CONTAINING LINKS TO 51991 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM FEBRUARY 07, 2008
CPAC, the annual inside-the-Beltway conference for conservative political activists, hogged headlines as the top two Republican Presidential candidates made speeches. Mitt Romney was the Story of the Day, leading all three newscasts, with his unexpected announcement that he was withdrawing from the race. That left John McCain as the presumptive nominee--so his speech was the launch of his effort to solidify support from the GOP base in the General Election. Meanwhile it was a sad day at ABC. Former national security correspondent John McWethy died, killed in a Colorado skiing accident, aged 60.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR FEBRUARY 07, 2008: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailCBS2008 Mitt Romney ends candidacySpent $40m of his own funds as conservativeChip ReidWashington DC
video thumbnailNBC2008 Mitt Romney ends candidacyLongterm plan to be GOP's Reaganesque leaderDavid GregoryWashington DC
video thumbnailCBS2008 John McCain campaignStill lacks unanimous support from conservativesJeff GreenfieldNew York
video thumbnailNBC2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton campaignUsed her own $5m loan to spur fundraisingAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSTornado seasonDevastation across five states killed 55Kelly CobiellaTennessee
video thumbnailNBCTornado seasonToddler thrown 300 feet from home, found aliveLester HoltTennessee
video thumbnailABCPharmaceuticals industry marketing abusesMerck fined $670m for kickbacks, price gougingPierre ThomasWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSOrganized crime: Gambino Family targeted by FBIArrest of 59 alleged mobsters in NYC, SicilyArmen KeteyianNew York
video thumbnailNBCBaseball pitcher Roger Clemens denies cheatingPerjury showdown looms on Capitol HillTom CostelloWashington DC
video thumbnailABCABC News former reporter John McWethy dies, aged 60Obituary of national security correspondentCharles GibsonNew York
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL ACTION CPAC, the annual inside-the-Beltway conference for conservative political activists, hogged headlines as the top two Republican Presidential candidates made speeches. Mitt Romney was the Story of the Day, leading all three newscasts, with his unexpected announcement that he was withdrawing from the race. That left John McCain as the presumptive nominee--so his speech was the launch of his effort to solidify support from the GOP base in the General Election. Meanwhile it was a sad day at ABC. Former national security correspondent John McWethy died, killed in a Colorado skiing accident, aged 60.

"Even many on Romney's own staff were caught by surprise" by his withdrawal, CBS' Chip Reid reflected. ABC's John Berman (embargoed link) singled out Romney's rationale, a "provocative even biting claim" that equated the Democratic contenders with terrorists: "In this time of war I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror." Berman called it "a decision based on principle" namely that his continued challenge would weaken McCain, making a Democratic victory in November more likely, and a Democrat in the White House would be a victory for al-Qaeda.

ABC's Berman was skeptical. "It was also a decision based on facts. Romney was far, far behind McCain in the hunt for delegates." He spent $40m of his own money to win contests in eleven states. During the contest McCain "often feuded bitterly with Romney," CBS' Reid noted. NBC's Ron Allen observed that McCain at times "could barely conceal his disdain for Romney." Allen suggested that Romney "never overcame the flip-flopper label on key issues." Berman listed abortion, gay rights and gun control. In addition, Mike Huckabee "siphoned away conservative votes" and Romney's "Mormon faith might have also hurt him" among evangelical Christians.

Yet Romney did not so much put an end to his Presidential aspirations as kick them down the road four years. NBC's David Gregory saw him styling himself after Ronald Reagan in 1976 and Barry Goldwater in 1960. Both were defeated for the nomination and returned four years later to win. Both ABC's George Stephanopoulos and NBC's Tim Russert saw Romney as making the first speech of Campaign 2012. "Has Romney fired the first shot in a new war for the future of the party, a war that could undermine McCain's ability to unite Republicans and win in November?" wondered Gregory.


UNITE OR EXCITE If Mitt Romney was welcomed "as their champion" by the "fervent conservatives" who packed the room at CPAC, CBS' Chip Reid was in no doubt that "feelings among conservatives towards John McCain are still raw." CBS political analyst Nicolle Wallace told Jeff Greenfield that ABM voters--Anybody But McCain--may be "vocal" but are "probably a smaller sliver of the party than we give them credit for." The challenge for McCain is not to get conservative votes, mused NBC's Tim Russert, but "can he motivate, galvanize conservatives to be foot soldiers for McCain? George Bush believes he was elected President twice because he had people willing to go door-to-door, phone call to phone call. That is what McCain's challenge is: not unite the party but excite the party." CBS' Greenfield added one more challenge--money. "His frequent battles with drug companies, tobacco giants and other corporate interests could make it a lot harder to tap traditional sources of Republican money."


