CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM DECEMBER 19, 2008
A busy day of news saw all three newscasts assign correspondents to cover three major stories: Gov Rod I will fight Blagojevich refused to resign in the face of Illinois corruption charges; a snowstorm stretching from the Great Lakes to New England stalled pre-holiday travel; and George Bush decided to lend billions to the automobile industry. "Allowing the US auto industry to collapse is not a responsible course of action," the President declared as he signed off on a $17bn check for General Motors and Chrysler. The Detroit bridge loan was Story of the Day and the lead item on NBC and CBS, ABC decided to lead with the winter wonderland of weather.    
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video thumbnailCBSAutomobile industry in financial troublePresident Bush extends TARP loan to GM, ChryslerAnthony MasonNew York
video thumbnailABCAutomobile industry in financial troubleSuppliers, workers, dealers all under pressureChris BuryChicago
video thumbnailABCGov Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) accused of corruptionAsserts his innocence, refuses to resignBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailABCWinter weatherHoliday weekend travel disrupted by heavy snowSharyn AlfonsiConnecticut
video thumbnailCBSFla toddler goes missing: mother faces murder rapGirl's skull found close to home identifiedKelly CobiellaMiami
video thumbnailABCVolunteers can be sued for reckless rescuesGood Samaritan responsible for woman's paralysisMike von FremdLos Angeles
video thumbnailCBSWatergate scandal rememberedFBI's Mark Felt, aka Deep Throat, dies, aged 95Bob OrrWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCIceland economy suffers financial collapseAll major banks fail, mass debt, joblessnessStephanie GoskIceland
video thumbnailNBCChristmas holiday season gets under wayUSPS letters to Santa program stalled by pervertJanet ShamlianChicago
video thumbnailCBSChristmas holiday season gets under waySecret Santa hands out cash to hard-up strangersSteve HartmanKansas City
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
BUSH CUTS A TREASURY CHECK FOR DETROIT A busy day of news saw all three newscasts assign correspondents to cover three major stories: Gov Rod I will fight Blagojevich refused to resign in the face of Illinois corruption charges; a snowstorm stretching from the Great Lakes to New England stalled pre-holiday travel; and George Bush decided to lend billions to the automobile industry. "Allowing the US auto industry to collapse is not a responsible course of action," the President declared as he signed off on a $17bn check for General Motors and Chrysler. The Detroit bridge loan was Story of the Day and the lead item on NBC and CBS, ABC decided to lead with the winter wonderland of weather.

The automakers' $17bn has not been approved by Congress. Instead it will be paid out of the $700bn TARP fund, established to relieve the financial industry of worthless real estate assets. Senate Republicans had voted against a loan to Detroit last week and ABC's Jonathan Karl reported from the White House that they were "furious" that their own White House had made an end run around their filibuster "but at this point there is nothing they can do to stop it." From Detroit, CNBC's Phil LeBeau pointed out on NBC that Bush's $17bn was not accompanied by an "official Car Czar--just a Chief Loan Officer, who happens to be the Treasury Secretary."

ABC's Chris Bury went down the checklist of sacrifices that will be required to put the automakers' books in order: "the big sticking point is more union concessions…another tall order is wringing more out of suppliers, themselves teetering on the brink…drop entire brands and close more dealerships." CBS' Anthony Mason contradicted the notion that the pay of General Motors' assembly line workers is above industry norms: their $29 hourly rate is one dollar higher than Honda's, one dollar lower than Toyota's. General Motors' extra $20 per hour does not derive from wages but "benefits, pensions and legacy costs," he explained.

The President's car loan expires at the end of March. ABC's Karl told us that if the automakers cannot prove that they can make profits by then they will have to repay the billions, which would mean "certain bankruptcy." CBS' Mason noted that the car business is now "essentially collapsing." He concluded that "this money will not solve Detroit's problems. It is just a bridge loan until the Obama Administration." Despite the supposed strings that Bush attached to the loan, "the reality is the Obama Administration will be able to rewrite this deal if they want." David Gregory of NBC's Meet the Press imagined the President's considerate motive for keeping the industry alive through next spring: "I do not want to leave a catastrophe for my successor on Day One."


PUGNACIOUS BLAGOJEVICH "I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take may last breath." That was the money soundbite from Rod Blagojevich's three-minute public statement aired by all three newscasts as Illinois' Democratic governor asserted his innocence on corruption charges. "Blagojevich's public defiance sets up a trial to remember," ABC's Brian Ross licked his lips, "no-nonsense federal prosecutors against Chicago-style politics." CBS' Dean Reynolds focused on the request by Blagojevich's defense team that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald "turn over transcripts of the governor's expletive-riddled wiretapped conversations." Reynolds speculated that they would expose the role of soon-to-be White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in the wheelerdealing over Illinois' vacant Senate seat. NBC's Kevin Tibbles perceived a different defense tactic: to have the wiretap evidence thrown out as illegal.

