CONTAINING LINKS TO 51991 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM FEBRUARY 13, 2008
In a collective swoon, all three networks abandoned measured news judgment and led their newscasts with a celebrity showdown. Baseball's Roger Clemens, the star pitcher, appeared on Capitol Hill along with Brian McNamee, his onetime trainer, to engage in mutual contradiction about whether Clemens was a cheat. The trainer testified that, at Clemens' direction, he injected him with steroids and hormones. Clemens swore it never happened. Here was controversy to be sure--but little consequence. It was not clear what urgent public policy the House committee was pursuing by staging the hearings nor what newsworthy insights they exposed to justify their status as Story of the Day.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR FEBRUARY 13, 2008: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailNBCBaseball pitcher Roger Clemens denies cheatingContradicted by his trainer at House hearingsTom CostelloWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSBaseball pitcher Roger Clemens denies cheatingTrainer's DNA evidence may be inadmissableArmen KeteyianNew York
video thumbnailNBC2008 Potomac primary: Va-DC-Md voteWinners Obama, McCain are now both frontrunnersDavid GregoryWashington DC
video thumbnailCBS2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton campaignRelies on debates, support from Texas-Ohio baseDean ReynoldsTexas
video thumbnailABC2008 Presidential race Democratic delegates standingsSuperdelegates may be decisive and divisiveJake TapperWashington DC
video thumbnailABCLebanon's Hezbollah leader Imad Mugniyah assassinatedReputed mastermind of Beirut terrorist attacksBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailNBCCongo civil war continues: death toll 5.5mSoldiers' gang rapes mutilate civilian womenAnn CurryCongo
video thumbnailNBCICE border controls along Mexico lineSonora Desert smugglers tracked on horsebackJohn LarsonArizona
video thumbnailCBSAntarctica polar ecology researchWilderness purity threatened by trash, tourismJohn BlackstoneAntarctica
video thumbnailCBSSt Valentine's Day holidayJapanese men learn to adore wives demonstrablyBarry PetersenTokyo
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
ALL EYES ON ROGER CLEMENS In a collective swoon, all three networks abandoned measured news judgment and led their newscasts with a celebrity showdown. Baseball's Roger Clemens, the star pitcher, appeared on Capitol Hill along with Brian McNamee, his onetime trainer, to engage in mutual contradiction about whether Clemens was a cheat. The trainer testified that, at Clemens' direction, he injected him with steroids and hormones. Clemens swore it never happened. Here was controversy to be sure--but little consequence. It was not clear what urgent public policy the House committee was pursuing by staging the hearings nor what newsworthy insights they exposed to justify their status as Story of the Day.

Even if the hearings lacked consequence they certainly had a buzz about them. CBS' Bob Orr called it "the toughest ticket in town" while NBC anchor Brian Williams noted that the confrontation had been aired live on "millions of televisions across this country." Oddly, the interrogating politicians "divided along party lines," observed NBC's Tom Costello, but he did not explain the ideology behind Democrats' decision to believe the trainer's version or the Republicans' siding with the pitcher. CBS' Orr could not decide either way: "The hearing ended where it started, a he said, she said dispute with no clear cut winner." ABC's John Berman (embargoed link) seemed mystified by the spectacle. He noted the "sparks and shouting…so much drama but the question is: to what end?"

ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg stated that one of the two must be lying--"but which one? I mean! They cannot prosecute both." She did not explain why the Justice Department should prosecute either. Are fibs about cheating at sports really serious enough to warrant such expenditure? CBS' Armen Keteyian called McNamee's trash--bloody gauze pads, vials, syringes with traces of DNA--the "best physical evidence against Clemens" but he admitted that the seven-year-old garbage would be inadmissible at trial so "we are really talking about the court of public opinion here not the court of law." Bob Costas, NBC Sports' veteran baseball play-by-play announcer, speculated to anchor Williams that during the Clemens era "more than half the players in the game" were dopers. Pitcher Clemens and slugger Barry Bonds "have their Hall of Fame credentials called into question and at least the possibility, however remote, that either or both could go to prison."

Attention baseball fans! When NBC's Costello called this "baseball's biggest scandal in 100 years" he was obviously caught up in the hype. This is bigger than the Black Sox of 1919? Or the fact that the major leagues enforced Jim Crow segregation for decades until Jackie Robinson arrived? Or that it bound its players as indentured servants until the reserve clause was overturned? What other scandalous behavior am I forgetting that put steroids in perspective?


WHERE’S THE BEEF? Most campaign coverage concentrated on the Democrats. Barack Obama beat Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Va-DC-Md Potomac primary on Tuesday night and is "expected" to win next Tuesday in Wisconsin and Hawaii, according to CBS' Dean Reynolds. That would make ten straight victories. Rodham Clinton's aides told Reynolds that the ten were "small contests anyway and that if she does well next month in Ohio and Texas she will be right back in the race." Reynolds added: "Left unsaid is what happens if she does not do well."

