CONTAINING LINKS TO 49705 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM MARCH 11, 2008
A spring Tuesday during primary season: normally campaign coverage would dominate the day's headlines as Barack Obama hopes that a win in the Mississippi Democratic primary will dampen the surge Hillary Rodham Clinton enjoyed last week after her wins in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island. Not this time. The politics of New York State were Story of the Day instead as the second day of Gov Eliot Spitzer's sex scandal unfurled. The three network anchor desks, as on Monday, were occupied by a trio of Today alumnae. CBS' Katie Couric was joined by substitutes Ann Curry at NBC and Elizabeth Vargas at ABC. Curry and Couric led with Spitzer. Vargas chose a trading day of heavy buying on Wall Street, before introducing a pair of Spitzer packages.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR MARCH 11, 2008: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailABCGov Eliot Spitzer (D-NY) call girl sex scandalPlea bargain deal, resignation expectedBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailNBCGov Eliot Spitzer (D-NY) call girl sex scandalSuspicious financial activity involved $80KMike TaibbiNew York
video thumbnailCBSGov Eliot Spitzer (D-NY) call girl sex scandalPonder motives of reckless pols, loyal wivesNancy CordesNew York
video thumbnailCBSPentagon Central Command leadership shake-upAdmiral Fallon resigns over Iran, Afghan policyDavid MartinPentagon
video thumbnailABCNYSE-NASDAQ closing pricesDJIA rebounds after Fed offers $200bn to banksBetsy StarkNew York
video thumbnailCBS2008 Mississippi Democratic primaryObama expected to win, restore pre-Ohio leadDean ReynoldsChicago
video thumbnailNBC2008 John McCain campaignFulltime effort to fill fundraising shortfallKelly O'DonnellNew York
video thumbnailNBCTeenage sexuality, sexual activity trendsMany girls contract STD viruses, infectionsSavannah GuthrieWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCBeijing Summer Olympic Games previewedAir pollution causes marathoner not to competeMark MullenBeijing
video thumbnailABCFarm tractors in England targeted for theftSuspect out-of-work Northern Ireland terroristsNick WattEngland
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
SEX SCANDAL SUPERSEDES PRIMARY A spring Tuesday during primary season: normally campaign coverage would dominate the day's headlines as Barack Obama hopes that a win in the Mississippi Democratic primary will dampen the surge Hillary Rodham Clinton enjoyed last week after her wins in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island. Not this time. The politics of New York State were Story of the Day instead as the second day of Gov Eliot Spitzer's sex scandal unfurled. The three network anchor desks, as on Monday, were occupied by a trio of Today alumnae. CBS' Katie Couric was joined by substitutes Ann Curry at NBC and Elizabeth Vargas at ABC. Curry and Couric led with Spitzer. Vargas chose a trading day of heavy buying on Wall Street, before introducing a pair of Spitzer packages.

There were three strands to the Spitzer story: the politics, the prosecution and the morality. CBS assigned a reporter to all three; ABC chose politics and morality; NBC concentrated on the prosecution. Monday, when the call girl scandal was revealed, Mike Taibbi on NBC had a different take from his rival networks. He reported that the feds were investigating the Emperor's Club VIP prostitution ring when its wiretap stumbled on Client #9, who happened to be the Governor. There is "no indication Spitzer was a target of the investigation," Taibbi told us then.

Now Taibbi changes his mind. Without retraction of, or even reference to, his Monday story, his new version is that Spitzer was the feds' target all along. The Governor's bank alerted the Internal Revenue Service to suspicious funds transfers and that triggered an "investigation not about using prostitutes--no one was thinking that--but of possible political corruption." Taibbi did not report on the feds' rationale for pursuing the case even after they failed to find the corruption they were looking for. Instead he simply stated that "wiretaps and e-mail traces produced a startling conclusion that the 38-year-old Spitzer…was apparently a repeat customer of a high-priced call girl ring." CBS' Armen Keteyian fleshed out some of the details from the indictment against the operators of the Emperor's Club VIP. The shell company Spitzer allegedly created to launder some $80,000 from his HSBC account to pay for sex was the QAT Consulting Group.

