CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM MARCH 18, 2008
The network nightly newscasts took Barack Obama's formal address on race relations from Philadelphia's Constitution Center very seriously. All three newscasts led with a report on the speech itself and followed up with analysis. Obama repudiated the inflammatory racial rhetoric of his longtime pastor and mentor, the Rev Jeremiah Wright of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, but refused to reject the man himself: "I can no more disown him than I can disown my own white grandmother," was a soundbite that all three networks used. Her racial and ethnic stereotypes, Obama explained, would make him cringe. Altogether the speech accounted for 40% of the three-network newshole (23 min out of 58 total)--and that on an usually heavy day of news as both the Federal Reserve Board and the Supreme Court vied for attention.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR MARCH 18, 2008: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailCBS2008 Barack Obama campaignFormal speech on his church, race relationsByron PittsPhiladelphia
video thumbnailABC
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2008 Barack Obama campaignSermons in black churches under extra scrutinySteve OsunsamiAtlanta
video thumbnailCBSInterest rates set by Federal Reserve BoardRapid series of cuts since October helps lendersAnthony MasonNew York
video thumbnailNBCInterest rates set by Federal Reserve BoardFixed income savers hurt by declining ratesGeorge LewisCalifornia
video thumbnailABC
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NYSE-NASDAQ closing pricesDJIA rebounds by 420 points on interest rate cutBetsy StarkNew York
video thumbnailABCGuns: firearms control regulations debateSupreme Court examines Washington DC handgun banJan Crawford GreenburgSupreme Court
video thumbnailNBCMilitary personnel face family, personal problemsChildren have to cope with PTSD veteran parentsMaria MenounosMississippi
video thumbnailABCAlzheimer's Disease coverageExercise in middle age prevents plaque in brainJohn McKenzieNew York
video thumbnailCBSAlzheimer's Disease coverageWomen at greater risk than men; strain on kinSandra HughesCalifornia
video thumbnailNBCBlindness and visual disability treatmentsSight restored by training brain to rewireRobert BazellNew York
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
THE STATE OF THE RACIAL UNION The network nightly newscasts took Barack Obama's formal address on race relations from Philadelphia's Constitution Center very seriously. All three newscasts led with a report on the speech itself and followed up with analysis. Obama repudiated the inflammatory racial rhetoric of his longtime pastor and mentor, the Rev Jeremiah Wright of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, but refused to reject the man himself: "I can no more disown him than I can disown my own white grandmother," was a soundbite that all three networks used. Her racial and ethnic stereotypes, Obama explained, would make him cringe. Altogether the speech accounted for 40% of the three-network newshole (23 min out of 58 total)--and that on an usually heavy day of news as both the Federal Reserve Board and the Supreme Court vied for attention.

"We have a choice in this country," argued Obama, addressing the YouTube e-mailers and the cable news networks. "We can accept a politics that breeds division and conflict and cynicism. We can play Rev Wright's sermons on every channel every day. We can do that but if we do I can tell you that in the next election we will be talking about some other distraction and then another one and then another one and nothing will change." CBS anchor Katie Couric called the address "the most difficult, risky and important speech of his political career." ABC anchor Charles Gibson called it "extraordinary" and speculated that "it may turn out to be the seminal speech of his Presidential campaign. NBC anchor Brian Williams observed that in this year's campaign race is "inescapable."

Most of the straight reporting on the speech consisted of extended soundbites: ABC's Jake Tapper included five paragraph-length clips; NBC's Lee Cowan also used five; CBS' Byron Pitts four. Pitts included Obama's reminder that the "resentments of white America" cannot be dismissed as "misguided or even racist." Tapper focused on Obama's criticism of the Rev Wright as expressing "a profoundly distorted view" of the United States as endemically racist and his "profound mistake" of treating race relations in society as static. Cowan expected the speech he called "expansive" and "intensely personal" to be discussed for the remainder of the campaign. Yet he cautioned: "This kind of speech takes a little while to percolate down to the electorate so it could be some time before anyone can say for sure whether the Senator did what he had to do."

The analysis split into three themes: assessing Obama's overall argument; examining the impact of the speech on the institution of the African-American church; and handicapping its electoral impact.

On NBC, Jonathan Capehart from Washington Post opined thus: "It was a very blunt, very honest, very open speech that really put out into the open the furtive conversations and furtive thoughts on both sides of the racial divide that have been going on for generations." CBS' Jeff Greenfield called it "very effective and uncommonly frank." Refusing to renounce Wright, even though his oft replayed sermon soundbites "were a mortal threat" to Obama's campaign was "an act of honor," judged ABC's George Stephanopoulos.

ABC's Steve Osunsami (embargoed link) played a soundbite from Obama on the discourse of the black church: "It contains, in full, the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and--yes--the bitterness and biases that make up the black experience in America." On CBS, the Rev Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine observed that "many white Americans would be uncomfortable with what is said often in black churches." ABC's Osunsami observed, tactfully, that black sermons have been understood as "performances of exaggeration--in the words of one black minister gross hyperbole--but certainly with strands of truth." Debra Dickerson of MotherJones.com remarked on CBS about the black tradition that "what happens in church stays in church and I think that is a vestige of racism. Nobody took us seriously. Nobody cared what the colorful ministers were saying." Dickerson predicted that now the Rev Wright's soundbites are appearing all over YouTube "politicized ministers are going to be rereading their sermon notes."

