It was such a lackluster day for news that not a single story warranted coverage by a reporter on all three networks. Inside the Beltway the major headline was Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's plan to reform regulation of the financial industry: CBS led with that and it was a scantily covered Story of the Day. On the campaign trail, news was made by the Federal Election Commission that Hillary Rodham Clinton's fundraising has an $8.7m shortfall: NBC led with that. ABC led with an update on the Pennsylvania primary. Big Pharma made a big splash amid the news vacuum at the American College of Cardiology convention in Chicago.    
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video thumbnailABCHigh blood pressure prevention effortsCardiologists hear research on dual remedyJohn McKenzieNew York
video thumbnailCBSHigh blood pressure prevention effortsBarbershop project screens at risk black menThalia AssurasBaltimore
video thumbnailCBSFinancial industry regulation reforms proposedTreasury Department seeks triple consolidationAnthony MasonNew York
video thumbnailABCReal estate housing market prices continue to fallFlorida's condo crash hits small investorsJeffrey KofmanFlorida
video thumbnailNBC2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton campaignFalls into debt, lags in polls, will not quitAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailCBS2008 Republican Vice Presidential prospectsSelection previewed, candidates handicappedKatie CouricNew York
video thumbnailNBC2008 Presidential race Democratic delegates standingsUndecided superdelegates hope that voters decideJohn YangMissouri
video thumbnailNBCZimbabwe politics: election results delayedVoters already wait for food, now wait for newsAdrienne ArsenaultZimbabwe
video thumbnailCBSChernobyl nuclear power plant disaster aftermathSealed radioactive zone, steel shell designedBill PlanteUkraine
video thumbnailABCHigh-technology multitasking is distractingEven Silicon Valley orders gadgetfree meetingsLaura MarquezSan Francisco
IT IS PHARMA TIME It was such a lackluster day for news that not a single story warranted coverage by a reporter on all three networks. Inside the Beltway the major headline was Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's plan to reform regulation of the financial industry: CBS led with that and it was a scantily covered Story of the Day. On the campaign trail, news was made by the Federal Election Commission that Hillary Rodham Clinton's fundraising has an $8.7m shortfall: NBC led with that. ABC led with an update on the Pennsylvania primary. Big Pharma made a big splash amid the news vacuum at the American College of Cardiology convention in Chicago.

ABC's John McKenzie publicized heart research sponsored by Novartis, the pharmaceutical firm. Its research into 11,000 patients with high blood pressure found that a combination of two medicines--a calcium channel blocker and an ACE inhibitor--helps prevent strokes and heart attacks. McKenzie did not tell us which Novartis brand benefits from this finding.

CBS' in-house physician Jon LaPook covered a study of diabetes patients by Actos, a medicine that boosts the metabolism's sensitivity to insulin. Actos was compared with Amaryl, a rival medication that boosts the levels of insulin instead. LaPook told us that Actos has fewer negative side effects on the heart. LaPook did not tell us which pharmaceutical firms manufacture the two brands.

On NBC, Robert Bazell followed up on a study that all three newscasts covered in January on Schering-Plough's cholesterol-lowering drug Zetia and the Vytorin brand that includes Zetia in its blend of medicines. Zetia not only fails to prevent heart attacks, it may actually increase the build-up of plaque in the arteries. Bazell did not advance the story, merely reporting on the formal release of the findings at the cardiologists' convention. Still, with $5bn in annual sales--and a lavish consumer advertising campaign of which the network newscasts themselves have been happy beneficiaries--repeating the negative news certainly does no harm.

Rounding out the day's heart focus, CBS' Thalia Assuras traveled to the Park Heights barbershop in Baltimore. The Barbershop, immortalized in the 2002 Hollywood movie, Assuras reminded us, is a social center for black men. She cited a study that found that 80% of African-American men get their hair cut on a monthly basis, "staying almost three hours." Thus the University of Maryland's preventive health effort focused on the barber. It launched Hair, Heart & Health a program that trains barbers to monitor their customers' blood pressure in order to identify those at high risk for treatment.

MY EYES GLAZE OVER ABC anchor Charles Gibson was quite frank about the reason for not covering the Treasury Department's plan in depth: "When you start saying 'reform to the financial regulatory system' I think people's eyes just glaze over." Nevertheless his network's Betsy Stark filed a brief explainer on Treasury's plan for three "uber-agencies," one to cover the financial markets, one for the banking system and one for consumer businesses. Stark saw no chance of immediate change "in the final months of a lame duck administration with a housing crisis and a sick economy to manage."

CBS gave the story a college try, assigning Anthony Mason to lead off its newscast with the prospect that the Federal Reserve Board "would become Wall Street's supercop." Yet Mason noted that Paulson's plan falls short since "there is no regulation of those complex securities that were used to dice up all those bad subprime loans and sell them off to investors. They are really at the root, the cause, of this whole mortgage mess and the credit crunch. They are not addressed at all in this."

NBC hardly covered the Paulson story, satisfying itself with a brief soundbite from its sibling financial news cable channel, CNBC.

ON THE MONEY The parlous state of the economy inspired each network to file a money feature. NBC's Hard Times featured financial planning tips from Suze Orman, a CNBC contributor, who appeared to plug her new book Women & Money. Orman believes homeowners should pay off their mortgages in full by the age of 62 and that savers should switch from bank accounts to dividend-paying stocks. CBS concentrated on the bottom end of the income scale for Hitting Home. Bill Whitaker reported that more Americans need food stamps than at any time since the program began four decades ago: in Michigan one resident in eight uses them; in Kentucky one in seven. The benefits average $100 per person per month but Congress is unlikely to approve any increase.

