CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM MAY 13, 2008
Bad luck struck Hillary Rodham Clinton. Normally on a Tuesday during primary season, Campaign 2008 would dominate the day's headlines. But on the day when the second-place candidate was poised for her day in the sun in West Virginia, calamity in Sichuan Province eclipsed her expectations for a come-from-behind success. All three newscasts led from the Chinese city of Chengdu, where the killer earthquake--death toll 13,000 and climbing--was the Story of the Day, occupying 26% of the three-network newshole (16 min out of 62, with the WV primary attracting a scant 6 min). CBS expanded its newshole (24 min v ABC 18, NBC 20) thanks to a single Big Pharma sponsor, Pfizer's Lyrica brand.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR MAY 13, 2008: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailCBSSichuan Province earthquake in China: Richter 7.9Frantic search for survivors amid rubbleCelia HattonChina
video thumbnailNBCSichuan Province earthquake in China: Richter 7.9Collapse of high school traps 900 studentsJohn RayChina
video thumbnailNBCWild brush fires in southeastern statesFlorida blaze around Palm Bay may be arsonKerry SandersFlorida
video thumbnailNBCTornado seasonPolluted Picher Okla will never be rebuiltDon TeagueOklahoma
video thumbnailNBC2008 West Virginia primaryRodham Clinton expects resounding victoryAndrea MitchellWest Virginia
video thumbnailCBSOrganized crime: Russian mob targeted by FBIUndercover agents expose ambitious racketsArmen KeteyianNew Jersey
video thumbnailNBCMilitary reserves, National Guard call-up extendedNJ unit deploys mother, fiance, son at onceRehema EllisNew Jersey
video thumbnailCBSBreast cancer coverageUltrasound screening can supplement mammogramsJon LaPookNew York
video thumbnailABCEnergy conservation and alternate fuel useCutting down on beef, household audits helpDan HarrisNew York
video thumbnailCBSEnergy conservation and alternate fuel useConverting to farm-based biofuel is difficultNancy CordesIndiana
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
CHENGDU CALAMITY ECLIPSES WEST VIRGINIA Bad luck struck Hillary Rodham Clinton. Normally on a Tuesday during primary season, Campaign 2008 would dominate the day's headlines. But on the day when the second-place candidate was poised for her day in the sun in West Virginia, calamity in Sichuan Province eclipsed her expectations for a come-from-behind success. All three newscasts led from the Chinese city of Chengdu, where the killer earthquake--death toll 13,000 and climbing--was the Story of the Day, occupying 26% of the three-network newshole (16 min out of 62, with the WV primary attracting a scant 6 min). CBS expanded its newshole (24 min v ABC 18, NBC 20) thanks to a single Big Pharma sponsor, Pfizer's Lyrica brand.

In Chengdu itself the big story was the anxiety caused by continuous earthquake aftershocks. "It is as if an entire city has moved outside," ABC's Neal Karlinsky told us. "Even in the rain these people would rather be out in the elements than go back inside their buildings." He showed us hundreds of residents "sleeping along street corners, under umbrellas, under elaborate tarps."

In surrounding cities, the angle was the search through rubble for survivors. CBS' Cynthia Hatton showed us images from Dujiangyan where the mid-afternoon earthquake had crushed students in their classrooms, caused landslides that wiped out buildings and collapsed an entire wing of an hospital. "In many places survivors are in the minority, left to pull hundreds, sometimes thousands of bodies out of the wreckage." The work of rescue teams "is being made much more difficult because of heavy rains, cold weather and thick clouds--all of it adding to the atmosphere of misery."

As for the countryside around the earthquake's epicenter in Wenchuan, "the quake sent boulders crashing down the mountains making 70% of the roads impassable," noted NBC's Ian Williams. "There are reports of entire villages flattened in that region." ABC's Karlinsky added that the weather is "preventing helicopter operations from getting into the hardest hit areas that are still cut off." Rescue teams waiting to get past landslides "are worried what they will find when they break into the region's more remote areas," warned CBS' Hatton.

All three networks filed a follow-up to their own correspondent's lead. ABC ran a compilation of eyewitness accounts (no link) from various reporters: Tokyo TV, BBC, National Public Radio, The Wall Street Journal and London's Daily Telegraph. NBC used John Ray, from its British newsgathering partner ITN, who was on the scene at the collapsed school in Dujiangyan. CBS anchor Katie Couric interviewed Mark Laws, a resident of Chengdu, who was on the highway when the earthquake began: "The road was just like a rollercoaster coming towards us. We were up and down, up and down. It lasted for maybe three or four minutes." Friends recounted "running down the stairs of the hotel with the corridors bending as they were running."


SZELUGA IN THE SPOTLIGHT For the first time since Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar's Irrawaddy Delta, none of the three network newscasts presented a reporter's package. All three anchors mentioned the sluggish relief efforts in passing. Instead, the relatively minor brush fires in central Florida inspired curious national attention. There was nothing inherently newsworthy about the blazes--they interrupted traffic on the I-95 highway, destroyed or damaged about a hundred homes and killed nobody--that would elevate them above local TV news fare to the national networks. The explanation for their prominence lies in the dynamic figure of Mary Szeluga, whose Palm Bay home was destroyed. Szeluga was featured by NBC's Kerry Sanders and CBS' Mark Strassmann and ABC's Jeffrey Kofman (embargoed link), a three-for. "The cats are fine," she reassured Kofman. "I just got a new queen-sized bed. That went up," she shared with Strassmann. Sanders landed the best bit, a display of her ceremonial sword, awarded after her Marine Corps service in the Vietnam War: "I am proud of being a Marine," declared the burned-out, T-shirted, crew-cut veteran, "a former Marine but a Marine nonetheless."

