CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM AUGUST 12, 2008
The war in Georgia should have been Story of the Day. It was the lead on both CBS and NBC. ABC ran anchor Charles Gibson's interview on the crisis with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She saw Russia "call into question the viability of the democratically elected government of Georgia. So it appears that their aims and their aspirations were greater than to simply deal with the situation inside South Ossetia." But NBC's supercharged effort to use its news division as a promotional shill for sports won the day. With anchor Brian Williams in Beijing, NBC singlehandedly (10 min v ABC 2, CBS 4) muscled the Beijing Olympics to the top of the standings. ABC, by the way, led with the arrest of suspected al-Qaeda leader Aafia Siddiqui, a story neither of the other two newscasts mentioned.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR AUGUST 12, 2008: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailNBCRussia-Georgia fighting over South OssetiaCeasefire talks, anti-Moscow rally in TbilisiJim MacedaGeorgia
video thumbnailABCSuspected al-Qaeda network leaders manhuntFemale neuroscientist arrested with secret filesBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailNBCSichuan Province earthquake in China: Richter 7.9Officials block probe of shoddy school buildingIan WilliamsChina
video thumbnailCBSAmphibian species face global mass extinctionEndangered Species Act may be defanged, no helpDaniel SiebergNew York
video thumbnailCBS2008 Barack Obama campaignRivals mull attacks on heritage as unAmericanJeff GreenfieldNew York
video thumbnailABC2008 tactics: target party line crossoversBoth candidates tout bipartisan credentialsJake TapperNo Dateline
video thumbnailNBCOil exploration industry rebounds in western statesBoom times around Dakotas' Bakken formationBob FawNorth Dakota
video thumbnailABCOil industry has refinery capacity shortageExpansion required to process more impuritiesBetsy StarkTexas
video thumbnailCBSOil, natural gas, gasoline pricesDiesel, aviation hikes harm shipping, freightNancy CordesPennsylvania
video thumbnailNBCBeijing Summer Olympic Games get under wayUSA teenage gymnast Shawn Johnson is 4'9"Ann CurryBeijing
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
NBC ACTS AS SHILL, DISTORTS NEWS JUDGMENT The war in Georgia should have been Story of the Day. It was the lead on both CBS and NBC. ABC ran anchor Charles Gibson's interview on the crisis with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She saw Russia "call into question the viability of the democratically elected government of Georgia. So it appears that their aims and their aspirations were greater than to simply deal with the situation inside South Ossetia." But NBC's supercharged effort to use its news division as a promotional shill for sports won the day. With anchor Brian Williams in Beijing, NBC singlehandedly (10 min v ABC 2, CBS 4) muscled the Beijing Olympics to the top of the standings. ABC, by the way, led with the arrest of suspected al-Qaeda leader Aafia Siddiqui, a story neither of the other two newscasts mentioned.

All three networks relied on British newsgathering partners for eyewitness coverage of the Georgia fighting. Gabriel Gatehouse of the BBC was in Gori for ABC. He showed us the city's central square: "All the buildings around the square, all the glass has been knocked out of them." A rocket attack there had killed a Dutch journalist and four others. Stuart Ramsay of SKY News told CBS anchor Katie Couric that Gori was "without doubt a very, very dangerous place to be." If there is a ceasefire, he commented, it was "pretty much called by the Russians on their own. They did not need to do it. They have won this." Robert Moore of ITN traveled to South Ossetia, the secession-minded province where the fighting started. He found the Russian army in full control there: "This is not some kind of short term military adventure. This is an occupation and not for a generation will Georgia gain this territory."

NBC's Jim Maceda reported from Tbilisi. He traveled along the highway towards Gori and found evidence of rout. He saw "dozens of military vehicles and weapons abandoned by retreating Georgian soldiers. They left behind personal gear as well. You can see a backpack and a water canteen; here is a shovel; one soldier even left his helmet behind." ABC's Clarissa Ward (embargoed link) attended an enormous rally in the capital: "The atmosphere here on the streets of Tbilisi is one of intense patriotism with speakers telling the crowd Georgia Will Never Give Up! Georgia Will Never Accept Russian Rule!" London-based Richard Roth of CBS covered the refusal of Dmitri Medvedev, the Russian president, to negotiate with his counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili, "accusing the Georgian leader of starting the war, even calling him a lunatic." France's President Nicolas Sarkozy is acting as mediator.

"This is not 1968," declared Secretary Rice to ABC anchor Charles Gibson, seeming to reject equations between the attitude of contemporary Russia towards Georgia and that of the USSR towards Czechoslovakia. In fact, the opposite was her point. Rice was drawing such an equation, calling the Soviet Union "the predecessor state" of Russia. Her distinction was that Russia nowadays wants to be "a part of the prosperous and forward looking Europe." Back in 1968, the USSR had no such ambitions and therefore had no stake in preserving its international good standing.


