CONTAINING LINKS TO 51991 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM DECEMBER 23, 2008
While ABC found itself caught up in the seasonal spirit--leading and closing with Christmas stories and slotting in a third in between--CBS and NBC both stuck to politics. Those newscasts led with lucky correspondents in Hawaii reporting from the President-elect's traveling press corps as Barack Obama's lawyers released a formal four page account of their office's contacts with Gov Rod Blagojevich about Illinois' vacant Senate seat. The Obama memo was Story of the Day. CBS and NBC both used substitute anchors, Harry Smith and Ann Curry respectively.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR DECEMBER 23, 2008: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailNBCGov Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) accused of corruptionObama staffer lobbied on Senate seat appointmentSavannah GuthrieHawaii
video thumbnailNBCCommerce Secretary Bill Richardson nominationFaces pay-for-play probe over NM bond contractLisa MyersWashington DC
video thumbnailABCMaryland water supply main break causes flash floodMotorists trapped, need rescue by firefightersPierre ThomasWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCReal estate housing market prices continue to fallLow mortgage rates help refinancing, not salesErin BurnettNew York
video thumbnailCBSPoverty: hunger, food banks and soup kitchensFood stamp applicants include ex-middle-classByron PittsNew Hampshire
video thumbnailCBSIraq: post-war reconstruction effortsBaghdad's commuter railroad makes slow comebackElizabeth PalmerBaghdad
video thumbnailNBCMagnet, charter schools offer alternative educationGlobal Leaders curriculum uses world crisesAnn CurryNew York
video thumbnailCBSMarathon runner races in all seven continentsFundraiser for narcotics rehab programsMark StrassmannFlorida
video thumbnailCBSWinter weatherHeavy snows impose removal cost burden on citiesCynthia BowersChicago
video thumbnailABCChristmas holiday season celebratedHoliday singalong at Houston Airport karaokeRyan OwensHouston
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
OBAMA WAS INTERESTED IN HIS SUCCESSOR AFTER ALL While ABC found itself caught up in the seasonal spirit--leading and closing with Christmas stories and slotting in a third in between--CBS and NBC both stuck to politics. Those newscasts led with lucky correspondents in Hawaii reporting from the President-elect's traveling press corps as Barack Obama's lawyers released a formal four page account of their office's contacts with Gov Rod Blagojevich about Illinois' vacant Senate seat. The Obama memo was Story of the Day. CBS and NBC both used substitute anchors, Harry Smith and Ann Curry respectively.

The memo confirmed that the President-elect did what he would be expected to do: he had a shortlist of six favorites to replace him; he discussed their respective merits and potential strategic benefits with his staff; and his soon-to-be Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel communicated those ideas to Blagojevich and his top staffer John Harris. NBC's Savannah Guthrie mentioned Valerie Jarrett, Lisa Madigan and Jesse Jackson Jr; ABC's Jonathan Karl chipped in with Dan Hynes, Tammy Duckworth and Jan Schakowsky.

So, NBC's Chuck Todd pointed out--contrary to what Obama "led us to believe"--the notion that "he was keeping a hands-off approach" was contradicted. Todd called them "the types of interactions that we would expect." Todd is stretching here. Obama's denials related to dealmaking and impropriety rather than any involvement whatsoever. ABC's Karl reported that Obama's office called the contacts "nothing unusual." As for impropriety, "it is not exactly shocking that this report shows that the Obama team did nothing wrong. After all the prosecutor has made no such allegation." CBS' Jeff Greenfield came to the same conclusion: "There is certainly nothing in the report that should stir up controversy," he told substitute anchor Harry Smith (at the tail of the Tracy videostream).

So where did Gov Blagojevich come up with the notion that Obama was not offering anything but "appreciation" as a reward for following one of his suggestions? CBS' Ben Tracy pointed to a meeting between Jarrett and Tom Balanoff of the Service Employees International Union at which the idea of a Cabinet position for Blagojevich was dismissed as "ridiculous." NBC's Todd picked up on the meeting: "They may have laughed it off but did Jarrett pass on this information to the President-elect…and what did the union official know about what Blagojevich was doing?"


COMMERCE DEPARTMENT The day's other development from Barack Obama's transition concerned his nominee for Commerce Secretary, Gov Bill Richardson of New Mexico. NBC's Lisa Myers reported on a federal grand jury investigation into a possible pay-to-play deal in New Mexico in 2004. The state paid $1.5m in management fees to CDR Financial Products for issuing bonds in the same year that CDR's founder David Rubin contributed $100,000 to Richardson's political action committee to help pay for his expenses at that year's Democratic National Convention. CDR insisted its contracts were "won on merits after a rigorous process."


