CONTAINING LINKS TO 57176 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM JULY 18, 2008
The globetrotting trip by Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama may turn out to be nothing more than an attention-getting publicity stunt--but it has already produced a concrete ancillary benefit. For the first time since the start of April, the Iraq War was treated by the networks as Story of the Day. Back in April, Gen David Petraeus testified that there were "real" security improvements in Iraq, "yet fragile and reversible." Now conditions on the ground are back in the headlines as Petraeus prepares to brief Obama in Baghdad. NBC, with substitute anchor Ann Curry, led with the troops out debate. CBS led with a preview of Obama's tour. ABC chose to kick off with an economic story for the fifth straight day this week, this time the deteriorating finances of the airline industry.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR JULY 18, 2008: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesPresident Bush agrees to pullout time horizonRichard EngelAfghanistan
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesGen Petraeus prepares to debrief candidate ObamaAndrea MitchellBaghdad
video thumbnailCBS2008 Barack Obama campaignSchedules foreign tour to hone leadership imageJeff GreenfieldNew York
video thumbnailNBC2008 John McCain campaignFocus on economic slowdown, trade policyKelly O'DonnellNew York
video thumbnailABCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesWall Street financier is reservist in Sadr CityClarissa WardBaghdad
video thumbnailCBSFormer Rep Randy Cunningham (R-CA) bribery scandalCorrupt earmark may have harmed Iraq espionageSharyl AttkissonWashington DC
video thumbnailABCAirline industry in financial troubleFare hikes, service cuts planned for this fallLisa StarkWashington DC
video thumbnailABCHighway safety: speed limits routinely violatedReturn to 55 mph would save fuel yet be floutedDavid MuirConnecticut
video thumbnailCBSObesity poses major public health hazardJapan uses corporate incentives to fight weightBarry PetersenTokyo
video thumbnailNBCHollywood movie Batman series releases sequelExpect The Dark Knight to be blockbuster hitRehema EllisNew York
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
OBAMA BRINGS BAGHDAD BACK INTO FOCUS The globetrotting trip by Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama may turn out to be nothing more than an attention-getting publicity stunt--but it has already produced a concrete ancillary benefit. For the first time since the start of April, the Iraq War was treated by the networks as Story of the Day. Back in April, Gen David Petraeus testified that there were "real" security improvements in Iraq, "yet fragile and reversible." Now conditions on the ground are back in the headlines as Petraeus prepares to brief Obama in Baghdad. NBC, with substitute anchor Ann Curry, led with the troops out debate. CBS led with a preview of Obama's tour. ABC chose to kick off with an economic story for the fifth straight day this week, this time the deteriorating finances of the airline industry.

The breaking news of the day from Iraq was an agreement between President George Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that there should be a schedule--they used the phrase "time horizon" instead of timetable--for the United States to withdraw combat forces from Iraq. Richard Engel covered the agreement for NBC from Afghanistan while ABC's Martha Raddatz (no link) handled the story from the White House. Engel explained that al-Maliki can now assure his people that there "will not be permanent US bases and there will not be a permanent combat mission in Iraq." As for Bush, Raddatz saw him making a "real compromise" in that he refused to accept "arbitrary" dates for a troop withdrawal "but there are dates mentioned" for Iraqi security forces to take control. CBS mentioned the agreement only in passing.

NBC's Andrea Mitchell was in Baghdad in anticipation of candidate Obama's arrival. She asked Petraeus whether a 16-month troop withdrawal timetable was "reasonable." The general's answer: "It depends." Mitchell found life safer in some Baghdad neighborhoods "even though not in many parts of the country." She predicted that Obama will receive more support from Iraq's political leaders for his troops-out plan than from the Bush Administration. ABC's advance guard for Obama was in Afghanistan, where the candidate advocates a troop reinforcement. Jim Sciutto (embargoed link) found that the Afghan War is in reality two wars: an eastern front along the Pakistani border against a coalition of Pakistani militants, Taliban guerrillas and al-Qaeda fighters; and a southern front against the Taliban proper.


GREENFIELD’S GLASS IS HALF EMPTY CBS led off its newscast with Jeff Greenfield's preview of Obama's tour, a trip "different from any trip any candidate has ever taken." It will start in the two war zones, continue through Jordan, Israel and Palestine and culminate in the capitals of Old Europe, Berlin, Paris and London. "With voters concerned about the freshman senator's policy and national security experience, Obama has little choice but to take the overseas gamble to shore up his credentials."

