtBan on partial birth procedure has no exceptionsJan Crawford GreenburgSupreme Court
video thumbnailNBCAbortion: restrictions upheld by Supreme CourtBan on partial birth procedure has no exceptionsChip ReidSupreme Court
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Iraq: sectarian Sunni vs Shiite violence escalatesShiite market in Baghdad bombed, up to 175 deadHilary BrownBaghdad
video thumbnailCBSIraq: sectarian Sunni vs Shiite violence escalatesShiite market in Baghdad bombed, up to 175 deadMartin SeemungalBaghdad
video thumbnailABCInternet e-mail volume is enormous, addictiveObsessive texters disoriented by BlackBerry outageJohn BermanNew York
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
CALL ME ISHMAEL The campus killer from Virginia Tech grabbed headlines from beyond the grave. An express mail package arrived at NBC News headquarters in New York City from Blacksburg Va. It contained a farewell videotape message as part of a presentation on the motives for his shooting spree. He mailed it to NBC in his hiatus on the morning of the murders, after two were dead, before he killed 30 others and himself. In the package's return address, the English-major-turned-murderer called himself Ishmael.

NBC, properly, shared the video with its rival news organizations--but only after prominently plastering its logo in the top left hand corner of the image. Airing the footage meant offering publicity to the venom of a serial killer, so NBC's anchor Brian Williams explained that it was not without weighing the journalistic ethics that the network decided to broadcast parts of the "multimedia manifesto" of 27 video clips, 43 still photographs, a 23-page single-spaced statement and an audio clip.

NBC's in-house analyst Clint van Zandt (no link), a former FBI profiler, intuited from the killer a "full knowledge that his words are going to be heard…this is the way he is further victimizing all of us." Williams himself acknowledged: "We are sensitive as to how all this will be seen by those affected." The fact that ABC and CBS, too, showed clips demonstrates that NBC was not out on a limb in its ethical judgment.

Of course it was correct to show the tape. It was a vivid and informative demonstration of the young man's despair, rage, anguish and humiliation: "You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today but you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off." Pete Williams described the tone of the 1,800-word diatribe as the same "me-against-the-world attitude" as found in the high school killers at Columbine HS in 1999. He called it incoherent and profane: "He rails against hedonism and Christianity."


UNHEALTHY The saturation coverage of the first two days of the Virginia Tech story is starting moderate: day-by-day the three-network total spent on the story has gone from 62 minutes to 54 to 38 today. All three anchors returned from Virginia to their studios in New York and all three newscasts reverted to their regular half-hour format.

There is still a split decision on what to call the suicidal killer. NBC is sticking with Cho Seung-Hui. ABC is sticking with Seung-Hui Cho. CBS switched: yesterday it had Cho, the family name, first, Korean-style; now Cho is last, following western traditions. There was also a split decision (ABC 8 min v CBS 14, NBC 16) on how fast to scale back coverage.

All three networks traced Cho's history of problems, a history that was well known to campus police, teachers and fellow students even before we saw his farewell videotape. In 2005 campus authorities received complaints that he was stalking female students and had him briefly committed to a mental hospital.

His professor Lucinda Roy talked to all three networks. "This was one of the most disturbed students I have ever seen," Roy recalled to NBC's Lisa Myers. Roy told ABC's David Muir that she "grew uneasy being alone with him, working out a code with her assistant if she needed help." Cho seemed so depressed that "I imagined I would get a call saying that he had killed himself," the professor told CBS' Sharyn Alfonsi. "I thought he might hurt me." Alfonsi called Cho a "ticking timebomb" and Muir mused that "those red flags were glaring."


NOT SO CHILDISH The case of this one student raised the wider question of what precautions universities should take in the case of troubled or suicidal students generally. Obviously, all depressed students are not eligible for expulsion, CBS' Cynthia Bowers observed: at Virginia Tech alone, 2,200 seek counseling each year. Bowers inquired whether expulsions ever occurred--"have there been cases where you have sent the child home?"--but the very formulation of her question was flawed. Almost all college students are not children and "any student over 18 is an adult with legal privacy protections," ABC's Dan Harris pointed out. "Schools have long struggled to strike a balance between protecting the privacy of the individual and the safety of everyone else," mused Harris. "That balance may now shift firmly in favor of safety."


TERMINATED On any normal news day, the Supreme Court would have hogged the headlines when it permitted a ban on a type of abortion for the first time since the Roe v Wade decision of 1973. The procedure was scrupulously labeled by all three networks. It is sometimes used in those 10% of all abortions that are performed after the first trimester. It involves removing the bottom half of the fetus from the womb before terminating the pregnancy. Pro-choicers call this an "extraction." Pro-lifers call it a "partial birth." The networks chose care: it is "a procedure that opponents call partial birth abortion," according to NBC's Chip Reid: "what Congress calls partial birth abortions" was how CBS' Wyatt Andrews put it; "the law is called the Partial Birth Abortion Act," ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg (subscription required) explained.

Terminology aside, all three reporters called this a major change. "Huge" said CBS' Andrews…ABC's Crawford Greenburg saw a "seismic shift"…"monumental" was how activists on both sides characterized it for NBC's Reid. The newly-configured court allowed the ban without any exceptions to protect the life health of the pregnant woman. It was a 5-4 vote, with both of President George Bush's appointees, Samuel Alito and John Roberts, casting the key votes to form the new majority. For once pro-life conservatives and abortion rights activists were in agreement. The latter told NBC's Reid that "this may be only the start of a campaign to limit abortion rights" while the former told ABC's Crawford Greenburg that it "will lead to more restrictions on abortion."


SMOKE FILLED Sectarian violence flared in Iraq. Both ABC and CBS had their Baghdad reporters cover the half a dozen carbombs in Shiite neighborhoods that left up to 175 dead. NBC mentioned them in passing with voiced-over videotape. CBS' Martin Seemungal looked out over "the most dangerous and violent city on Earth" and saw trouble: "Black smoke is a sight that everyone in Baghdad dreads because at its source is chaos." A carbomb had exploded in the Sadriyah Market, killing 140, "some burned alive in the minibuses waiting to take them home," as ABC's Hilary Brown reported. She surveyed the progress of the so-called surge of troops in a network of 47 combat outposts and joint security stations throughout Baghdad. The surge was supposed to reduce the level of violence in order to foster progress towards political reconciliation: "Both goals seem very distant."


OWNERSHIP For the first time this week, the nightly news offered some fun. ABC's anchor Charles Gibson had a gleeful glint in his eye when he told us how disoriented Blackberry users had became when their system had a 12-hour blackout--"horror of horrors!"--and they were deprived of their e-mail lifeline. Gibson assigned John Berman to listen for the sound of "16m thumbs going silent" but his report consisted mostly of a squirming Berman having to interview his smugly lo-tech boss. "People have the telephone," Gibson teased Berman as he snatched his handheld away from him. "Actually, you can go and see someone else and talk to them person-to-person." Gibson waved the device in his face: "Do you know how much power I have over you? I own you, John Berman. I own you."


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 examples: on Wall Street the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at an all-time record high…President Bush postponed his announcement of sanctions against Sudan over the ethnic cleansing in Darfur…President and Congressional leadership discussed their stalemate over continued funding for the war in Iraq, without resolution…actress and gameshow contestant Kitty Carlisle died, aged 96.