CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM APRIL 1, 2008
Colin Powell proves he still has public relations chops. The former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State attracted maximum attention for a routine piece of research published by his America's Promise Alliance. Cities in Crisis publicized the hardly surprising, although truly disheartening, fact that inner city public high schools are vastly inferior to those in their surrounding suburbs. There are 17 big city public systems that fail to graduate at least half of their high school students. Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Baltimore rank worst. In total 1.2m teenagers drop out of high school nationwide each year. Powell's report was Story of the Day and the lead item on ABC's newscast. He granted his Exclusive interview on its findings to CBS anchor Katie Couric. CBS and NBC both covered the report but decided to lead instead with the rising price of oil.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR APRIL 1, 2008: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailABCHigh school dropout prevention effortsUrban public schools crisis, worse than suburbsSharyn AlfonsiNew York
video thumbnailCBSOil, natural gas, gasoline pricesHouse hearings into hikes, tax breaks, profitsChip ReidCapitol Hill
video thumbnailNBCOil, natural gas, gasoline pricesIndependent truckers protest high cost of dieselTom CostelloWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSFederal budget deficit spending: $10tr National DebtTreasury borrows through public debt auctionsAnthony MasonWashington DC
video thumbnailCBS2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton campaignFalls into debt, lags in polls, will not quitJim AxelrodWashington DC
video thumbnailABC2008 John McCain campaignAutobiographical tour showcases life experienceRon ClaiborneVirginia
video thumbnailNBCCivil-Rights-era leader MLK rememberedHistory TV docu marks assassination 40th annivTom BrokawNew York
video thumbnailNBCLondon's Heathrow Airport opens new terminalBaggage handling system fails, causes delaysJim MacedaLondon
video thumbnailCBSNewt conservation efforts in EnglandAmphibian ditch saved, causes house to floodRichard RothEngland
video thumbnailABCSquid color switch studied by marine biologistsDark side lures female, white side deters rivalRobert KrulwichNew York
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
COLIN POWELL IS A PR CHAMP Colin Powell proves he still has public relations chops. The former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State attracted maximum attention for a routine piece of research published by his America's Promise Alliance. Cities in Crisis publicized the hardly surprising, although truly disheartening, fact that inner city public high schools are vastly inferior to those in their surrounding suburbs. There are 17 big city public systems that fail to graduate at least half of their high school students. Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Baltimore rank worst. In total 1.2m teenagers drop out of high school nationwide each year. Powell's report was Story of the Day and the lead item on ABC's newscast. He granted his Exclusive interview on its findings to CBS anchor Katie Couric. CBS and NBC both covered the report but decided to lead instead with the rising price of oil.

Both CBS' Dean Reynolds and NBC's Mika Brzezinski saw a racial factor underlying the urban-suburban gap. Reynolds called graduation rates "far worse" for students belonging to minority groups; Brzezinski contrasted a 76% white graduation rate in all public schools with 53% for African Americans. In Detroit's system, just 25% of eighth graders make it through all four years. On ABC, Sharyn Alfonsi told us the data applied to all high schools, not just the public systems, presumably her mistake. She stated that "statistics show high school dropouts are more likely to commit crimes, to live in poverty, to receive and stay on government assistance--an economic tsunami."

Alfonsi's vaguely-worded "more likely" thus glided over the thorny sociological problem of cause and effect. Surely dropouts are more likely to be brought up in high-crime neighborhoods, in poverty and on welfare, too. Even Secretary Powell was unclear about whether his report was describing an educational failure or an underlying social problem that happens to manifest itself at school. When he ticked off the factors leading to a high dropout rate for CBS' Couric, he included poor funding for inner city schools--and then added the lack of "strong families," too few Boys & Girls Clubs and Big Brothers-Big Sisters programs, too many cartoons on television.

