The news business made news as Dow Jones approved the $5bn takeover bid by News Corp--or, stated as household names, Rupert Murdoch will now publish The Wall Street Journal. The media consolidation was Story of the Day and the lead item on both ABC and NBC. CBS chose a graft investigation into Ted Stevens, the senior Republican senator from Alaska, as the FBI looked into the billing for his home improvement construction.    
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video thumbnailNBCWall Street Journal taken over by Rupert MurdochDow Jones sells to News Corp for $5bnAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCChief Justice John Roberts has health problemsOut of hospital, may need epilepsy medicationPete WilliamsSupreme Court
video thumbnailCBSChief Justice John Roberts has health problemsOut of hospital, may need epilepsy medicationJim AxelrodWhite House
video thumbnailCBSSen Ted Stevens (R-AK) graft investigationFBI probes billing for home improvement projectSharyl AttkissonCapitol Hill
video thumbnailCBSNFL former player Pat Tillman killed in combatPentagon censures general for fabricated accountDavid MartinPentagon
video thumbnailABCSudan civil war: ethnic cleansing in DarfurKhartoum refutes mass deaths, refugee crisisJonathan KarlSudan
video thumbnailABCBombmaking weapons cache discovered in KentuckyDischarged army veteran with grudge arrestedBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailNBCRacial feud sparked by smalltown La shade treeLynching nooses, arson, assault by HS studentsMike TaibbiLouisiana
video thumbnailCBSOrgan transplant surgeon accused of speed-harvestingCharge overmedication of terminally-ill patientSandra HughesLos Angeles
video thumbnailABCHollywood hires infants as child actorsCalifornia has strict laws for baby wranglingBrian RooneyHollywood
MURDOCH CONTROLS ALMOST ALL MEDIA The news business made news as Dow Jones approved the $5bn takeover bid by News Corp--or, stated as household names, Rupert Murdoch will now publish The Wall Street Journal. The media consolidation was Story of the Day and the lead item on both ABC and NBC. CBS chose a graft investigation into Ted Stevens, the senior Republican senator from Alaska, as the FBI looked into the billing for his home improvement construction.

All three networks agreed that a key element of the Dow Jones deal concerned cable television at least as much as the Journal newspaper. NBC's Andrea Mitchell stated that Murdoch "anticipates a big boom in financial news and a Dow Jones brand could help him launch a new business channel that will compete with CNBC"…ABC's David Muir (subscription required) predicted that the well-known Wall Street Journal name will "bolster his soon-to-be-launched business channel"…and CBS' Kelly Wallace saw Murdoch "banking" on the Journal's prestige and its army of 740 reporters in 89 bureaus as he launches Fox Business Network.

As for the "aging newspaper industry," ABC's Muir quoted media insiders seeing Murdoch ensure that the Journal "survives for many years to come" while CBS' Wallace debated: is he a "white knight" try to save the newspaper or a "tabloid tycoon focused on shoring up other businesses?" NBC's Mitchell called Murdoch "a controversial press lord for the digital age," but funnily enough did not mention News Corp's digital arm. Only ABC's Muir listed among his properties--and, of course, FOX-TV's The Simpsons, using a wistful Montgomery Burns soundbite: "Well, I guess it is impossible to control all the media--unless, of course, you are Rupert Murdoch."

BRAIN WAVES Yesterday's late-breaking news of Chief Justice John Roberts' epileptic seizure warranted a follow-up on all three newscasts. He had another attack once before, in 1993, and so medical sources told NBC's Pete Williams that "having two seizures means Roberts is likely to have more" yet without any impact on his professional capacity. ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg (no link) expected him to restart a course of anti-seizure medication, a drug that back then prevented him from driving a car: "Doctors do not know why that seizure occurred…just like they do not know why the one occurred yesterday." At the White House, CBS' Jim Axelrod put this minor health problem for the 52-year-old Chief Justice in perspective, running through the serious afflictions suffered by William Rehnquist, Sandra Day O'Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, William Brennan, William Douglas. "Something else that may work in Roberts' favor--in the past 20 years the annual caseload at the Supreme Court has been cut in half."

EXTREME HOME MAKEOVER CBS and ABC went to Capitol Hill for their coverage of the FBI search of the Alaska home of Sen Ted Stevens. NBC assigned the story to Lisa Myers, its Washington DC based investigative correspondent. She recounted the remodeling that doubled the size of the home. The construction was supervised by Veco, whose business is in oil pipelines not housing. A sub-contractor submitted bills to Veco not to Stevens directly. When Stevens said he "paid every bill that was given to us," Myers pointed out that "the FBI wants to know if Veco picked up some of the tab." ABC's Jake Tapper (subscription required) told us that Bill Allen, the CEO of Veco, has pled guilty to bribery of local officials in Alaska, "reportedly including Stevens' son Ben to secure support for a new pipeline." Sharyl Attkisson had CBS News staffers compile fundraising data: Veco executives have donated at least $70,000 to Stevens' campaign coffers; when he headed the Senate Appropriations Committee, the 83-year-old Stevens "helped steer $30m in federal contracts to Veco."