Rounding out the day's disaster coverage was Don Teague for NBC's In Depth. The damage left by the weekend's tornadoes to the town of Picher Okla was covered Monday by CBS' Kelly Cobiella and ABC's Eric Horng (embargoed link). Now Teague rounds out the explanation of why Picher, population 900, will never be rebuilt: "Bullets for two World Wars were made from lead mined right here. During its heyday the town's population soared to 20,000 but that proud heritage left a legacy of lead pollution, so much of it that rebuilding here simply is not an option."


HURRAH FOR HILLARY "No suspense," was the headline from West Virginia from CBS' Jim Axelrod. Hillary Rodham Clinton "is expected to win and win big." ABC's Kate Snow (no link) was at the site of the big party the Rodham Clinton campaign was planning, "celebrating what may one of her last big victories." Snow cautioned that voter turnout was "steady but about normal, people not quite as enthusiastic as they have been in other states." The passivity of Barack Obama was a factor: he made only three stump stops in the state compared with 29 by Hillary and Bill. "It may be a Last Hurrah," conceded NBC's Andrea Mitchell, yet she saw Rodham Clinton "trying to roll up such a big vote" in West Virginia that she would be able to convince superdelegates to make her the nominee. Mitchell's bureau chief Tim Russert did the arithmetic and found an uphill struggle "no matter how big she wins" since even a two-to-one victory would fall behind the pace of 71% of all remaining unassigned delegates that she needs for victory.


NEW JERSEY NAVY The extra time afforded by Pfizer in CBS' newshole was filled by an Armen Keteyian Exclusive in the wake of the indictment of Viktor Boot after his arrest in Thailand in March. Keteyian called Boot "the notorious Russian arms dealer," casually dispensing with the presumption of innocence.

Boot's arrest allowed a pair of undercover FBI agents--dubbed Z and Louie--to come partially into the open: they still wore some disguise for their sitdown with Keteyian in Atlantic City. They detailed their decade-long pose as New Jersey "wise guys," working to infiltrate Russian organized crime mobs based along Brooklyn's Brighton Beach. The Russians are hardly The Sopranos, Keteyian suggested. Instead of running "traditional stuff"--narcotics and prostitutes and sports betting--"this is way up the ladder." The Russian mob offers "diamond and arms smuggling, cigarette smuggling, healthcare and credit card fraud, cybercrime." Z and Louie capped off their anecdotes with a meeting in Zurich with a high-ranking Russian army general who tried to sell them "long-range missiles, tanks, submarines."


NEW JERSEY GUARD Meanwhile at the National Guard armory in Jersey City, NBC's Rehema Ellis introduced us to Sgt Victor Hernandez and his fiancee Sgt Carmen Villegas and his soon-to-be stepson Sgt Felipe Diaz. The family is scheduled to ship off to Iraq in January. Villegas joined the Guard 29 years ago when Diaz was just a baby: "He grew up around armories," Ellis pointed out, "so she was not surprised when he also joined the Guard." Ellis asked Diaz the morbid question of what he would do if his mother died in combat: "Take her home. That is what she wants. I will take her home."


ON THE FEATURE FRONT Both NBC and CBS filed disease-of-the-week style medical features. NBC's Robert Bazell continued his demographically-targeted Medical Mysteries series on auto-immune diseases to which women are disproportionately susceptible, this time rheumatoid arthritis. For CBS' Eye on Your Health in-house physician Jon LaPook also picked up on a women's ailment. The Journal of the Medical Association published a study of mammogram screening among pre-menopausal women with dense breast tissue. Ultrasound scans find some tumors that a mammogram cannot see but also "quadrupled the number of false positives, those women getting unnecessary breast biopsies." LaPook decided not to make a recommendation to his insured viewers about what to do: "I think women need to talk to their doctor." For those with no insurance and no doctor he had nothing to say whatsoever.

ABC and CBS pitched in with a couple of green features. CBS has Nancy Cordes on her Eye on the Road car trip from New York City to Missouri. She stopped in Indiana where the hog-rearing town of Reynolds has a plan to become Biotown USA by relying entirely on energy from manure from its 150,000 pigs. "Reynolds residents have found it is not easy going green," Cordes concluded. Ground was broken on its pig waste power plant back in 2006 "but today it is still an empty field." Dan Harris filed the energy conservation portion of ABC's The Power of 2 self-help series on lifestyle alterations individuals can make to affect social change. Harris suggested having the local electric utility conduct an energy audit of one's home and cutting back on consumption of beef and dairy. A United Nations statistic claims that fully 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions--fertilizer, transportation, methane flatulence, industrialized slaughterhouses--are caused by cattle agribusiness.

Harris concluded, however, by undercutting the premise of The Power of 2, namely that microchanges at the personal level can have a societal impact. Global warming "is such an enormous problem that it is going to require that governments all over the world attack it."


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: some relief supplies are being flown into Myanmar, where the known death toll from Cyclone Nargis is now 34,000…Irena Sendler, a heroine of the Warsaw Ghetto under Nazi occupation, died, aged 98…fine artist Robert Rauschenberg, famous for his quotidian mixed media innovation, died, aged 82…another panel has fallen off a jetliner in midair, this time off a NWAirlines wing…golf star Annika Sorenstam announced that she will retire at the end of the season…Jemma Leech, the ten-year-old palsied poetess, has been given an eyesight-controled computer in order to write by looking.