ABC followed up with Neal Karlinsky's (embargoed link) profile of a program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that focused on improving high schools themselves to increase graduation rates. He showed us a pilot scheme at Clover Park HS in Gates' Washington State that reduces class sizes and insists on continuity with the same teacher instructing the same students for all four years. Yet even Karlinsky's report acknowledged that non-educational factors can lead to poor educational outcomes, citing "risk factors like pregnancy, poverty and truancy."


BIG OIL NBC's lead on the high prices of oil focused on what Tom Costello called "a nationwide day of protest" as independent truckers parked their rigs to register dismay at the skyrocketing cost of diesel fuel. A tank full of fuel now costs $1,189, which is a $352 increase in just twelve months. The plight of the trucking industry had already been covered last week by Chris Bury (embargoed link) on ABC and Nancy Cordes on CBS. Costello showed us clips of stalled semis from New Jersey to Tampa, from Chicago to Connecticut.

ABC and CBS focused on Capitol Hill, where a House committee called in executives of the five major multinational oil corporations--ExxonMobil, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, Shell, BP--to ask about their prices, their profits and their tax breaks. When one congressman inquired whether they had thought about cutting into their record high profits in order to reduce retail prices, CBS' Chip Reid heard "an awkward pause" followed by "an aggressive defense of market economics." To paraphrase the executives: "Their profits are so big because their companies are so big."

ABC's Lisa Stark (embargoed link) heard the executives "fighting to retain" a tax break that Democrats wanted to redirect to research into alternate energy. Yet the decade-long tax break amounts to just $18bn in full while the five firms made $123bn in profits in a single year. CBS' Reid played the soundbite from ExxonMobil: annual profits--$40bn; annual investment in renewable energy--$100m.


NO JOKE All three networks followed up with more from the economy. On ABC, Betsy Stark (embargoed link) wondered if a 391 point buying spree on the Dow Jones Industrial Average was "Wall Street's idea of an April Fool's joke" since it came on the heels of a $19bn loss from the UBS investment bank and a $4bn from its rival Deutsche Bank. No, it was no joke Stark explained, since the write downs may be an indication that the entire credit crisis is now accounted for. Yet "this is not the first time investors have bet the worst is over only to be bludgeoned by more bad news."

NBC continued its Hard Times feature series with a profile of Ric Edelman, the talkradio personal finance advisor, who claims that we can all cut consumer spending by 5% "without a significant change" in our domestic lifestyles. Carl Quintanilla, of NBC's sibling financial news cable channel CNBC, relayed Edelman's advice: get a better cable TV deal; use the cellphone, not land line, for all calls; use the fireplace not central heating; save energy by changing lightbulbs and disconnecting home electronics; quit smoking; exercise at home not at the gym; buy groceries in bulk; skip your morning coffee and newspaper; no candy bar after lunch.

See! No lifestyle change whatsoever!

CBS launched its series Life and Debt in America by looking at the $9.3tr the federal government owes, the so-called National Debt. Each year, it rolls over $4tr of that total, selling new bills and bonds by public auction. Anthony Mason claimed that CBS' cameras were showing us workings of the Treasury Department's Bureau of Public Debt for the first time ever. Exclusive! In hushed tones, Mason showed a $13bn auction of ten-year notes: "You are watching the world's biggest borrower flash its credit card. This is an awfully sedate room but there is real money at stake."

Mason offered an indirect message to Colin Powell, higher up in CBS' newscast: the $430bn the United States spends in interest payments each year on the National Debt is "nearly as much as we spend on education."


HILLARY STALLONE In the Presidential race, CBS' Jim Axelrod covered the same money troubles that NBC's Andrea Mitchell found in Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign. Instead of campaigning in Pennsylvania "she is flying to California--a state she won two months ago--for two days of fundraisers." Rodham Clinton stuck to her Pennsylvania theme before she left, styling her determination not to quit the race after Philadelphia's Rocky Balboa. Axelrod stuck with that role model, calling the candidate "bruised and battered" by his colleague Sharyl Attkisson's coverage on the former First Lady's falsehoods about Bosnian sniper fire last Monday and Tuesday. When Rodham Clinton's standing in national polls declined, her campaign admitted to Axelrod that Attkisson's story "was the cause."