STAR QUALITY Just as his colleague Kimberly Dozier predicted last Thursday, CBS' David Martin reported on the "withering letter of reprimand" that the Pentagon issued in the case of the death of former football player Pat Tillman, a USArmy Ranger who was killed in 2004 by his own comrade in arms in Afghanistan. Gen Philip Kensinger is the now retired officer who was censured in the letter for his lies in covering up his efforts to concoct a scenario to portray Tillman as a battlefield hero, killed while confronting the Taliban. Martin's report, however, offered no hint of the darker suspicion that NBC's Jim Miklaszewski mentioned last Friday--that Tillman was deliberately murdered by jealous comrades. Martin insisted that it is an "awful truth" that Tillman was "accidentally killed."

A footnote on the Tillman story: his is a big deal because he gave up a career in the NFL spotlight to go to war. It is now routine, as anchor Katie Couric did here in introducing Martin's story, to refer to Tillman not as a former player, but as a "football star." We are not NFL fans here at Tyndall Report, but our impression was that Tillman had the status of a journeyman starter for the Arizona Cardinals; "star" exaggerates his skills. We welcome comments from readers with NFL expertise.

CALL FOR A RECOUNT British Prime Minister Gordon Brown moved on from Camp David, where NBC's David Gregory covered him yesterday, to the United Nations, where NBC anchor Brian Williams obtained an Exclusive interview. Williams asked him about Iraq and Afghanistan and Palestine, about his predecessor Tony Blair and his dead daughter and his disabled son--"I do not really talk about it"--but not about Topic A of his address to the UN, the authorization of a 26,000-strong peacekeeping force in Sudan. By contrast, ABC sent Jonathan Karl to Darfur where he covered the government's propaganda efforts, complete with celebrations by dancing villagers in brightly colored robes, to assure officials from a dozen African nations that "everything is just fine." Their tour of the abu-Shouk refugee camp was a rolling visit: "We see the squalor from outside our windows but they are not giving us an opportunity to actually go out and talk to the refugees." As for the accusations of a 400,000-or-so death toll in the region, Gov Osman Youssef Kebir of North Darfur offered his counter-estimate: "Less than 9,000."

POLICE BLOTTER A controversial collection of criminal cases from around the country surfaced, one on each newscast. CBS' Sandra Hughes brought us the prosecution of Hootan Roozrokh, a physician at the California Transplant Donor Network. Dr Roozrokh was sent to the deathbed of Ruben Navarro, an unconscious 25-year-old nursing home patient, to collect his organs. Unfortunately, Navarro took eight hours to die. Roozrokh stands accused of prescribing an overdose of painkillers and sedatives in order to speed his harvest. "His lawyer says prosecutors have singled him out even though he did nothing to hasten Navarro's death," Hughes recounted.

For NBC's In Depth report, Mike Taibbi traveled to Louisiana, where local high school football phenom Mychal Bell faces 22 years in prison for fighting with fellow student Justin Barker. Taibbi told us about an ancient shade tree in the small town of Jena. Its cool had always been reserved for white folk--this is "a town that once gave white supremacist David Duke more than 60% of its vote"--so when black students made use of it, lynching nooses appeared in its branches next day. The high school responded with a brief suspension, but no expulsion, of three white students. Next an arson fire destroyed a high school classroom. Then a fight started between Bell and five of his friends, who are black, and Barker, who is a white. Bell's prison sentence for assault followed a guilty verdict by an all-white jury. The shade tree "was cut down so the town could make a new start--easier said than done."

On ABC's Investigates feature, Brian Ross followed bounty hunter William Staubs's manhunt for a discharged army veteran named Christopher Riendeau. Staubs, who styles himselfCobra, tracked Riendeau down to a motel in Kentucky near Fort Campbell, where, Ross reported, was a "cleaned and pressed US military dress uniform" lying side by side with "an array of Nazi paraphernalia." Cobra showed us what he said he found in Riendeau's storage shed: 16 fully-functional pipebombs, 2lbs of C-4 plastique explosive, 60 firearms, ammunition and grenade fuses. Ross speculated that Riendeau might be a so-called "lone wolf…Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh is a classic example." Ross failed to report on Riendeau's side of the story.

BABY REJECTOR To vary the mood, ABC decided to close with cute. Brian Rooney recounted the latest hot Hollywood commodity. Movies, soap operas, commercials, print ads all want to use live babies: "one baby is good; two are better--twins can book in Hollywood." State labor laws insist on a minimum age for child actors--15 days old--and a maximum daily on-camera stint of 20 minutes. A 30-second commercial fetches a $30,000 fee. Talent scouts have developed entire careers at the "casting crib," selecting a few newborns as photogenic, eliminating others. "Most of the time you are rejecting babies," an astonished Rooney confronted Leslie Patson of the Babystyle agency. "I know. It is horrible. Yes. They are just babies, too. Yes, but it is business. You know?"

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: a barrel of crude oil costs a record high $78…General Motors continues its return to profitability…home mortgage foreclosures are forcing the lender American Home Mortgage into near bankruptcy…Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates traveled together to Saudi Arabia…the British army has withdrawn from Northern Ireland 38 years after they were deployed for a few weeks to deter sectarian violence…the incidence of child abuse and neglect among families of members of the military deployed to war is increasing…a highway overpass under construction in Oroville Cal collapsed.