Good news/Bad news on the economic front. ABC led with the good news, as stock prices reversed an early slump to finish with Wall Street's biggest trading gains of an otherwise negative new year. NBC and CBS led with the bad news, that consumer spending is sagging despite this one day of financial resilience. The gloomy prospect of looming recession was Story of the Day.    
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video thumbnailNBCEconomy expansion slows: recession risks assessedFinancial volatility may spook consumersCarl QuintanillaNew York
video thumbnailCBSEconomy expansion slows: recession risks assessedWorries from financial sector, consumer spendingAnthony MasonNew York
video thumbnailABCInterest rates set by Federal Reserve BoardCut helps credit card, home equity borrowersDavid MuirNew York
video thumbnailCBSUnemployment statistics: 7.9m jobless nationwideJob search, resumes, networking after layoffsKelly CobiellaFlorida
video thumbnailABC2008 Florida Republican primaryCandidates scale back on stump to raise fundsJake TapperFlorida
video thumbnailNBC2008 South Carolina primaryLooming vote dominates state's black talkradioTom BrokawSouth Carolina
video thumbnailCBS2008 Presidential General Election field overviewRivals outline disillusions on campaign trailKatie CouricNo Dateline
video thumbnailNBCIsrael-Palestinian conflictDesperate Gazans destroy border wall with EgyptJulian ManyonEgypt
video thumbnailNBCNazi Holocaust rememberedParis museum reveals rural Ukraine genocideAnn CurryNew York
video thumbnailABCActor Heath Ledger dies, aged 28Probably accidental prescription overdoseRyan OwensNew York
STOCK REBOUND FAILS TO CALM RECESSION FEARS Good news/Bad news on the economic front. ABC led with the good news, as stock prices reversed an early slump to finish with Wall Street's biggest trading gains of an otherwise negative new year. NBC and CBS led with the bad news, that consumer spending is sagging despite this one day of financial resilience. The gloomy prospect of looming recession was Story of the Day.

ABC's Betsy Stark (embargoed link) offered the play-by-play on stock market action that saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average swing from a 325 point loss to a 298 point gain in a matter of hours, closing at 12270: "Even the pros were amazed at the extraordinary about-face…whiplash, rollercoaster…choose your metaphor…at midday for no obvious reason the buyers started to appear." On CBS, Anthony Mason countered with a gloomy forecast from Merrill Lynch of "the worst consumer recession since 1980" and a continued real estate slump that will drive home prices down 25% over the next two years. CNBC's Carl Quintanilla chimed in on NBC with slowing sales by Apple and Motorola and a pricecutting experiment at Starbucks to offer coffee for $1 by making the cup smaller.

RELIEF MAY BE ON THE WAY Both ABC's David Muir and NBC's John Yang looked at the federal government's efforts to revive the economy. From the White House, Yang took the fiscal side. He found Congressional Democrats pushing for "tax rebates to go to people who make so little money they do not pay income tax." Muir chose the monetary stimulus, outlining the sectors that may benefit from yesterday's reduction of annual short term interest rates to 3.5% by the Federal Reserve Board. Muir called it an "immediate Band Aid for borrowers" specifically those with credit card debt and home equity loans.

As part of CBS' Hitting Home series, Kelly Cobiella showed us economic hurt that gets no federal bailout. She profiled the job search of James Matarazzo, a laid-off mortgage sales executive in Plantation Fla. In the last six weeks he has sent out hundreds of resumes, telephoned and e-mailed 50 people each day, posted his name on Internet job boards and hired a job search firm. Cobiella's rule of thumb is to allow "at least one week of searching for every $10,000 in salary."

MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND In campaign coverage, ABC's Jake Tapper reported on what was not happening: "The crucial Florida primary is less than a week away. The race is tight and the candidates should be spending all their time campaigning. But because so many Republican candidates are running out of money, they have had to compromise their campaigning here in order to attend fundraisers out of state." Tapper diagramed future demands on spending using the visual aid of a stick drawing of a national map in the beach at Boca Raton.

