CONTAINING LINKS TO 51991 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM FEBRUARY 18, 2008
The Presidents Day holiday was no day off for news. White House correspondents followed President George Bush on his trip to Africa. Former President George Bush endorsed John McCain for President. Both ABC and NBC led their newscasts from the campaign trail. Yet the Story of the Day was no network's lead--it was the recall of millions of pounds of meat from the school lunch program because of slaughterhouse violations. Of the three anchors, only Katie Couric at CBS took the holiday off. Inexplicably, her substitute Harry Smith chose to lead with celebrity trivia from baseball's spring training instead of hard news.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR FEBRUARY 18, 2008: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailCBS2008 Wisconsin primary, Hawaii caucusDemocratic race close, Rodham Clinton advancesJim AxelrodMilwaukee
video thumbnailABC2008 Barack Obama campaignSpeech used copied phrases without attributionDavid WrightOhio
video thumbnailNBC2008 John McCain campaignRinging endorsement by former President BushKelly O'DonnellWisconsin
video thumbnailCBSPresident Bush on five-nation tour of AfricaHonored for AIDS treatment program in TanzaniaBill PlanteTanzania
video thumbnailNBCAIDS: epidemic devastates sub-Saharan AfricaUganda orphanage runs A-B-C prevention campaignMartin FletcherUganda
video thumbnailABCPakistan politics: parliamentary elections heldPresident Musharraf's party heads for defeatJim SciuttoPakistan
video thumbnailNBCKosovo declares independence from SerbiaEthnic mixture of celebrations and protestsAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailABCCattle slaughterhouse animal cruelty abusesUSDA inspections lax; school lunch meat recalledLisa StarkWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSBaseball pitcher Roger Clemens denies cheatingTeammate Andy Pettitte contradicts his storyKelly CobiellaMiami
video thumbnailABCWorkforce is overworked, takes too little time offFew vacation days yet many go unclaimed anywayCharles GibsonNew York
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
HARDLY A HOLIDAY The Presidents Day holiday was no day off for news. White House correspondents followed President George Bush on his trip to Africa. Former President George Bush endorsed John McCain for President. Both ABC and NBC led their newscasts from the campaign trail. Yet the Story of the Day was no network's lead--it was the recall of millions of pounds of meat from the school lunch program because of slaughterhouse violations. Of the three anchors, only Katie Couric at CBS took the holiday off. Inexplicably, her substitute Harry Smith chose to lead with celebrity trivia from baseball's spring training instead of hard news.

This was the final day of campaigning before the Wisconsin primary. CBS' Jim Axelrod called the Democratic race close enough for Hillary Rodham Clinton "to junk her plans to give up and leave the state." Many Wisconsin Democrats are "the kind of voter she has relied on," Axelrod explained--older, less well educated, economically downscale. "It is a state that demographically tends to favor her," NBC's Lee Cowan concurred.

Rodham Clinton's recent campaign theme has been that "words do not matter," as ABC's David Wright reminded us. Her slogan has been Speeches do not put food on the table. CBS' Axelrod described her line of attack against Barack Obama as "all rhetoric and no record." Obama sarcastically replied that famous rallying cries in American history--"All men are created equal"…"We have nothing to fear but fear itself"--could not be dismissed as "just words." As NBC's Cowan put it, "it was a good line, delivered well, meant to slap down criticism that Obama is all talk and no action. The problem? The words defending his use of words were not his own words." The "just words" refrain was lifted without attribution from a 2006 speech by Deval Patrick, the Governor of Massachusetts, an "old friend" of Obama, according to ABC's Wright.

So an opportunistic Rodham Clinton campaign decided that words do matter after all, calling the figure of speech "proof that Obama's inspiring rhetoric cannot be trusted," according to ABC's Wright. "They accused him of plagiarism." In turn, Wright heard Obama "reluctantly" admit that he should have given Patrick "proper credit." For his part, Patrick said "he and Obama often share ideas about politics, policy and language." Observed Wright: "Politicians steal slogans more often than comedians steal jokes."


THE BUSH BRAND Both NBC and ABC had reporters cover the endorsement of John McCain by the elder George Bush. The incumbent President has not yet formally followed suit, ABC's Ron Claiborne (no link) explained, because Mike Huckabee is still officially in the race. The younger Bush talked to NBC's Ann Curry in Tanzania and was quoted in Kelly O'Donnell's package as guaranteeing that he would back McCain too: "I will help him in any way I can." Claiborne found McCain and the former President to be "at ease with each other, upbeat…much in contrast to the unease and uncertainty about the role that the President will play" with his approval rating hovering around 30%. Claiborne speculated that he will confine himself to fundraising and mobilizing conservatives and evangelical Christians. As NBC's O'Donnell put it: "McCain is about to find out the value of the Bush brand in this race."


