CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM DECEMBER 17, 2008
The spectacle of fallen financier Bernard Madoff plowing through a scrum of paparazzi outside his ritzy Upper East Side apartment building put a human face on the Wall Street corruption scandal that broke last week. For the first time Madoff's prosecution for running his investment fund as a $50bn Ponzi scheme qualified as Story of the Day. CBS and NBC both led with the Madoff investigation as scrutiny turned to the failure of the Securities and Exchange Commission to supervise his trading. ABC chose to kick off with the deteriorating state of Detroit's automobile industry. Chrysler announced it will shut down its entire north American operation, 30 factories in all, for an entire month--perhaps never to reopen.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR DECEMBER 17, 2008: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailABCFinancier Bernard Madoff accused of $50bn fraudSEC under fire for failure of oversightBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailABCAutomobile industry in financial troubleChrysler to close entire operation for one monthChris BuryChicago
video thumbnailCBSOil, natural gas, gasoline pricesOPEC cuts production, seeks $75/barrel for crudeElizabeth PalmerLondon
video thumbnailABCInflation statistics: November CPI down 1.7%When prices fall too much, deflation is dangerRobert KrulwichNew York
video thumbnailNBCReal estate home mortgage foreclosures increaseHOPE program at HUD fails to deliver reliefLisa MyersWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCGov Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) accused of corruptionImpeachment panel moves, state court does notKevin TibblesIllinois
video thumbnailCBSEnvironmental federal regulations relaxedGreen activists oppose Utah oil drilling permitsWyatt AndrewsWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingKandahar front will be reinforced by NATO forcesJim MacedaAfghanistan
video thumbnailCBSSIST religious commune sparks Wisconsin feudDid cult hire hitman to kill small town leaders?Armen KeteyianWisconsin
video thumbnailNBCFace transplants for disfigured patientsCleveland Clinic surgeon describes innovationRobert BazellNew York
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
PAPARAZZI FOLLOW PONZI DEFENDANT’S HOUSE ARREST The spectacle of fallen financier Bernard Madoff plowing through a scrum of paparazzi outside his ritzy Upper East Side apartment building put a human face on the Wall Street corruption scandal that broke last week. For the first time Madoff's prosecution for running his investment fund as a $50bn Ponzi scheme qualified as Story of the Day. CBS and NBC both led with the Madoff investigation as scrutiny turned to the failure of the Securities and Exchange Commission to supervise his trading. ABC chose to kick off with the deteriorating state of Detroit's automobile industry. Chrysler announced it will shut down its entire north American operation, 30 factories in all, for an entire month--perhaps never to reopen.

Madoff was forced to return to his Manhattan home as a condition of bail. He will be confined to his apartment under curfew, wearing an ankle bracelet to track his movements, pending trial. CBS' Bob Orr quoted SEC Chairman Christopher Cox as conceding that regulators had "repeatedly failed to thoroughly investigate allegations that Madoff was running a scam." Indeed Madoff's niece, a lawyer at his brokerage firm, is married to former SEC inspector Eric Swanson, "who at one point led the team looking into Madoff's financing." ABC's Brian Ross illustrated how easy it should have been for securities regulators to smell a rat. Madoff filed SEC forms certified by independent public accountants Friehling & Horowitz, "a one room operation in a small suburban office park outside New York--that alone should have been a tipoff."

On NBC Trish Regan, from the network's sibling financial news channel CNBC, reflected on the impact of the Madoff prosecution on investors generally: "Many people are now questioning whether their money is safe, not because the market is declining but because they are not certain they can trust regulators and their own investment managers." The $50bn that Madoff allegedly evaporated, Regan pointed out, is "twice the amount of money the auto companies are asking Congress for."


HOW GREEN IS MY SOLAR VALLEY ABC was the only newscast to assign a reporter to cover what may be "the beginning of the end" for Chrysler, as Chris Bury put it. The four-week shutdown of operations will mean that 46,000 union workers will have to go on unemployment. Bury also quoted a report by Moody's Investor Service that General Motors "is likely to file for bankruptcy with government backing." Bury's colleague Jonathan Karl followed up from Capitol Hill with speculation that "a short-term lifeline" will most likely be thrown to the Detroit automakers on Friday.