SPRANG A LEAK All three newscasts could not resist the sensational images from suburban Maryland where a 66-inch water main pumping 150,000 gallons per minute sprang a leak, causing a flash flood down River Road in Bethesda: "a treacherous wall of water," ABC's Pierre Thomas called it…"surging waters," said CBS' Thalia Assuras…"a five foot wall of water and debris," according to NBC's Tom Costello. Firefighters had to use helicopters and boats to rescue people from ten cars. NBC's Costello noted that the main, built in 1964, was designed to last "75 to 100 years."


MONEY WORRIES A trio of reports on the continuing gloom of the economy saw CBS' Byron Pitts follow the rising demand for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program--that is food stamps in plain English. There are now 31m recipients, up 2m in just the last month. Hungry states like Texas and Florida have 20% larger rolls than this time last year. CNBC's Erin Burnett reported on NBC that "the two year housing slump is getting worse" as prices continue to fall and unsold inventory continues to grow despite low mortgage rates. A 5% rate for 30-year mortgages helps refinancers with plenty of equity, income and credit rating but not would-be buyers or those who owe more than they own.

Only ABC assigned a correspondent to the fallout from the failure of Bernard Madoff's investment fund. Sharyn Alfonsi (embargoed link) brought us the tale of Thierry de la Villehuchet, the 65-year-old French financier and founder of Access International Advisors. All his money had been in Madoff's hands. He was found dead in his midtown Manhattan office, an apparent suicide.


CELL PHONE CARS AND RAILROAD CHICKEN A couple of quirky foreign vignettes on transportation were filed from Baghdad and Shenzhen. The Chinese story came from ABC's Stephanie Sy (embargoed link) at the BYD auto plant, where a plug-in electric hybrid has just been put on the market. The F3DM gets 20 miles more on its overnight charge than Chevrolet's Volt and costs half as much at $22,000. General Motors started off making internal combustion cars; BYD began making batteries for cell phones. The Iraqi story was filed by Elizabeth Palmer for CBS. She took a ride on Baghdad's sole commuter railroad, a 40c fare for an hour's ride. Passengers would be "afraid if they could see this," Palmer reflected from the engineer's cabin. "With all the barriers stolen or smashed, every road crossing is a game of chicken."


WORLD MAKES GIRL CRY A charter school in New York City and a marathon runner from Boca Raton have both gone global. CBS' Mark Strassmann introduced us to Linda Quirk, who is committed to raising awareness for methamphetamine rehab programs by running races in the seven continents. For North America, she chose Boston; for Africa, Kenya; for Australasia, Australia; for Asia, China; for Europe, a Tyndall Report favorite, Iceland; for South America, an odd choice, Easter Island…just Antarctica to go. NBC substitute anchor Ann Curry designated the School for Global Leaders as a middle school that is Making a Difference by using world issues throughout its curriculum. It teaches science and English and social studies by using examples of Third World poverty and HIV/AIDS and global warming climate change. Curry questioned a student whose eyes were flooded with tears: "Is it too much to know this at your age?" "No," she answered between sobs, "because you have the opportunity to change the world if you want to."


XMAS TRIPLEHEADER NBC's Lee Cowan and CBS' Cynthia Bowers both filed from Chicago on the cold and snowy start of a Christmas week. Cowan showed us Bears fans "hoping they will get a sweater" as they bared their chests to watch the Packers in –13F temperatures. Bowers worried that municipal budget cuts will hamper snow removal from city streets. ABC went the whole seasonal hog. Its Xmas tripleheader kicked off with Eric Horng at O'Hare Airport in Chicago where "hopes for an easy holiday getaway went away" because hundreds of flights were delayed by heavy snow. It continued with David Muir in New York who worried that "the whiter the Christmas the less green it has become for retailers…with relentless storms paralyzing those last-minute shoppers that retailers depend on." Ryan Owens filed the closer from another airport. The terminal in Houston has installed a karaoke machine so laid-over passengers can impart some seasonal cheer. We heard more-or-less tuneful clips…"I'm dreamin'"…"my two front teeth"…"comin' to town"…"red nosed reindeer"…"jingle bell rock"…with the final word from one crooner: "Sorry."