Keteyian reassured us that Spitzer had mainstream turn-ons: he apparently asked Kristen, his hooker, for "very basic things." An unnamed 23-year-old "escort" of Spitzer from a different service called ABC's Brian Ross to describe her parties with the then Attorney General two years ago: "He was a nice guy who tipped well. He did not do anything that was not clean."

As for the politics of New York State, ABC's Ross reported that the Governor "has drawn up a letter of resignation but the hold-up is his negotiations with federal prosecutors" even though Spitzer is not now facing any federal charges and the feds told Ross "there is no evidence Spitzer used state money or campaign funds to pay the prostitutes." CBS' Byron Pitts speculated that Spitzer might be using his potential resignation as a bargaining chip to avoid future felony prosecution. Pitts reflected that "the governor's own take-no-prisoner, need-no-friends style of politics" was hastening his departure. "He went after corporations, mobsters and pimps with equal venom."

Given that wiretaps and e-mail evidence were used to implicate Spitzer, ABC's Ross seemed pleased to find this soundbite from his own interview with Spitzer two years ago: "Never talk when you can nod and never nod when you can wink. And never write an e-mail, because it is death. You are giving prosecutors all the evidence we need."


NO FREUD, NO SHAKESPEARE The pair of thumbsuckers on the morality of the Eliot Spitzer scandal were unenlightening. Both CBS' Nancy Cordes and Dan Harris (embargoed link) for ABC's A Closer Look mulled the question: why do some powerful men have reckless, scandalous sex? Ostensibly, the features were about Spitzer. In fact, both correspondents took the opportunity to recycle Bill Clinton's soundbite on 60 Minutes reflecting on his liaison with Monica Lewinsky: "I did something for the worst possible reason…just because I could."

There seemed to be few Freudians around to help Cordes and Harris out. None of their experts speculated about the secret shame of political leaders that they may not be truly worthy of high office; that their self-destructive behavior might express an unconscious desire to be punished for their unworthiness. When Harris asked about hypocrisy--"Why would a politician who busted prostitution rings himself hire a prostitute"--he apparently had no source to help him frame the question the more interesting way: "Aren't politicians who bust prostitution rings driven by an urge to punish themselves for their own guilty desires to hire prostitutes? What makes those guilty desires irresistible?"

Advice for all reporters assigned to file a Spitzer thumbsucker: read Measure for Measure.


STOP TAKING THE ADMIRAL’S CALLS How does a Commander in Chief replace a senior military officer after he is portrayed in Esquire magazine as "brazenly challenging" foreign policy? NBC's Jim Miklaszewski told us. President George Bush did not fire Admiral William Fallon, the head of Central Command. Instead, according to Miklaszewski's unidentified sources, the White House put pressure on Defense Secretary Robert Gates to stop taking Fallon's telephone calls, "making it clear he had to go." Fallon resigned and Gates accepted "with reluctance and regret."

The Pentagon's Central Command includes the theaters of Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran. In Iraq, ABC's Jonathan Karl (embargoed link) reported, Fallon had criticized Gen David Petraeus' surge-minded tactics "pushing for a quicker drawdown of US troops." Concerning Afghanistan, Fallon had told ABC's Martha Raddatz that the war there had been neglected because of the focus on Iraq. And on Iran, Karl quoted Esquire's prediction that a firing of Fallon would signify President George Bush's intention to attack militarily. CBS' David Martin acknowledged that Fallon opposed war with Iran but pointed out that "virtually every senior military officer is opposed" too.

All three networks quoted Secretary Gates' assertion that it is "ridiculous" to conclude that Fallon's departure portends a looming Iran War.


