CONTAINING LINKS TO 51991 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM DECEMBER 08, 2008
What to do about Detroit? For the fourth weekday out of the last five the financial plight of the automobile industry was the Story of the Day. On each of those four days, Detroit's shrinking Big Three have been the unanimous choice for lead story on all three network newscasts. This time House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made news with her counterproposal to the industry's request for $34bn in federal loans. Her idea was to lend the automakers $15bn through the end of March 2009, by which time they would have to come up with a plan to stay in business. The Speaker suggested that a federal Car Czar be named to make sure the $15bn is spent wisely.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR DECEMBER 08, 2008: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailNBCAutomobile industry in financial troubleFeds may offer $15bn loan, good through MarchPhilip LeBeauNew York
video thumbnailABCChicago factory shutdown protested by sit-inWorkers denounce BofA for withholding creditChris BuryChicago
video thumbnailCBSTribune media company declares bankruptcyRuns newspapers, TV stations, baseball teamBen TracyLos Angeles
video thumbnailABCHijacked jets kamikaze attacks on NYC, DCKhalid Mohammed seeks to plead guilty to plotJan Crawford GreenburgCuba
video thumbnailCBSIraq: civilian contractors provide logistics supportBlackwater guard cops plea in manslaughter caseElizabeth PalmerBaghdad
video thumbnailNBCZimbabwe politics: government is near collapseCholera healthcare fails, refugees flee southMartin FletcherSouth Africa
video thumbnailNBCHeart disease and cardiac arrests coverageHospital ER treatment shortchanges womenRobert BazellNew York
video thumbnailNBCHousehold garbage pollution, recycling effortsWaste prices collapse, carters add pick-up feesAnne ThompsonNew Jersey
video thumbnailABCChristmas holiday season gets under wayCollege a capella group reunites with Xmas tourBarbara PintoChicago
video thumbnailCBSCoffee gourmet chain Starbucks popularity wanesCEO Howard Schultz tries to cope with slowdownKatie CouricNew York
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
CAR CZAR TO SUPERVISE SMALLER THREE What to do about Detroit? For the fourth weekday out of the last five the financial plight of the automobile industry was the Story of the Day. On each of those four days, Detroit's shrinking Big Three have been the unanimous choice for lead story on all three network newscasts. This time House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made news with her counterproposal to the industry's request for $34bn in federal loans. Her idea was to lend the automakers $15bn through the end of March 2009, by which time they would have to come up with a plan to stay in business. The Speaker suggested that a federal Car Czar be named to make sure the $15bn is spent wisely.

"Super seniority," was what CBS' Sharyl Attkisson called the proposed federal loan, "taxpayers get paid back before anybody else." She watched legislators negotiating on Capitol Hill and concluded that they were trying to do something unusual, namely "move at lightning speed to negotiate the fine points of a complex plan." On NBC, CNBC's auto expert Phil LeBeau reported that the $15bn would not be new money but a diversion of funds already approved "for developing more fuel efficient cars."

ABC's Jonathan Karl (no link) used his report on the Car Czar to cross-promote his colleague Cynthia McFadden's interview with President George Bush for Nightline. The Presidential soundbite Karl used was lame, however: "viability," Bush explained tautologically, "means that all aspects of the companies need to be reexamined to make sure they can survive in the long term." NBC also tried crosspromotion. LeBeau aired an anodyne soundbite from the President-elect this weekend on Meet the Press. Barack Obama does not want to invest billions in the auto industry only to see it months later "come back hat in hand and say Give Me Some More."

NBC anchor-cum-publicist Brian Williams then piled on. He advertised LeBeau's CNBC documentary Inside GM and fulsomely congratulated David Gregory for his appointment as next host of NBC's Sunday morning stalwart Meet the Press.


A GIANT INFLATABLE RAT The day's second economic story was covered by a correspondent on each of the three networks. By itself, the tale of the layoff of 300 workers by the shutdown of Republic Windows & Doors, a construction supply firm wiped out by the real estate slump, should have been confined to the local newscasts in Chicago. Yet the plant's enterprising workers staged a protest that was eyecatching enough--including a giant inflatable rat to signify unionbusting--to attract the national networks. "The sit-in has grabbed the attention of politicians including the President-elect and others who believe it exemplifies an imbalance between a Wall Street that gets government help and a Main Street that gets the shaft," explained CBS' Dean Reynolds. NBC's Kevin Tibbles, too, noted that "the workers holed up inside this factory have become somewhat of a symbol."

ABC's Chris Bury pointed to the halting of Republic Window's line of credit by Bank of America as the final straw leading to the factory's shuttering. The bank, Bury reminded us, had received billions from the Treasury Department's $700bn TARP fund under its part-nationalization. "Union workers believe they are victims of a bungled bailout--that BofA, which received $25bn in that rescue, is what stands between them and their paychecks…The union is quite literally casting the bank as the rat."