Bury did double duty on ABC's newscast, following up with a more optimistic take on the automobile sector's future for the Spirit of America series. He traveled to Toledo, which used to be a center for auto parts manufacturing, producing windshields and vinyl seats for cars. "To secure its future Toledo embraced its past. It was once known as Glass City, where glass was first mass produced for bottles, buildings and cars." Now glass has gone green, being fabricated into thin flexible solar cells, panels and coating to turn sunlight into electricity--"from the faded glory of Glass City to the shiny promise of Solar Valley."


BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR OPEC announced a surprise cut in crude oil production, the biggest contraction in its history, but CBS' Elizabeth Palmer was not impressed. The 6% cutback was designed to restore the global price of a barrel of crude to between $60 and $100 from its current $40-or-so level. "Demand for oil is slowing so dramatically as the recession deepens that OPEC's production cut has not pushed the price of oil up, at least not yet. In fact it has even dropped a little." Taking A Closer Look on ABC, Robert Krulwich advised us that continuously falling prices was something to dread. "You may wonder what is so terrible about deflation," he proposed in one of his signature cartoon explainers after the Consumer Price Index in November dropped for the fourth month in a row. "Once the idea takes hold that things will cost a little less if you wait then all across the economy people wait a little longer to do business." Activity stalls. Layoffs ensue.


BIG FAT ZERO HOPE for Homeowners was the federal plan that was designed to help mortgage borrowers avoid eviction as the value of their houses declined. The Department of Housing & Urban Development program was projected to prevent 400,000 foreclosures, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. NBC's Lisa Myers filed the follow-up. Total formal applications filed for HOPE: a pitiful 312. "And how many have been saved from foreclosure? None."


PICKING THE CABINET The day's political round-up saw ABC concentrate on Barack Obama's nearly-completed Cabinet; NBC follow Caroline Kennedy's bid to be appointed to the Senate; and CBS and NBC both update us on Rod Blagojevich's attempt to hold onto his job as Governor of Illinois.

The good news for Blagojevich was that the state's Supreme Court rejected Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's argument that the governor was disabled and should therefore be removed from office. Meanwhile the committee that Madigan's father Michael had convened to debate Blagojevich's impeachment heard from the governor's lawyer. NBC's Kevin Tibbles quoted Edward Genson calling the committee "unlawful;" CBS' Cynthia Bowers chose his characterization of the wiretapped conversations that are being used against his client as "people jabbering." Both Tibbles and Bowers picked up on Genson's charge that the panel was "biased."

NBC's Washington-based Andrea Mitchell narrated Caroline Kennedy's first day upstate in her quest to be named to the Senate seat that was once held by her uncle Robert and by Daniel Patrick Moynihan and will soon be vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton. When Kennedy was asked what experience she had, since she had never held public office, Mitchell called her faltering answer before being whisked away by aides "a rocky start." Nevertheless Rodham Clinton insisted that her supporters were not speaking for her when they criticized Kennedy and Moynihan's widow Liz endorsed the rookie.

ABC anchor Charles Gibson asked This Week's George Stephanopoulos to assess the balance of Obama's Cabinet now that only the Secretary of Labor remains to be named: "He has managed to get this diversity and competence without engaging in tokenism," was Stephanopoulos' thumbs-up. He noted that Hispanics and Asians were well represented--as was the mountain west: Janet Napolitano from Arizona at Homeland; Bill Richardson from New Mexico at Commerce; Ken Salazar from Colorado at Interior. Underrepresented, Stephanopoulos reckoned, are liberals and women.