Even before his departure, Obama was already receiving twice as much coverage as his rival John McCain. Since the primary season ended at the start of June (04jun08-18jul08), Obama received 131 minutes of coverage on the networks' weekday nightly newscasts (ABC 47, CBS 35, NBC 49) compared with McCain's 53 (ABC 17, CBS 13, NBC 25). "This saturation coverage has already led the conservative blogosphere to offer blistering critiques of a liberal media slavishly treating Obama as a pop star," opined Greenfield. "Of course, the sheer presence of media in no way guarantees favorable coverage. In some ways, it makes the possibility of misstep that much more dangerous." Greenfield could have been a glass-half-full kind of a guy and added that it also makes the possibility of a success that much more triumphant.


SPIN FROM MCCAIN’S TEAM Out of the spotlight, what is John McCain up to? His aides told NBC's Kelly O'Donnell that "they expect to have to fight for scraps to get attention" over the next week. In response the McCain campaign prepared a press kit on Obama's foreign policy positions and released a negative TV ad in eleven states: "He has not been to Iraq in years; he voted against funding our troops--positions that helped him win his nomination. Now Obama is changing to help himself become President." And O'Donnell repeated this piece of hopeful McCain spin about how the tour of world capitals might play on the home front: "Will voters here be excited about seeing Obama get an adoring reception in Europe, if that should happen? Or could that be viewed as some sort of intrusion on the American process, so might it backfire?"


IRAQ FRIDAY All three networks rounded out Iraqi coverage with week-ending features. Frank Lugo was ABC's Person of the Week. Clarissa Ward introduced us to the sergeant in the army reserve who is taking time off from his trading job for a Wall Street hedge fund to advise shopkeepers in Sadr City, disbursing microgrants to revive small businesses. For NBC's In Depth, Patty Culhane told us about Lioness Squads. Iraq's sense of decorum prohibits male soldiers from frisking civilian women at Baghdad checkpoints, so the lionesses are female soldiers who volunteer to help preserve modesty and security simultaneously.

CBS' Follow the Money chose Capitol Hill graft as its angle on Iraq, as Sharyl Attkisson delved into an earmarked contract assigned by Rep Duke Cunningham (R-CA) before he was convicted of bribery and incarcerated. The earmark went to a private intelligence contractor called MZM, whose owner Mitchell Wade was Cunningham's co-defendant. MZM was contracted to expose the supply networks for roadside bombs, so-called improvised explosive devices, that were a primary killer of soldiers in Iraq. Cunningham, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, was able to keep the earmark secret by classifying it. Attkisson introduced us to Major Eric Egland, an intelligence officer who monitored MZM's performance. He found "stunning lapses." Egland called them "unqualified contractors, who failed at even the most basic level to provide the right people, the right resources and the right capability to help our troops."


FUEL CRISIS IS MARKETING OPPORTUNITY The airline industry seems to be trying to turn financial crisis into marketing opportunity. With service cuts and fare hikes scheduled for this fall, both ABC's Lisa Stark and CBS' Cynthia Bowers framed the looming shock as a heads up for passengers that they should buy tickets immediately for Thanksgiving and Christmas. "The early bird could be the only one guaranteed to fly," Bowers warned. "This is no time to relax if you want to travel over the fall holidays," Stark pitched in. The high cost of aviation fuel, obviously, is a factor in the airlines' problems. ABC's David Muir considered whether motorists will save on fuel by lifting that foot off the pedal. Will the nationwide 55 mph speed limit, in effect from 1974 through the mid-90s, be reimposed to mandate more efficient driving? No chance "Other than Prohibition, it was probably the most neglected criminal law ever passed," asserted Alan Pisarski, author of Commuting in America.


SUMO & CINEMA For weekending fun, Barry Petersen filed from Tokyo for CBS on "the American disease" infecting Japan. Expanding waistlines are a symptom of increased obesity. The government has mandated that corporations be responsible for making their workers thinner--except for one traditional industry. Petersen closed with those perennially winning images of sumo wrestlers. CBS had Bill Whitaker on the movie beat Thursday, granting free publicity to the boffo opening of the Batman sequel. Now Rehema Ellis offers a superfluous plug for The Dark Knight on NBC. ABC's John Berman (embargoed link) put the box office in the context of the overall state of the economy. Since 1991, movies have become a better value. In that period the price of a baseball ticket has gone up 300% but a movie theater charges only 67% more. With 17% more moviegoers this June compared with the same month of 2007, "Hollywood's happy days might not be in spite of a sputtering economy but because of it."