ZELL BELOW ZERO The day's other headline from Chicago had a true national impact. The Tribune media company, publisher of Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun, declared bankruptcy, mired in $13bn in debt. Tribune also owns the Chicago Cubs and a score-or-so of local television stations nationwide. CBS' Ben Tracy, filing from Los Angeles, observed that Tribune's owner Sam Zell incurred much of the debt just last year by taking the company private. ABC's John Berman (no link) took the bankruptcy as symptomatic of hard times for newspapers generally. He ticked off Miami Herald, The New York Times, Orange County Register, Houston Chronicle, Detroit News and Boston Globe as other titles suffering through tough times. Berman pointed to the classified ads: "Real estate, cars and help wanted are all disappearing."


DO NOT WASTE TIME! KILL US NOW! ABC sent legal correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base to observe the military tribunal in the case of five detainees accused of plotting the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Crawford Greenburg reported on the "surprising request" made by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on behalf of all five: "We want to enter our plea. We do not want to waste time." They suggested their own execution. Why the rush? Crawford Greenburg explained that Barack Obama has pledged to close the Cuban detention camp when he becomes President: "He has not decided where the alleged terrorists will go or what kind of trials they will face."


MASSACRE CALLED MANSLAUGHTER NOT MURDER All three networks covered the indictment against five American civilian contractors for killing 14 unarmed civilians at Baghdad's Nisoor Square traffic circle in 2007. CBS was the only network with a correspondent filing from Iraq. Elizabeth Palmer showed us the bullet holes in the back of one of the 20 civilians who were wounded in the shooting spree. "His body is still full of shrapnel." They were each paid $7,500 by the State Department in compensation for their injuries. "A massacre," quoted ABC's Brian Ross, noting the "harsh language" prosecutors used against the Blackwater bodyguards--yet they were not charged with murder, only manslaughter, and 13 of the 19 were exonerated. A sixth bodyguard named Jeremy Ridgeway has already admitted unlawful use of deadly force and will testify against his five colleagues. NBC's Pete Williams offered the defense argument that "the charges are political, intended to appease Iraq."


A LESSON IN JOURNALISTIC ETHICS What to do, wondered NBC's Martin Fletcher, when "terrified" refugees come across a camera crew and assume that the journalists are border police? Should the newsmen keep reporting or should they vacate the scene so that the desperate would-be emigrants can cross the border unmolested?

Fletcher is clearly not cut out to be an Arizona Minuteman. He tossed bottled water across the razor wire fence and walked away. The border was the one between Zimbabwe and South Africa--and the refugees were running away from Zimbabwe's cholera outbreak. "What is more important? Their freedom or our story?" Fletcher asked rhetorically to justify his departure. He was being disingenuous, since--having his cake and eating it too--he filed a dynamic enough story anyway.


WHEN A WOMAN’S HEART BREAKS ABC's John McKenzie (embargoed link) and NBC's Robert Bazell both covered heart disease research that found that female patients suffering from a severe type of cardiac arrest--ST Elevation--die at twice the rate of male patients. The pair of correspondents drew divergent lessons from the statistics, however. McKenzie, taking A Closer Look, concluded that women receive "standard vital treatment" less often in hospital emergency rooms. The women are given aspirin and betablockers and stents less often. Meanwhile, Bazell's cardiac experts told him that "women often have very different symptoms and do not seek treatment quickly."


THE UNIVERSAL GREENING OF NBC Marching to the green orders of General Electric, its parent corporation, NBC (164 min v ABC 89, CBS 131 in the first eleven months of 2008) has covered the environment more heavily than its rival newscasts all year long. Anne Thompson has been the network's designated environmental affairs correspondent since she ended her cancer chemotherapy in March 2007. For NBC's closer, Thompson updated us on the unintended consequence of the nation's burgeoning ecoconsciousness. Garbage recycling centers are now overstuffed with aluminum cans and cardboard boxes and discarded newspapers as the global commodity price for trash plummets. Time was when recyclers would pay you $10 a ton to pick up trash; now they charge the same amount to take it off your hands.


HOOSIER GLEE CLUB ABC's stocking stuffer suggestion was a Christmas CD from Atlantic Records by the a capella singing group Straight No Chaser. Barbara Pinto told us the story of a ten-year-old video of Indiana University chums singing their version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. When it was posted on YouTube it attracted 8m hits and a five-CD deal from Atlantic. The "overgrown college crooners" are now on Yuletide concert tour


WHO CARES ABOUT LATTE? It was not clear why CBS anchor Katie Couric decided to assign herself to an extended feature on the plight of Starbucks. The gourmet coffee chain has closed 600 underperforming stores as its high-priced java is being undercut by recession-appropriate Dunkin' Donuts. In a report that lasted almost five minutes, Couric punned that the chain "is now seen as an everyday symbol of grande indulgence." She sat down with CEO Howard Schultz: "We have seen people who perhaps are making a discretionary decision--either in the afternoon or perhaps not come because they do not have the money," the Baristo-in-Chief surmised. Couric reassured us that workers still receive health coverage and the coffee growers in Costa Rica and Ethiopia and Rwanda still receive Starbucks support.

So what?


HERE’S GAFFNEY Adrienne Gaffney has joined our happy band of news junkies who "watched last night night's newscasts...so you do not have to." Here are her observations on the same content Tyndall Report just monitored at Vanity Fair magazine's Culture & Celebrity blog.