As for the politics of the speech, CBS anchor Couric asked Greenfield flatly whether it put the Wright controversy behind Obama: "No." Greenfield argued that the Rev Wright's canard that the AIDS virus was spread as part of a federal conspiracy was so "bizarre" that Obama will be sabotaged by the association. ABC's Stephanopoulos thought the speech was enough "to reassure the relatively affluent liberals and independents" who already support Obama but he has "a bigger problem with white working class voters." On NBC, Joe Scarborough of MSNBC's Morning Joe generalized geographically: "The question is not how we are going to react in Georgetown or Manhattan; it is how they are going to react in Youngstown Ohio, Scranton Pa and Jacksonville Fla. These Reagan Democrats voted for Bill Clinton twice, voted for Ronald Reagan twice, voted for George W Bush twice. There is white resentment there…I think they may not respond quite as well as we respond here."


CIVICS LESSON On any other day the special civics lesson conducted by the Supreme Court would have been significant enough to warrant Story of the Day status. All three networks had correspondents on hand to hear the argument about what the Second Amendment means--indeed, all three networks actually quoted from the Bill of Rights verbatim: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

What does that mean? Does it merely protect the right of state governments to maintain militias manned by armed citizens? Or does it also protect the right of individuals to own guns for non-militia uses? And if the latter, what sort of restrictions on guns would be reasonable and what would constitute an infringement? "It is one of the great unresolved Constitutional questions," marveled ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg. "It is the biggest case on the right to bear arms ever heard by the Supreme Court," stated CBS' Wyatt Andrews. NBC's Pete Williams judged that it "seems likely" that the Court will "make history by ruling that gun ownership is an individual right."

The immediate issue was a 30-year-old total ban on handguns by the District of Columbia. Washington was "once known as the nation's murder capital," ABC's Crawford Greenburg recalled. The District defended its ban as an anti-crime measures. Some of its unarmed citizens sued to vindicate their rights. All three reporters expected the citizens to prevail. CBS' Andrews saw a tipoff in a question by Chief Justice John Roberts about a crucial word in the second half of the 27-word amendment: "If it is limited to state militias, why would they say the right of the people?" Mused Andrews: "The Justices seem to be looking for a kind of balance, a way to strike down the DC gun ban without striking down all gun control laws."


FED AGAIN After making headlines Friday and Monday for its reaction to the near bankruptcy of Bear Stearns, the Wall Street brokerage house, the Federal Reserve Board stayed in the news by reducing short term interest rates from 3% to 2.25%. CBS' Anthony Mason calculated that rates have been cut by three points from 5.25% just since October in reaction to a lack of available credit. He ticked off homeowners, college students and buyers of automobiles as three groups having difficulty obtaining loans. On the other hand, NBC's George Lewis visited retirees at the Laguna Woods Village whose interest income from fixed investments is plummeting as rates come down. Wall Street traders reacted by buying. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 420 points to 12392. ABC's Betsy Stark (embargoed link) did acknowledge the Fed's moves have resulted in a 12% drop in the value of the dollar and an increased risk of inflation, "but for now fighting inflation takes a back seat to fighting the credit crisis."


LIKE TOOTHPASTE FOR YOUR BRAIN There was one other story that was picked up by reporters on all three networks on this busy day, although less deservedly. The publicity was generated by the Alzheimer's Association. It released an estimate that ten million members of the babyboom generation will eventually be afflicted by Alzheimer's Disease. ABC's John McKenzie filed a constructive report, noting that recent research on the benefits of exercise in laboratory mice found that a brisk workout several times a week produces a chemical that flushes dementia-causing plaque from the blood vessels of the brain. CBS' Sandra Hughes filed a misleading report on the strain on family members of Alzheimer's patients, calling a devastating case of a 51-year-old man with an eight-year-old daughter-turned-caregiver "an increasingly typical family." Typical? Most Alzheimer's patients are female; the vast majority are over 70 years old; almost none have eight-year-old children when diagnosed. NBC's Robert Bazell (at the tail of his Mind Matters videostream) was most level headed about the Alzheimer's Association press release: "It is no surprise. We have known these numbers for a long time." With Alzheimer's afflicting 42% of the population aged 85 and older, "this is the dark side of all our medical miracles that are allowing people to live longer."


ELSEWHERE… The looming fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War inspired home front stories on NBC and ABC. ABC's Where Things Stand series took Chris Bury to Indiana, whose National Guard--now there's a well-regulated militia!--has sent 3,400 soldiers to Iraq with the 76th Infantry Brigade. On NBC, Maria Menounos profiled a mother-of-three USAF veteran in Biloxi Miss whose Post Traumatic Stress Disorder makes life hard for her children…on NBC, Robert Bazell continued his Mind Matters series on neurology, showing a personal computer program developed at Columbia University that trains patients blinded by brain damage to restore their sight.


MENTIONED IN PASSING The network newscasts do not assign correspondents to all of the news of the day. If Tyndall Report readers come across videostreamed reports online of stories that were mentioned only in passing, post the link in comments for us to check out.

Today's examples: more videotape surfaced of independence protests in Tibet…Delta Airlines is shrinking, offering buyouts to its workers and canceling some routes…movie director Anthony Minghella--The English Patient was his most acclaimed title--died, aged 54…science fiction novelist Arthur C Clarke died, aged 90…David Paterson, the new Governor of New York, decided to publicize his marital woes…the New York Yankees commemorated last spring's massacre on the campus of Virginia Tech by playing against the university's baseball squad.