CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM DECEMBER 09, 2008
Gov Rod Blagojevich, Democrat of Illinois, was the Story of the Day. All three newscasts led with his federal indictment on corruption charges. US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald held a detailed press conference to blacken the governor's name: "The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave," he imagined, accusing Blagojevich of trying to enrich himself in exchange for granting an appointment to the United States Senate, a seat that is in his gift as a replacement for Barack Obama. The President-elect had been cursed out by the governor because he failed to exchange such favors, according to the prosecutor. Quoting from a wiretap, Fitzgerald claims Blagojevich blasted Obama: "They are not willing to give me anything but appreciation. Bleep them."    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR DECEMBER 09, 2008: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailNBCGov Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) accused of corruptionArrested for seeking kickbacks for Senate seatLee CowanChicago
video thumbnailABCGov Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) accused of corruptionState has 40-year record of official graftBarbara PintoChicago
video thumbnailCBSAutomobile industry in financial troubleRepublicans object to aspects of federal packageSharyl AttkissonCapitol Hill
video thumbnailCBSAutomobile classic models customized, modernizedKansas shop soups up guzzlers, turns them greenHari SreenivasanLos Angeles
video thumbnailNBCFinancial mortgage guarantee firms in troubleHouse hearings for FannieMae, FreddieMac execsLisa MyersWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSEconomy is officially in recessionSmall manufacturing towns suffer since 2005Kelly WallaceNew York
video thumbnailNBCWorkers change careers in middle ageLayoffs turn into job retraining opportunityRehema EllisNew York
video thumbnailCBSTeenage boys play with homemade bombsBATF blames youth for 60% of domestic explosionsArmen KeteyianAtlanta
video thumbnailNBCVitamins, herbal, dietary, nutritional supplementsNo evidence of efficacy in disease preventionRobert BazellNew York
video thumbnailABCChristmas holiday season gets under wayEven real-bearded Santas face mall layoffsJohn BermanNew York
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
GOVERNOR BLAGOJEVICH ACCUSED OF ILLINOIS GRAFT Gov Rod Blagojevich, Democrat of Illinois, was the Story of the Day. All three newscasts led with his federal indictment on corruption charges. US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald held a detailed press conference to blacken the governor's name: "The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave," he imagined, accusing Blagojevich of trying to enrich himself in exchange for granting an appointment to the United States Senate, a seat that is in his gift as a replacement for Barack Obama. The President-elect had been cursed out by the governor because he failed to exchange such favors, according to the prosecutor. Quoting from a wiretap, Fitzgerald claims Blagojevich blasted Obama: "They are not willing to give me anything but appreciation. Bleep them."

Blagojevich is presumed innocent of all charges--although that would be hard to discern from the accusatory coverage of the network correspondents. They granted disproportionate time to Fitzgerald's charges and cursory mentions of Blagojevich's rebuttals. "Only yesterday he laughed off news of wiretaps, arguing whatever he might be caught saying is perfectly legal," noted NBC's Lee Cowan. "Governor Blagojevich remains just that, the Governor of Illinois, with all his rights and privileges." ABC's Brian Ross quoted Blagojevich's soundbite on Monday in his own defense: "If anybody wants to tape my conversations go right ahead. Feel free to do it." CBS' Dean Reynolds cited the governor's reported reaction of astonishment upon learning of his arrest: "Is this a joke?" Both Cowan and Reynolds replayed Blagojevich's declaration of an untroubled conscience: "I feel like there is nothing but sunshine hanging over me."

CBS' Reynolds explained why the investigation of Blagojevich had recently expanded to include a wiretap. The reason was not the vacant Senate seat but a looming change at New Year: "He and a fellow conspirator allegedly shifted corrupt fundraising into high gear ahead of new ethics laws." Charges unrelated to the Senate seat include an alleged threat against the Chicago Cubs to withhold a $100m tax break because of newspaper editorials in Chicago Tribune, which is part of the same bankrupt media conglomerate. Reynolds also mentioned a $50,000 campaign contribution promised to the governor by the chief executive of Children's Memorial Hospital. When the hospital boss changed his mind, prosecutors say Blagojevich threatened to rescind $8m in state healthcare funding.

But it was Obama's now-vacant Senate seat that made the case grab headlines. NBC's Cowan quoted the prosecution's wiretap of the governor calling the seat "a very valuable thing." ABC's Ross reported the prosecutor's allegation that the "value," as told to potential appointee Valerie Jarrett, a close advisor to Barack Obama, amounted to a seat in his Cabinet; to a fifth aspirant it was between $500,000 and $1m in campaign contributions.

NBC political director Chuck Todd and George Stephanopoulos, anchor of ABC's This Week, both looked at the fallout of the Illinois case inside the Beltway. Todd reckoned that the wiretap evidence will help Barack Obama: "If anything the quotes from Blagojevich in that amazing indictment are the most exculpatory thing there for the President-elect." Stephanopoulos was certain that no pick of Blagojevich would end up in the Senate, even though "he still has the formal power" to appoint: there will either be a special election…or the Secretary of State of Illinois will not certify such an nomination…or the Senate itself will refuse to confirm the appointee.


LAUGHING STOCK The political culture of Illinois came in for ribbing from CBS' Jeff Greenfield in New York and ABC's Barbara Pinto in Chicago. Pinto ticked off three of Gov Rod Blagojevich's incarcerated predecessors over the past four decades to call the Land of Lincoln "a state accustomed to politicians in handcuffs." Greenfield quoted the recommendation by Mike Royko, the late newspaper columnist, that Chicago's motto should be Ubi Est Mea?--Where's Mine. Greenfield quipped: "When they talk about term limits for Illinois politicians they do not mean how long they can serve in office."