If the Blagojevich case drags on the Illinois Senate seat may remain unfilled for months. ABC anchor Charles Gibson asked This Week host George Stephanopoulos whether the lack of that Democratic vote in the Senate might undercut Barack Obama's chances of passing a fiscal stimulus. "It is clear that the Obama strategy…is to try to come up with a bipartisan plan that would have well over 60 votes," Stephanopoulos responded. "They can afford that vacancy."


LET IT SNOW ABC sent correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi to Connecticut to cover the snowstorm that slowed winter solstice airline travel from Milwaukee to Chicago to Detroit to Philadelphia to Newark to La Guardia. NBC and CBS used meteorologists: Jeff Ranieri in Massachusetts and Early Show's Dave Price in Chicago. NBC's Ranieri offered a forecast for "another storm system taking shape" on Sunday and then a third moving from the Tennessee Valley into the northeast "with possibly a foot of snow." CBS' Price pointed out that heavy snow on the weekend before Christmas "means no customers" for already struggling retailers. "When you lose a day, you cannot make up for that lost business."


CAYLEE IS NIGHTLY NEWS STRANGER It is a marker of the divergence between the news agenda of the networks' nightly newscasts and that of their morning programs--and of non-political cable news--that Kelly Cobiella's story on CBS was the first time a nightly correspondent has mentioned the name of Caylee Anthony. For those of us who do not follow the journalism of Nancy Grace or Greta van Susteren with slavish loyalty, Cobiella brought us up to date on what should be no more than local news from Orlando Fla. A toddler's skull has been identified as that of the two-year-old girl who went missing six months ago. Her mother denies murder charges. "Investigators say they may have missed an opportunity to make their case against her stronger. The same witness who led them to the remains of the little girl tipped them off about the site three times back in August."


RECKLESS SAMARITANS "Many feel the ruling flies in the face of human nature." Thus ABC's Mike von Fremd framed the decision by the Supreme Court of California that volunteers who try to act as Good Samaritans in rescuing people from danger can get into trouble if they act recklessly. The case concerned an office worker who pulled a colleague away from a car accident so unprofessionally that she was paralyzed for life as a result. The court allowed her lawsuit against him to go ahead. von Fremd illustrated his story with images of an unrelated--and non-reckless--rescue of a family from a flash flood that did not end in paralysis. "The backlash is so strong that the California legislature may rewrite the law to give more protection for Good Samaritans."


SECRET POLICEMAN Ever since Deep Throat was revealed to be Mark Felt, the second in command at Richard Nixon's FBI, Watergate journalism has seemed different from its portrayal in All the President's Men. Instead of Deep Throat serving as the Washington Post's clandestine informant from the corridors of power, journalist Bob Woodward has become cast as the FBI's mole, planted inside Washington Post. Instead of a crusading watchdog outing a corrupt administration, the press looks like a tool manipulated in an institutional power struggle between a power-hungry Oval Office and its turf-jealous secret police. "No, no I am not Deep Throat," was Felt's lying soundbite from CBS' own Face the Nation in1976 that Bob Orr aired in his obituary for the man, dead at 95, whose "whispered words helped topple a President." Felt leaves a memoir A G-Man's Life.


GO TO VIK--HELP PAY ICELAND’S DEBT NBC understands how cool Iceland is. Robert Bazell landed a couple of trips there to report on genetics and geothermals. Now Stephanie Gosk files an In Depth feature on what the island can possibly do now its economy is in "complete collapse" with all of its major banks failing and four years of borrowing for "new homes, expensive cars, designer clothes" coming to a screeching halt. "People say the Viking spirit helped them survive on this remote island for nearly 1200 years and they will need to tap into a little more to get out of this C21st mess."

Speaking personally, a January walk along the black beach at Vik as the gray sea's waves break under a flurry of white snow helps one understand color as nowhere else in nature.


HAVE YOURSELF A LACHRYMOSE LITTLE XMAS For their Christmas fare, NBC had Janet Shamlian file the standard feature on the Postal Service's Letters to Santa operation, which invites strangers to respond to children's begging letters addressed to the North Pole with a wish granted. Unexpectedly, Shamlian stumbled upon an actual news story: the Santa program had been halted nationwide because one of the letters had been attemptedly answered by a registered sex offender in Maryland. Steve Hartman, for CBS' Assignment America returned to Kansas City where last year he had profiled the continuation of the Secret Santa cash-giveaway tradition after its founder died. Now anonymous financiers are giving away cash in Detroit, Charlotte, St Louis, Phoenix and San Diego too.

Both Shamlian and Hartman were struck by this Christmas' Dickensian mood. "This year the requests reflect a holiday of hardships," mused Shamlian after reading the North Pole letters. "Santa and his helpers say people are always grateful," Hartman conceded, "but this year the reactions…what a sobering economic indicator this is."