HARRISBURG NOT HATTIESBURG Campaign coverage on primary day in Ohio and Texas last week occupied 69% of the three-network newshole (40 min out of 57) as Hillary Rodham Clinton's wins stalled Barack Obama's drive towards the nomination. "If Obama can score a big enough victory in Mississippi," NBC's Lee Cowan now calculates, "he could essentially erase" those delegate gains. CBS' Dean Reynolds saw Rodham Clinton essentially concede the state in favor of the upcoming contest in Pennsylvania--"which is why she was in Harrisburg instead of Hattiesburg." Hitting the reset button is not so newsworthy when the frontrunner does it. The contest for the 33 Democratic delegates in Mississippi attracted a scant five minutes of coverage.

The major brouhaha on the trail arose from the mouth of Geraldine Ferraro, the Vice Presidential candidate on Walter Mondale's ticket. She would not have won that slot back in 1984 were she not female. So her comments were freighted with irony: "If Barack Obama were a white man would we be talking about this as a potential real problem for Hillary?" All three networks' reporters picked up on Ferraro's remarks, although none noted the strange formulation of calling the frontrunner "a potential real problem." What is "potential" about it? And isn't it the job of the candidate is second place to pose "problems" for the one in front, not vice versa?

Anyway, the outrageous thing Ferraro said came later: "He happens to be very lucky to be who he is." Ferraro thus became the first white liberal in the history of the republic to claim that African-Americans enjoy racial good fortune in society. ABC's Jake Tapper (embargoed link) smelled a rat: Ed Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania and a Rodham Clinton supporter, "has said that there are whites in the state who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American. It may be that this story, with its focus on Obama's race, does not hurt Senator Clinton."

Only NBC balanced out its campaign coverage with a report from the Republican side. What is John McCain doing while the Democrats slog through the primaries? "His whole travel schedule right now is geared to fundraising," Kelly O'Donnell told us. Through the end of January McCain had raised $54m while Rodham Clinton and Obama combined brought in more than $260m. So McCain is "shaking the Republican tree" and "tapping donor lists" obtained from Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney, his onetime primary rivals.


WARTS AND ALL The Centers for Disease Control reported that 25% of teenaged girls and young women in the 14 to 19 age cohort have contracted viruses and infections that were transmitted sexually. Human papilloma virus, a form of wart, is the most common. NBC's Samantha Guthrie and CBS' in-house physician Jon LaPook covered the research. LaPook worried that "teenagers are not getting the message about safe sex." His anchor Katie Couric found herself "shocked that half of teenaged girls are sexually active." Couric did not explain what shocked her: the amorous half or the half that was not getting any.


ELSEWHERE… ABC was the only network to assign a reporter to the action on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 416 points to close at 12156. Betsy Stark gave credit to the Federal Reserve Board, which offered to take mortgage loans off banks' books in return for a $200bn injection of credit into the economy…NBC, the network whose sports division has the rights to televise the Beijing Olympics, had Mark Mullen follow up on the decision by Haile Gebrselassie, the asthmatic world recordholder in the marathon, not to compete for fear of his health in the city's polluted air. Mullen reported that Beijing has spent more than $15bn to fight smog, planning to shut down half of the city's traffic when the Games begin and closing 60 factories…the peace in Northern Ireland has found former militants "at a loose end," police in the English countryside told ABC's Nick Watt. Some are turning to crime and farm tractors are "easy to steal because, believe it or not, one key fits all." To prove it Watt climbed aboard a John Deere and revved it up: "I know I am doing. I worked on a cauliflower farm during college."


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: Saddam Hussein had no direct connection with al-Qaeda when he was President of Iraq…the United States reiterated its criticism of Sudan's human rights record in Darfur…a pair of truckbombs exploded in Lahore in Pakistan, leaving two dozen dead…crude oil prices continue to rise with a barrel now costing $108…Space Shuttle Endeavour launched successfully…the prescription cough medicine Tussionex now has an FDA safety warning.