CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM AUGUST 15, 2008
Fair enough, these are the dog days of August. Fair enough, Fridays are the most feature heavy day of the week. Fair enough, the regular anchors took the day off with ABC's Kate Snow and CBS' Harry Smith substituting. Fair enough, NBC is preoccupied with sports, rather than news, as anchor Brian Williams remains in Beijing for the Olympic Games, which yet again qualified as Story of the Day. Still, after the lead items on frictions with Russia--ABC and NBC on the Georgian flashpoint, CBS on Poland--this was an exasperatingly stupid day of news.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR AUGUST 15, 2008: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailNBCRussia-Georgia fighting over South OssetiaSecretary Rice talks on ceasefire in TbilisiJim MacedaGeorgia
video thumbnailCBSNATO expansion in eastern Europe opposed by RussiaPoland AMD friction compounds Georgia disputeLara LoganWashington DC
video thumbnailCBS2008 voting blocs: evangelical ChristiansCandidates attend Rick Warren's megachurch forumBen TracyWashington DC
video thumbnailNBC2008 voting blocs: evangelical ChristiansAbortion remains key for born-again pro-lifersAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSPolice: curfew crackdown in small Ark townPrivacy invaded in bid to halt street violenceHari SreenivasanArkansas
video thumbnailNBCChina education: college students taught EnglishNBC Nightly News online stream used as textbookBrian WilliamsBeijing
video thumbnailABCMilitary combat casualties suffer disabilitiesLegless veteran tries surfing rehabilitationJohn DonvanSan Diego
video thumbnailCBSWurlitzer organ concert at Radio City Music HallAmateur keyboardist spends $118K to rent hallSteve HartmanNew York
video thumbnailNBCBeijing Summer Olympic Games get under wayUSA cyclist Taylor Phinney is son of OlympiansLester HoltBeijing
video thumbnailNBCSichuan Province earthquake in China: Richter 7.9Twentysomethings not spoiled, become volunteersIan WilliamsChina
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
AN EXASPERATINGLY STUPID DAY OF NEWS Fair enough, these are the dog days of August. Fair enough, Fridays are the most feature heavy day of the week. Fair enough, the regular anchors took the day off with ABC's Kate Snow and CBS' Harry Smith substituting. Fair enough, NBC is preoccupied with sports, rather than news, as anchor Brian Williams remains in Beijing for the Olympic Games, which yet again qualified as Story of the Day. Still, after the lead items on frictions with Russia--ABC and NBC on the Georgian flashpoint, CBS on Poland--this was an exasperatingly stupid day of news.

ABC's Sharyn Alfonsi (embargoed link) tried to tug at our heartstrings by recounting the fate of a premature fetus kept alive by emergency c-section when a school bus crushed a pregnant New York City traffic officer to death…CBS had Hari Sreenivasan cover a local story on draconian police tactics in a tiny Arkansas town in the Mississippi Delta…ABC sent John Berman (no link) to the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania where instant replays will help call home runs…NBC had anchor Brian Williams brag that his online videostreamed newscast is used to teach English in China…CBS assigned Debbye Turner Bell to report on the dispute that is roiling Dallas--over the next home for its mentally-ill zoo elephant.

And that does not even count Friday's weekending features. ABC's inspirational Persons of the Week were Hawaiian amputee veteran Wally Fanene and his physiotherapist Betty Michalewicz. John Donvan floated with Fanene as he is learning to surf again, paddling out to the break with one arm and trying to stand up on one leg. CBS' weekender on Steve Hartman's Assignment America was amateur organist Jack Moelmann, who forked over $118,182 of his life's savings to hire Radio City Music Hall in New York City to stage a three hour concert of his own stylings on its mighty Wurlitzer.

Please! Features are supposed to add a dash of flavor, highlight, personality, mood to the hard news diet. They should never dominate the menu.


POLAND DEFENSE AND GEORGIA TRUCE To real news: Russia's relations with the United States, Georgia, Poland and the rest of NATO were the lead item on all three newscasts. CBS, which continues to treat the fighting in Georgia as not newsworthy enough to warrant the presence of a correspondent, chose the Poland angle. Lara Logan told us about the Russian response to NATO's decision to install an anti-missile defense around Warsaw: President Dmitri Medvedev "poured scorn on US claims that the missile system does not undermine Russia, calling this 'fairy tales.'" In response Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the arrangement has nothing to do with Russia and is "frankly between Poland and the United States."

ABC's Clarissa Ward (embargoed link) and NBC's Jim Maceda were in Tbilisi to cover the diplomacy between Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili and Secretary Rice. Rice presented a draft ceasefire deal that would allow hundreds of Russian troops to remain in the provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and establish a six-mile buffer zone inside Georgia for them to patrol. Ward saw Saakashvili sign the agreement "reluctantly" even as "he blamed the West for allowing Russian aggression to go unchecked." After NBC's Maceda quoted Medvedev as calling it "unlikely that Ossetians and Abkhazians will ever be able to live with Georgians again," the reporter seemed to get his geography confused. He saw "little hope for an end to an ethnic conflict that just happens to fall on the fault lines of the Cold War." Those fault lines, let us remember, were at the Fulda Gap and Checkpoint Charlie while Georgia, Russia, Abkhazia and Ossetia were never on such a line, all being indisputably inside the Soviet Union.

As for Russia's prospects of signing on to that ceasefire, ABC's George Stephanopoulos consulted his diplomatic sources inside-the-Beltway and found bafflement: "They are not getting any encouragement--no winks, no nudges, no signs from the Russians at all that they are going to pull out and accede to US demands."


SEE YOU AT SADDLEBACK The Rev Rick Warren, pastor at the Saddleback megachurch in California's Orange County and author of The Purpose Driven Life, received maximum publicity on the eve of his church's candidate forum. Both Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain will sit down with Warren, separately for an hour each, to discuss political issues of interest to evangelical Christian voters. The non-partisan Warren, as CBS' Ben Tracy put it, "is staying neutral but not on the sidelines." ABC's Jake Tapper (embargoed link) noted that Obama is "more comfortable talking about religion" than McCain even though his "liberal views on abortion and other issues" make it difficult for him to win over such voters. When McCain had suggested that he might pick a pro-choicer such as Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania as his running mate, noted CBS' Bob Schieffer (no link), religious conservatives "just went nuts." Yet NBC's Andrea Mitchell quoted Warren's insistence that times are changing: "many younger evangelicals define social issues broadly to include global warming, human rights and poverty--not just abortion."


LITTLE EMPERORS GROW UP All three networks had a correspondent file from the Beijing Olympic Games on the women's gymnastics all-around competition in which the USA's Nastia Liukin narrowly won the gold medal over the USA's Shawn Johnson. Neither NBC's Richard Engel nor CBS' Celia Hatton nor ABC's David Muir have that report available online, however, since sports footage is treated as copyrighted property not newsworthy footage protected by fair use. So NBC is left with Lester Holt's profile of 18-year-old USA cyclist Taylor Phinney, the son of a pair of Olympians. His father, David Phinney, is only recently back on his own bicycle, after having an electrode pacemaker implanted in his brain to subdue his tremors from Parkinson's Disease.

NBC also sent Ian Williams to Sichuan to monitor clean-up efforts in the aftermath of May's earthquake. His Making a Difference feature looked at the volunteer so-called Little Emperors, the cohort of only children born under the one-child policy to parents who came of age during the Cultural Revolution. As their nickname suggests, these twentysomethings have the reputation of being spoiled, selfish and irresponsible. When a wave of young professionals arrived in Sichuan to help in relief and rebuilding "a generation found a mission and a voice in the rubble of the quake."