NBC's David Gregory pointed out that even the well-financed Democratic campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have had to trim expenses because the race is more competitive than they had expected. They are saving up for an all-or-nothing advertising blitz before Super Tuesday, "an expensive effort to achieve a political knockout." ABC's Tapper speculated on the possibility that Mitt Romney, a self-financed candidate whose net worth is $250m, will prevail by sheer attrition, "the last man standing just because he is the richest."

RACE RADIO Only NBC assigned a reporter to update us on the Democratic race in South Carolina. Former Nightly News Tom Brokaw anchor filed a mood piece on the buzz about Obama and Rodham Clinton on the state's black talkradio. "If you judge by the callers on my program, a lot of positions have really hardened," Don Frierson of WGCV's Urban Scene remarked. "I mean Obama supporters are for Obama. A lot of people are mad at Bill and Hillary Clinton because of what they perceive to be attacks on Obama."

NO LAUGHING MATTER CBS' campaign coverage returned to anchor Katie Couric's Primary Questions series, with the soundbites whittled down to seven from their original ten by the elimination of Joe Biden, Bill Richardson and Fred Thompson. "What is the most disillusioning part of running for President?" Couric wondered.

In one way or another, four of the candidates complained about the news media. John Edwards disliked "glitz, glamour" contests being shoehorned into narratives. Rudolph Giuliani resented being forced to talk in soundbites. Mitt Romney is disappointed when he is not represented "fairly or honestly." Hillary Rodham Clinton pleaded with "the press, the pundits, all of the commentators" to pay more attention to the voters.

John McCain was pissed off by treachery: "People who you think are going to support you end up supporting somebody else." Barack Obama hates "fundraising, you know, dialing for dollars, asking strangers for money."

And as usual Mike Huckabee was the most human with his appealing answer: "The loss of sense of humor."

TEAR DOWN THIS WALL Amazing sights from Gaza finally attracted attention from all three networks. The siege imposed on the strip by Israel since June was raised by a series of explosions that destroyed the massive wall Israel had built along the Egyptian border, allowing hundreds and thousands of Palestinians to stream into the markets of Rafah to supply themselves with goods deprived by Israel's blockade. From London, CBS' Richard Roth noted that Gaza's Hamas government had not itself razed the wall but had subsequently "provided bulldozers to clear a path" for the shoppers. NBC aired a report by Julian Manyon of London-based ITN, its newsgathering partner. Manyon demonstrated just how easy it was to cross no man's land to buy supplies. From Jerusalem ABC's Simon McGregor-Wood (embargoed link) judged that Israel's "strategy of isolating Hamas is in ruins" since, in Cairo, President Hosni Mubarak "seemed in no hurry" to reseal the border.

THE GRAVE WAS MOVING Ann Curry, newscaster on NBC's Today, crossed over to Nightly News to offer an In Depth profile of the Rev Patrick Desbois, a Roman Catholic priest affiliated with the Shoah Museum in Paris. Desbois has conducted an oral history of the Nazi genocide of Jews outside concentration camps in the rural communities of Ukraine. He estimated that mass graves in the countryside account for a previously undocumented one million extra deaths. Curry showed clips of the oral history by surviving peasants who were child eyewitnesses to the slaughter. "Hundreds of thousands were systematically shot. To save bullets, eyewitnesses said, some were forced into graves alive. This man is telling you that the grave was moving."

KILLER PILLS All three networks offered a follow-up to last night's celebrity headline, the death at age 28 of Australian actor Heath Ledger in his downtown Manhattan apartment. The initial autopsy results were inconclusive so "his death remains a mystery," according to CBS' Kelly Wallace. ABC's Ryan Owens called the likely cause "an accidental drug overdose." NBC's Mike Taibbi reported that no illegal narcotics or alcohol was found, "only prescription medications, six kinds, including sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications."

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: the flag of Iraq has been redesigned to remove all vestiges of the Baath Party…General Motors and Toyota sold exactly the same number of automobiles worldwide last year, almost 9.4m...the contractor for Boston's Big Dig bridge-and-tunnel project settled legal claims for $458m…toxic levels of mercury mean that tuna sushi routinely violates federal dietary guidelines…the sun rose for the first time this year over the Alaskan town of Barrow.