NOTHING HAPPENED OVERSEAS None of the three newscasts found a single foreign story newsworthy enough for coverage: nothing was filed from a foreign dateline; there was no foreign policy angle on a domestic item; not even a simple voiceover of a clip of overseas videotape. Instead, guess what NBC anchor Brian Williams decided should warrant more than four minutes of airtime? His own network's decision to revamp its primetime entertainment line-up to include five hours a week of topical comedy from Jay Leno, the soon to be replaced host of NBC's late-night Tonight. It is impossible to imagine a rationale for deciding that Williams' interview with a disheveled Leno occupies a higher place on the news agenda than student riots in Greece or cholera in Zimbabwe or anti-Islamist raids in Pakistan or the renewed recession in Japan.

Oops sorry…NBC did mention in passing that cancer will become the globe's deadliest disease within two years, according to the World Health Organization…and ABC showed a clip of Al Gore worrying about global warming with Barack Obama…but what can such global concerns amount to in comparison with Leno at 10pm?


HOW GREEN IS MY LINCOLN? A tiny touch of the brakes was applied to the intensity of the coverage of the Detroit story. ABC mentioned autos only in passing; CNBC's Phil LeBeau filed a brief stand-up for NBC from a Chevrolet dealership in Illinois. Only CBS' Sharyl Attkisson filed a full package on the Capitol Hill negotiations over a proposed $15bn federal loan to the domestic automobile industry. Republicans want guarantees that the loans will be repaid and are "unhappy that automakers would have to drop fuel-efficiency lawsuits they filed against states."

In a lighter vein, CBS' Hari Sreenivasan found a fuel-efficient classic car customizer in Kansas. Jonathan Goodwin's firm, H-Line Conversions, has taken a hundred golden age gas guzzlers--including a '64 Impala and Arnold Schwarzenegger's '84 Jeep--and retrofitted them for high-performance plus high-mileage. Check out singer Neil Young's '59 Lincoln: 2.5 tons, 19-feet long, 160 mph top speed and zero greenhouse gas emissions for its first 100 miles of cruising.


HOUSING HEARINGS IN THE HOUSE NBC was the only network to assign a reporter to cover House committee hearings investigating the role of FannieMae and FreddieMac in inflating the bubble that was once the housing market. Testifying were four former chief executives of the mortgage guarantee firms. Lisa Myers mentioned that while they had been paid millions during the boom, "much of that was in stock--which became worthless." Citing unidentified "experts," Myers explained that the now-nationalized institutions are not to blame for triggering the crisis: "Private lenders started the downward spiral, exerting pressure on Fannie and Freddie." Subsequently the two firms "played a significant role in the financial meltdown because they lowered their own standards and helped spread toxic mortgages throughout the financial system."


CLASSROOMS, CAREER CRISES, CENSUS COUNTS Each of the three newscasts filed an additional feature on the recession economy. For ABC's A Closer Look, Bill Weir (embargo'ed link) took us to the nation's public school classrooms, where teachers are personally filling the shortfall caused by budget cuts. Some buy supplies out of their own pockets; others find themselves fundraising. For NBC's Hard Times series, Rehema Ellis tried to find the bright side of unemployment: a midlife layoff can give a worker a chance to switch careers. "Across the country vocational schools report enrolment is up." CBS had Kelly Wallace consult Census Bureau data for poverty and unemployment levels. She found that in small towns in the industrial heartland--Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois--the recession was already under way in 2005. A possible remedy for revival, she suggested, is the invigoration of small town economies by an influx of immigrants, attracted by the affordable housing and willing to work as unskilled labor


REMEMBERING FLAHERTY & CANDY Watching explosion after explosion is a basic pleasure of videotape viewing. Those of us of a certain age remember SCTV's Blow'd 'Em Up Real Good skits. Poor Armen Keteyian found himself unable to indulge in the innocent fun of Joe Flaherty and John Candy so he had to dress up his blow'd 'em up report in a veneer of seriousness, labeling it a CBS News Investigation. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a majority, some 60%, of the homemade bombs that are set off each year nationwide are triggered by teenage boys. Keteyian called today's youth "a frightening new generation of teens already moving from backyards to school yards, from vacant lots to crowded malls, armed and ticking." His evidence for such bloodcurdling fearmongering was four incidents: a school bomb that hospitalized eight students in Arizona; a North Carolina bomb that burned a girl's face; a Kansas bomb that blew up part of an apartment building; and an Ohio explosion that killed the teenage bomber, blowing his head off.

That is four incidents out of more than 2,700 detonations. Real Good


NO BETTER THAN A PLACEBO The publication of research that proves that a nutritional supplement combination of selenium and Vitamins C & E is ineffective in preventing prostate cancer inspired both NBC's Robert Bazell and CBS' Jon LaPook to add that particular cancer to heart disease and Alzheimer's Disease on the list of illnesses that the $8bn-a-year multivitamin industry has so far been found useless to ward off. "This is just the latest in a string of disappointing news about vitamin pills," commented LaPook. "Such failures of the large vitamin trials are becoming a familiar story," was Bazell's take.


ST NICK’S REVERSE COMMUTE "Yes! They have a sort of union," ABC's John Berman exclaimed. He was referring to the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas, which sounds like it belongs in a Sherlock Holmes mystery. A spending squeeze at suburban shopping malls means the graybeards are landing 50% fewer bookings and so they are being forced to reverse commute into the city for seasonal work. Apparently, even the hirsute are taking a haircut in these recessionary times.