NASTY AND IMPERFECT Republican Presidential candidate John McCain is taking a weeklong autobiographical tour to recount his personal history as "a way to get him back in the political spotlight," as ABC's Ron Claiborne put it, while the Democratic Party continues to dominate coverage with its prolonged primary season. Monday he was at McCain Field, the Naval Air Station in Meridian Miss, where he was based; Tuesday he returned to Episcopal High School in Alexandria Va, where he was a student, class of 1954; next it will be the Naval Academy at Annapolis, where he was a midshipman.

By all accounts, McCain was a piece of work when he was younger. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell quoted his self-description as "rambunctious" with a "bit of a chip on my shoulder." She heard him "waxing nostalgic about his flaws." On ABC's A Closer Look Claiborne observed that as a schoolboy he was "quick-tempered, earning the nickname McNasty, a reputation that persists to this day." Indeed even now, McCain calls himself a "very imperfect public servant" and he confessed: "In all candor as an adult I have been known to forget, occasionally, the discretion expected of a person of my years and station." Claiborne characterized that contrition as "kinder, gentler."

McCain was even caught in a fib about the nostalgia tour itself. "We were told that this is not a political event," NBC's O'Donnell quoted an Episcopal student asking him, "so what exactly is your purpose in being here?" "I knew I should have cut this thing off," the candidate muttered in response.


SEEN THE PROMISED LAND NBC's Brian Williams announced plans to anchor from Memphis' Lorraine Hotel Friday to mark the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King. As a preview, Williams invited his predecessor Tom Brokaw to run extended clips from King, a History Channel documentary that Brokaw is hosting Sunday. The movie includes 1968 vintage clips of Brokaw himself reporting for NBC on the manhunt for James Earl Ray, King's convicted assassin, a "smalltime criminal who had escaped a Missouri prison." Ray was arrested in London a month after the assassination. Brokaw asked King's son Martin whether he believed a conspiracy killed his father: "How could a person who was a petty thief end up in London, England, without getting some help?" King III leads the Realizing the Dream Foundation, designed to continue the Poor People's Campaign that King Jr was trying to set up when he was gunned down.


LITTLE NEWS FROM ABROAD No, the networks did not decide to have a reporter update us from Zimbabwe. Nor did they file from President George Bush on his NATO trip. Nor did they assign a correspondent to examine environmental short cuts to secure the Mexican border. The only foreign story to be filed on any of the three newscasts was the fluffy closer on each.

NBC's rueful Jim Maceda told us about London's Heathrow Airport and its newly opened Terminal Five that opened "in full glory" after 20 years of planning and building. "The state of the art baggage system crashed only hours into opening day." About 20,000 pieces were lost and more than 300 flights were canceled. Maceda got his bag back four days later.

CBS' Richard Roth was on critter watch in the English countryside. The cottage belonging to John and Margie Histed suffers repeated floods because they are prohibited from unblocking a draining ditch. The ditch may be a spawning spot for a colony of the ancient endangered amphibian, the great crested newt. "A possible newt habitat is taking precedence over a human habitat 300 years old! Does it make sense?" Histed protested. Replied Roth: "Well, the newts were here first."

Another old species is the Caribbean reef squid, about 50m years old. ABC's Robert Krulwich found videotape from marine biologist Roger Hanlon of the squid's mating ritual. See the two-faced male send mixed messages--one white, one rose brown--and then "totally switch colors on a dime."


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: President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe may agree to leave office…the Department of Homeland Security will bypass environmental reviews in Arizona and Texas in order to expedite construction of its fence along the Mexico-United States border…automobile sales volume declined across the board in March, even at Toyota…new homebuilding activity declined for the 24th straight month…a scheme by nine third-graders has apparently been foiled in Georgia to exact revenge on their scold of a teacher with handcuffs, duct tape and a steak knife…a snowbound marathon was staged for foolish runners at the -29F North Pole.