AFRICA’S A-B-CS President George Bush was hailed in Africa--"welcomed as a hero" according to ABC's Martha Raddatz (embargoed link); he has "gotten a hero's welcome," as CBS' Bill Plante put it. Plante profiled PEPFAR--the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief--a five-year $15bn aid package to fund HIV/AIDS clinics and provide medication. Raddatz examined a $1.5bn US-funded program to reduce the threat of malaria in 15 nations with a combination of medications, spraying residential areas against mosquitoes and bed nets treated with insecticide: "A simple $5 net has truly kept children alive." Instead of following the President to Dar es Salaam, NBC sent Martin Fletcher to Uganda for an In Depth report on progress against the AIDS epidemic. He showed us an American-funded orphanage in Kampala, founded for children of dead prostitutes, which offers a foster home, vocational training and sex education. The message of A-B-C, "Abstinence, Be faithful in marriage and Condoms," is taught by a chorus of singers, even though "condom distribution is not a policy pushed by the Bush Administration."


SICKENING SLAUGHTER CBS' Nancy Cordes already got a jump on the meat recall story last month when she aired the Humane Society's undercover videotape of sick cows being tortured at the Hallmark Westland slaughterhouse in California. All three networks covered the story now that the animal activists' expose has led to the recall of 143m pounds of meat, much of it sent to the school lunch program. "Nobody has gotten sick," CBS' Bill Whitaker reassured us. "It is just the images that are so sickening." The torture was applied because so-called downer cows, ones that cannot walk, are not permitted to be used for meat. NBC's Pete Williams narrated the video showing "plant workers repeatedly shocking animals with prods to get them to stand or using forklifts to forcibly raise them up" so that they their carcasses could qualify as food. On ABC's A Closer Look, Lisa Stark explained that USDA inspectors did not halt the practice because their schedule was so predictable that the torture always occurred at an hour when they were sure to be elsewhere. The Humane Society told Stark that it suspects that coercing downers to walk to slaughter is routine practice since it chose Hallmark Westland for videotaping at random without prior inside knowledge of abuse.


DEAD PRESIDENTS As befits Presidents Day, both NBC and CBS closed with Presidential history. CBS' Bob Orr chose Abraham Lincoln, whose summer retreat at the Old Soldiers Home in the District of Columbia has been renovated as a Civil War era museum. NBC's Don Teague remembered John Kennedy as the Dallas District Attorney's office released a safeload of documents related to JFK's assassination. The papers, some apparently bogus, were amassed by then prosecutor Henry Wade in a scheme to make money by selling the movie rights to his story. ABC anchor Charles Gibson closed with an essay on the reluctance of American workers to take time off. On average, we use only eleven of our allotted 14 annual days of vacation. "Why are you making a big deal of this? You are at work today," a colleague pointed out to Gibson. "Good point."


ELSEWHERE… Parliamentary elections were held in Pakistan, marred by two dozen deaths, reports of ballot rigging and citizens too scared to cast a vote. ABC's Jim Sciutto told us that early results "point to a big victory for the opposition and trouble for longtime US ally President Pervez Musharraf"…the province of Kosovo declared unilateral independence from Serbia, a move that was greeted by "euphoria, wild celebrations, dancing in the streets all night" in Kosovo and "fury" in Belgrade, according to NBC's Andrea Mitchell. The United States backs Kosovo; Russia backs Serbia…CBS' mystifying choice of baseball as its lead was filed by Kelly Cobiella. She quoted pitcher Andy Pettitte reiterate that he did no lie when he asserted that superstar Roger Clemens, his friend and teammate, told him he was doping with human growth hormones. Clemens' response was that Pettitte "misheard" his words. Pettitte admitted using HGH shots to treat an elbow injury. "Do I think I am a cheater? I do not." He did not elaborate on how the use of performance enhancing drugs fails to fall under the category of cheating.


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: unseasonably active tornadoes continue to plague Florida, Alabama and Georgia…the funerals have begun for students slain last week at Northern Illinois University…former First Lady Nancy Reagan was hospitalized after a fall but no bones were broken…three of the four impressionist paintings stolen from a museum in Zurich last week have been recovered.