On ABC's Kitchen Table series, Jeffrey Kofman invited us to pity the poor landlord. He profiled Scott and Lori Pustizzi, a thirtysomething Florida couple, who invested in apartments in 2004, when the state "was seized with condo fever." They bought the units before they were built and their plan was to sell them at a profit upon completion. By the time construction finished, the bubble had burst. "Desperate speculators are competing with buyers and renters." The Pustizzis had to let the units to tenants at a loss. Their rent "covers just half their monthly payments."

ORDINARY VOTERS AND SUPER DELEGATES ABC led its newscast with David Wright (no link) in Allentown where he described the strange tone of the Pennsylvania primary. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton "seem to be auditioning for the General Election," he observed, "looking past each other and training their sights on Republicans." In their stump speeches, she "barely mentioned him" while he "ignored" her. And even as Obama toured bowling alleys and agricultural sites performing "retail politics Iowa style," sure, he was targeting primary voters but "clearly superdelegates too." Wright summarized the Pennsylvania campaign as having "two audiences." NBC's John Yang, too, focused on superdelegates, profiling an undecided pair in Missouri. Lelia Medley is a teachers' union official and former backed of John Edwards; Maria Chappelle-Nadal is a state legislator handpicked by Party Chairman Howard Dean. They both prefer that voters select the candidate "but if they have to they will be ready."

NBC's lead by Andrea Mitchell looked at the $8.7m debt facing the Rodham Clinton campaign eleven days before the end of the quarter. By contrast, according to the Federal Elections Commission, Obama had $31m on hand. Mitchell noted that in the upcoming primary states of Pennsylvania, Indiana and North Carolina, Obama out-advertising Rodham Clinton by a ratio of five-to-one. Of Rodham Clinton's debt, $2.5m is owed to the firm of her "campaign guru" Mark Penn. Mitchell quoted the candidate's online fundraising appeal: "This is our last chance to show our strength in the midst of the onslaught from our opponent."

SHERPAS AND SHORTLISTS CBS anchor Katie Couric set us up for the next major step in John McCain's candidacy: "The biggest decision the Presidential nominees will make is choosing a running mate," Couric asserted. She covered the mechanisms for selection with Ken Duberstein, onetime White House Chief of Staff for Ronald Reagan, before getting on to the fun part, "Washington's favorite parlor game" of handicapping the likely Veep picks.

A lame Duberstein tried to liven up his soundbites by dubbing the person in charge of vetting candidates a "sherpa"--as in a local expert who guides Himalayan mountaineers--conjuring up the unlikely image of Dick Cheney tending yaks in Nepal. Then Duberstein coined a "four C's" rule of thumb about a candidate's attributes: "competence, chemistry, credibility, compatibility." This sounds much like "three C's" since the fine difference between chemistry and compatibility was not delineated. Note that neither "charisma" nor "character" was included. So McCain can pick a rogue, apparently, as long as it is not a charming one. Come to think of it "charm" does not get on the list either, which explains the aforesaid Cheney.

Anyway, back to the fun part. Couric offered McCain a shortlist of eight: one former rival Mitt Romney (Mike Huckabee's efforts appear to have come to nought); two George Bush officials, former Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and former Budget Director Rob Portman of Ohio; two current governors, Charlie Crist of Florida and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota; two Republican Senate colleagues, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; and one independent, a former Vice Presidential nominee on the Democratic ticket, Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.

Couric asked former senator George Mitchell whether he might end up as a Democrat's running mate: as much chance as there is "of you being chosen by Sen John McCain" he replied to the anchor. "No calls from John McCain," Couric announced, "at least not yet."

LACKING EXPOSURE There was important--yet undercovered--news from overseas. Only NBC had a correspondent cover the suspiciously slow count in the elections in Zimbabwe, using Adrienne Arsenault of its Canadian newsgathering partner CBC. The delay in the results may be evidence that incumbent Robert Mugabe is working to rig an election he lost. And Only CBS had a reporter file from President George Bush's visit to eastern Europe ahaead of a NATO Summit in Romania. Bill Plante took a detour to Chernobyl, where a $1.5bn steel shed is being built to roll over the radioactive ruins of the nuclear power plant. Plante showed us the site, complete with lead lined construction equipment to shield workers. Less than ten minutes after arriving his group exceeded safe radiation exposure limits.

WHAT IS THAT YOU JUST SAID? For fun, ABC ended its newscast with a feature from Laura Marquez in Silicon Valley. The workers there are "going topless," in the phrase coined by Website designer Dan Saffer. It is a response to the distracted mood in business meetings, where participants pay try to discuss and multitask at the same time. Firms are banning laptops--hence "topless"--and cell phones and pagers and BlackBerrys: "The experts do not call it attention deficit so much as continuous partial attention."

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: Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson announced his resignation…a ceasefire has been negotiated between Shiite militias and Iraqi government forces in Basra…the Olympic torch arrived in Beijing…Play Ball! It is Opening Day of the baseball season…sandcastles must be demolished at the end of the day on the beaches of Isle of Palms SC, by municipal ordinance.