"I am in the solutions business. My opponent is in the promises business," was the Rodham Clinton soundbite that both CBS' Reynolds and ABC's Kate Snow (at the tail of the Wright videostream) selected. Snow called it "a sharper message," Reynolds found it "more energized." Responding to criticism that he "has more style than substance" on the stump, Obama "went on a substance offensive," according to ABC's David Wright. He laid out a $210bn program to develop renewable energy and to rebuild infrastructure with an explicit warning to his audience that his speech would be "a little more detailed. This is going to be a lot longer, not as many applause lines."

CBS' newscast was anchored by Harry Smith while Katie Couric went on the road to profile Michelle Obama, asking her whether it was true that her husband's "inspirational message" lacked substance: "If you cannot do the inspiration then, you know, you have to attack the guy that can do both," the would-be First Lady argued.

Obama's aides told NBC's David Gregory that he now has a big enough lead in the delegate count that Rodham Clinton cannot catch up. NBC had him ahead by 109 (1078 v 969), CBS by 66 (1251 v 1185), ABC by 51 (1273 v 1222). ABC's Jake Tapper conceded that Rodham Clinton might not clinch before the convention but he argued that Obama might not either, thus making superdelegates decisive. The last time that happened, Tapper reminded us, was in 1984, when Gary Hart reeled off wins eleven of the final twelve primaries, but could not defeat Walter Mondale "largely because of superdelegates, who committed to Mondale before the process even began."


BLOWN AWAY All three networks told us about the death of Imad Mugniyah--ABC's Brian Ross from New York, CBS' Mark Phillips from London, NBC's Richard Engel from Baghdad. Engel said Mugniyah was "like a ghost, wanted in forty countries, rarely photographed, only left one fingerprint." A militia leader of Hezbollah, Lebanon's Shiite Party of God, Mugniyah was killed by a carbomb in Damascus. Hezbollah, according to Phillips, called it a "martyr's death." Ross' official sources in the United States government--he did not identify them--called the assassination "justice."

Mugniyah was accused as a terrorist mastermind, his three most spectacular coups reputedly being the bombing of the United States Embassy in Beirut in 1983, the hijack of TWA Flight 847 in 1985 and the bombing of the Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires in 1994. All three reporters also characterized Mugniyah's bombing of the US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut in 1983 as a terrorist attack. At Tyndall Report we reject that characterization. "Terrorism" is defined as violence against civilian targets for political ends. An attack on a military barracks is warfare not terrorism.


CURRY IN CONGO Ann Curry, newscaster for NBC's Today, continues to amass a weighty resume of wartorn datelines. Her last two African trips were to Darfur. Now she files for NBC's In Depth from Goma in Congo, where the death toll from the civil war stands at 5.5m. Curry introduced us to an 18-year-old woman in Goma's hospital undergoing internal surgery from the wounds she suffered two years ago under continuous gang rape by soldiers: "For two days they raped her. There were so many men, too many to count." After hospital she will go to a job training center with 150 other women: "Many cannot go home, not only because of the war but because they are rejected by their husbands as rape carries such stigma. After ten years of war here in eastern Congo, lawlessness and rape are still rampant. In the last year alone, tens of thousands of women have been raped in this province."


ELSEWHERE… ABC's newscast was anchored from Philadelphia. Charles Gibson (embargoed link) profiled Michael Nutter, the newly elected mayor. Nutter learned his people skills as Mix Master Mike, a hip-hop DJ. His inauguration night party is on YouTube…last month ABC's Bill Weir went to Nogales to profile a day in the life of the border patrol along the Mexico line. Now NBC's John Larson joins a horseback unit that was organized to patrol the Sonora Desert during Prohibition and has been searching for smugglers ever since…CBS' John Blackstone concluded his three-part Journey to the Bottom of the Earth with the problem of Antarctica's trash. The climate is so cold and so dry that nothing rots. Garbage left by Scott of the Antarctic in 1901 is still preserved…the Wife Adoring Association of Tokyo gave CBS' Barry Petersen tips for making love on St Valentine's Day: "Look at her. Talk to her. Do not just use words. Give her a smile and a thank you. And find something you like doing together."


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 Iraqi parliament approved a package of legislation that includes a budget, a prisoner amnesty and revised provincial powers…the fiscal stimulus signed into law by President George Bush may total $168bn…Lake Mead, the Colorado River reservoir, is failing to maintain water levels and may dry up entirely within 15 years…Defense Secretary Robert Gates slipped on a patch of ice and broke his arm.