LOOK AT THESE LANDSCAPES CBS' White House correspondent Jim Axelrod issued the warning about changes in environmental regulations in the waning days of the Bush Administration in October. The story largely failed to catch on, only being kept alive by celebrity wattage as NBC's Lisa Myers covered movie star Robert Redford's concerns about the Utah wilderness in November. Now CBS returns with another Redford soundbite: "Once this land is destroyed it is gone…It belongs to us not to them." The "them" happens to be George Bush and Dick Cheney, who Redford accuses by name for the government's decision to sell off exploration rights to red rock public lands surrounding Arches National Park on Friday. "Conservation groups call it a last-minute Christmas present from the Bush Administration to the oil and gas industry," Wyatt Andrews reported. The administration countered that the auction "has been in the works for seven years and is not a last minute effort."

By the way, it was not only Redford's celebrity that made this story work on television. The red rock landscapes are as photogenic as the Sundance Kid was in his prime.


PROMOTION TO KANDAHAR NBC's veteran war correspondent Jim Maceda demonstrated a long-term payoff from embedded reporting with a military unit. When John Nicholson was a USArmy colonel in 2006, Maceda reported with his brigade along the Pakistan border in eastern Afghanistan--here he is in Asadabad in November of that year. By the end of that tour Nicholson's brigade had suffered 45 combat fatalities, a further 350 wounded. Now Nicholson has won his stars and is in charge of NATO forces in Kandahar Province in the south. "This is the very heart of Taliban country," Maceda announced, as he hitched a ride with the new general, who is expecting 20,000 reinforcements under his command. "His orders are as clear as they are daunting: start winning the war."


HIGH-END GO-KARTS SPELL MURDER BACKWARDS For the third day in a row, CBS' newscast tried its new format with an extended Exclusive feature in its second segment. Monday Byron Pitts brought us toxic chemicals; Tuesday Bill Whitaker watched Mexico's grisly narcoviolence; now Armen Keteyian has a quirkier, but no shorter, expose from the small Wisconsin town of Shawano--it still logged in at six minutes. Keteyian was tipped off to the tale of SIST by Michael Lauber of WSAW-TV, the local CBS affiliate. SIST is a group that styles itself as an "educational non-profit" but has been characterized, despite its denials, as "a religious cult." SIST is run by the former Rama Behera, who now goes by Avraham Cohen. Its hallmark is to drape its buildings with red and blue tarpaulins and it owns as much as $13m in property around Shawano.

Enter Bob Cameron, a motor sports dealer from Canada, who had a $100,000 dispute with SIST over the sale of "high-end go-karts." Cameron claimed he received $175,000 in wire transfers from SIST along with a fax message entitled Redrum--"murder spelled backwards"--with the names of 60 municipal officials, headed by Mayor Lorna Marquandt. Keteyian told us this was "an alleged hitlist" and Cameron, "a so-called hitman, is now telling his story for the first time." Why would SIST believe that Cameron could help them in their dispute with local Wisconsin politicians? "I have an Italian wife and of course which meant that there were Italian ties and mafia ties."

"Sheer unadulterated fantasy," was how SIST's lawyer, Alan Eisenberg, described Keteyian's story. Needless to say, everybody is still alive.


WEARING SOMEONE ELSE’S FACE The science fiction fantasy of wearing another person's face attracted the attention of journalists at NBC and ABC. ABC's John McKenzie covered the news of a face transplant at the Cleveland Clinic Tuesday. Now NBC's Robert Bazell and ABC's Dan Harris (embargoed link) follow up as surgeon Maria Siemionow described the 22-hour procedure that gave a deformed patient a new nose, cheeks, upper jaw, upper lip, palate, teeth and lower eyelids from the skull of a cadaver. Harris focused on the ethics of the procedure, since deformity is not life-threatening yet side effects of anti-rejection medication may be. Normally physicians do not risk a life unless that life is threatened. That worry was countered by a clinic doctor: "You need a face to face the world." NBC's Bazell looked to a wider use for this procedure. The clinic has already entered into talks with Brooke Army Medical Center about possible face transplants for severely burned war casualties. And to answer the question that occurs to everyone, ABC's McKenzie assured us that no, "patients receiving a face transplant do not end up looking like the donor."


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.