USING NEWS TO RAISE MONEY The only story making news on the Democratic side of the Presidential contest was an update on Hillary Rodham Clinton's much-publicized fundraising woes. A day after announcing that she had made her campaign a personal loan of $5m to keep it afloat through Super Tuesday, Rodham Clinton announced that $6m had been raised online in 24 hours: the loan had been repaid; pay checks were cut for staffers; and television advertising had been purchased. NBC's Andrea Mitchell noted that it was news of the loan that had "helped spark" the fundraising. Rodham Clinton is taking advantage of free media again with an appearance on CBS' 60 Minutes, Mitchell added. Indeed CBS' newscast was anchored by Harry Smith as Katie Couric was away from the desk preparing the Sunday piece.


FLYING TODDLER Tuesday night's tornadoes earned follow-ups on all three newscasts. CBS' Kelly Cobiella stated that the 93 twisters were "the deadliest US outbreak in a quarter century" with at least 55 killed. A storm that touched down in Tennessee was "powerful enough to level well-built homes and to turn cars and refrigerators into missiles. Only 1% of tornadoes become this intense." NBC's Lester Holt and ABC's Steve Osunsami (embargoed link) both featured the human interest tale of Kyson Stowell, an eleven-month-old found covered in mud in a field in Castalian Springs Tenn, snatched out of the arms of his dead mother by the storm and hurled 300 feet. "They came across a doll and discovered it was a missing baby," marveled Osunsami. From Jackson Tenn, CBS' Jeff Glor showed us the collapsed dormitory at Union University where seven students were buried for more than three hours beneath 25 feet of cinderblock and steel. All were rescued alive.


FLACK FOR THE FEDS Dear reader, if ever you happen to be prosecuted for racketeering, just hope that Armen Keteyian of CBS is not sitting in the jury. Instead of fair reporting on the FBI's arrest of almost 60 suspects in its investigation into the Gambino organized crime family, Keteyian played the role of a public relations flack for federal prosecutors.

On NBC, Jonathan Dienst listed the "alleged" crimes; Keteyian called them "a litany of all-too-familiar mob-related offenses--murder, assault, racketeering, extortion, robbery loansharking and rug distribution."

Dienst said the arrests included "reputed" leaders of the family, the "acting boss, under boss and consigliere;" Keteyian flat out asserted that those arrested were Gambino "members or associates…including the top three bosses."

Dienst noted that all those arrested were "pleading not guilty;" Keteyian made no mention of any defense case.

Keteyian, it seems, has no notion of the presumption of innocence or the prosecution's burden of proof.


JACK TO HIS FRIENDS It was unfortunate that anchor Charles Gibson's tribute to John McWethy to close ABC's newscast should run simultaneously with NBC's closing feature, showing Peter Alexander schussing on the slopes of Aspen in his piece on skier safety in avalanche zones. McWethy had been Gibson's own skiing buddy before he was killed, the anchor noted. McWethy was an innovator on the national security beat, starting at the State Department and then expanding his role at ABC to include the Pentagon. CBS performed the same merger the other way round, assigning Pentagon correspondent David Martin to diplomatic coverage too. Of the three broadcast news divisions only NBC still keeps the two beats separate, with Andrea Mitchell on diplomacy and Jim Miklaszewski on the military.

Gibson's obituary of McWethy included a montage of hotspot datelines--Antarctica (well not so much of a hotspot), Bosnia, Port-au-Prince, Afghanistan, Somalia, Kosovo, Baghdad--culminating in his coverage from the Pentagon itself on September 11th, 2001. McWethy's reporter's mantra: "It is not unpatriotic to question the government. It is unpatriotic not to."


ELSEWHERE… Both NBC's Tom Costello and ABC's David Kerley (embargoed link) followed Roger Clemens, the star pitcher, as he worked the hallways on Capitol Hill ahead of public hearings on baseball's steroids abuse. His trainer Brian McNamee offered investigators what he claimed was DNA evidence of doping, including "a bag of syringes, bloody gauze pads," Kerley reported. If Clemens, who denies cheating, is caught in a lie under oath, he faces a prison term of as long as five years, Costello told us…Merck, the pharmaceutical company, has been fined $671m for price gouging, anti-competitive practices and kickbacks for prescribing physicians "disguised as fees for training and consultation," ABC's Pierre Thomas reported. The firm is paying the fine but "admitted no wrongdoing." Zocor and the now-pulled Vioxx were the brands in question…CBS sent Sheila MacVicar to Copenhagen, where geneticists are interested in the melanin deficiency that turns eyes blue. The Danes claim that every blue-eyed person in the world is descended from a single 10,000-year-old Black Sea ancestor with that genetic mutation. Astonishingly, at that time, the entire human population of the planet was just 50,000.


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: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is visiting Afghanistan…NASA launched Space Shuttle Atlantis…the $150bn fiscal stimulus package has been approved by the Senate…retail sales continued to slow in January…airline merger talks between Delta and North West are nearing completion…a snow emergency has been declared in Wisconsin…actress-activist Angelina Jolie is raising awareness of the humanitarian crisis in Baghdad.