MADAME NEUROSCIENTIST Accused al-Qaeda terrorist Aafia Siddiqui was profiled by ABC's Brian Ross. She is a 36-year-old mother of three of Pakistani heritage, a neuroscientist graduate of MIT and Brandeis, on the FBI's Most Wanted list for four years. Ross reported that Siddiqui was arrested in Afghanistan last month and has been extradited to New York City where she is charged with resisting the FBI. "Her friends and family say the young woman is innocent and is being persecuted by the United States." Ross detailed evidence that the FBI claimed to have found "in her handbag" when she was apprehended. It ranged from the innocuous (tourist maps of the Big Apple), to the suspicious (a map of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center), to the threatening (data on chemical, biological and radiological agents), to the "most important…a computer thumb drive packed with e-mails to what she called her units."


MAINTAIN SOCIAL ORDER NBC's China coverage was not entirely fluff for the Olympics. Ian Williams returned to Sichuan Province to find out whether bereaved parents were making progress in their investigation into whether shoddy construction of schoolhouses cause the deaths of the 10,000 children killed in May's earthquake. "There have been no answers from a promised government inquiry," Williams announced flatly. He showed school sites being sealed, with debris cleared away, across the earthquake zone. A school caretaker who published pictures of collapsed structures online has been arrested and is incarcerated in a labor camp. Childless parents are paid $9,000 in compensation on condition that they cease their protests: "Under the leadership of the Party and the government we will obey the law and maintain social order," is how they sign their rights away.


IT AIN’T EASY BEING GREEN Global warming, explained CBS' Daniel Sieberg, is heating the wetland habitat for many species of amphibians. The warmer water allows a fatal fungus known as chytridiomycosis to grow more rapidly, threatening mass extinctions of 40% of species of frogs and newts and toads and salamanders. Enter the Endangered Species Act to cool down the wetlands to prevent the fungus from spreading, right? Well, not exactly. Sieberg reported that the Department of Interior is proposing amendments to the act to "eliminate the need for independent scientific review" of many federal projects. The Interior Department says it is necessary to prevent the act from "being used as a back door to regulate gases blamed for global warming.'


BEING A CELEBRITY IS UNAMERICAN Monday ABC's Jake Tapper picked up on the Atlantic Monthly revelation that Mark Penn, Hillary Rodham Clinton's strategist, had proposed negative attacks against Barack Obama for being "not at his center fundamentally American." Now CBS' Jeff Greenfield picks up on the same theme and, like Tapper, investigates whether John McCain's campaign is following Penn's advice, advice that Rodham Clinton herself rejected. Tapper picked up on McCain's use of the word "American" to differentiate himself from Obama. Greenfield focuses on "celebrity" as the quintessence of otherness.

ABC's Tapper meanwhile has moved on to the virtue of bipartisanship as a pitch to voters. McCain routinely appears on the stump with Democrat-turned-independent Joseph Lieberman. Now Obama has been endorsed by Jim Leach, longtime Republican Congressman of Iowa. Tapper noted that political operatives like to float names of possible aisle-crossing running mates, not because such Veep picks are likely, but "to push that bipartisan image." The opinion polls say 13% of registered Democrats are likely to vote for McCain and that 13% of registered Republicans are likely to vote for Obama.


NASTY CRUDE Oil just will not leave the news agenda. CBS' Nancy Cordes covered the fuel surcharges for shipping imposed by FedEx and UPS. NBC's Bob Faw flew to North Dakota where new technology allows deep drilling for previously unreachable light sweet crude in the ranchlands above the Bakken Formation. Farmers are raking in royalties. "Native Americans wince when they think what might have been." ABC continued its Oil Crunch series with a confusing visit by Betsy Stark to the vast Motiva oil refinery in Port Arthur. Shortage of capacity for low grade so-called nasty crude has forced Motiva to spend $7bn on 450 miles of new pipe. "There is no denying that chronic shortages of refining capacity have contributed to higher prices." No denying? Listen to what Stark stated earlier in the same report: "Refiners say do not blame them for the $4/gallon you pay at the pump. Their share of it is just 35c."


WHY DO THEY SWIM SO FAST YET WE CANNOT SEE THEM? Finally, the Story of the Day at the Olympic Games may have received plenty of airtime on the nightly newscasts but--because of those irritating copyright issues--two of the five packages are not available online. Barry Petersen's feature on CBS and Kevin Tibbles' on NBC happened to be the most interesting of the five too. Both examined why so many world records were being broken at Beijing's brand new $200m Water Cube swimming pool. The bottom is deeper, the lanes are wider, the ends are grooved with gutters, all allowing for smoother water. And the swimmers are wearing ultrasonically welded Speedo Laser suits at $600 per outfit. NBC Sports Analyst Rowdy Gaines told anchor Brian Williams that "it is like putting on a second skin. I put one on a couple of times and it took me about half an hour to get it on without ripping it." The two up-close-and-personal features that contained no copyright issues were bland by comparison: ABC's David Muir (embargoed link) profiled Elizabeth Callahan, a 56-year-old markswoman at her fourth Games; NBC's Ann Curry selected Shawn Johnson, a 4'9" 16-year-old rookie gymnast.

If a sports story is newsworthy enough to warrant airtime on a network newscast then by definition the sports footage it contains is protected by fair use and should be posted, fearlessly, online. If a sports story contains no actual sports footage, it is rarely likely to rise to the threshold of newsworthiness to appear on a newscast in the first place, so why bother?