CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM MAY 28, 2008
What Happened, the tell-all book by Scott McClellan, was Story of the Day. All three network newscasts bestowed generous publicity on McClellan's account of his time as George Bush's press secretary. He was the White House spokesman who defended the President's conduct of the occupation of Iraq, his response to Hurricane Katrina and the scheme to blow the cover of Valerie Plame, the CIA spy. Altogether 31% of the three network newshole (18 min out of 57) was devoted to this one story, including a four-minute interview on NBC with former anchor Tom Brokaw about McClellan's accusation that the mainstream news media were "complicit enablers" in the White House propaganda campaign to drum up support for an invasion of Iraq.    
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video thumbnailNBCWhite House former aide Scott McClellan writes bookEx-spokesman's tell-all blasts President BushDavid GregoryWashington DC
video thumbnailABC2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton campaignDepends on massive support from superdelegatesJake TapperWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCPoverty: hunger, food banks and soup kitchensDemand grows, many in need for first timeLisa MyersVirginia
video thumbnailCBSAutomobile industry in financial troubleFord Motors faces tighter margins, lower salesCynthia BowersChicago
video thumbnailCBSOil, natural gas, gasoline pricesTrucker travels to Mexico for cut price dieselSeth DoanePhoenix
video thumbnailABCCongressional perks crackdown on gifts, travelFundraising loophole funds Honolulu junketBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailCBSHospice care for terminally-ill patients improvesMedicare refuses payment for long-term staysThalia AssurasMississippi
video thumbnailNBCNYC's Abyssinian Baptist Church celebratedHarlem landmark marks 200th anniversaryRehema EllisNew York
video thumbnailCBSBaghdad Zoo renovated, restocked with animalsOasis of calm was almost wiped out by warMark StrassmannBaghdad
video thumbnailABCBombardier beetle has predator spray defenseSquirts scalding hot mixture of toxic chemicalsRobert KrulwichNew York State
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
WHAT HAPPENED TOUTED AS MUST READ What Happened, the tell-all book by Scott McClellan, was Story of the Day. All three network newscasts bestowed generous publicity on McClellan's account of his time as George Bush's press secretary. He was the White House spokesman who defended the President's conduct of the occupation of Iraq, his response to Hurricane Katrina and the scheme to blow the cover of Valerie Plame, the CIA spy. Altogether 31% of the three network newshole (18 min out of 57) was devoted to this one story, including a four-minute interview on NBC with former anchor Tom Brokaw about McClellan's accusation that the mainstream news media were "complicit enablers" in the White House propaganda campaign to drum up support for an invasion of Iraq.

The judgment was unanimous that McClellan's disavowal of the President, his political patron, was newsworthy. This is how the anchors themselves characterized it: "an explosive new book…creating a huge firestorm"--CBS' Katie Couric; when McClellan accused Bush of "self-deception, a lack of candor" they were words "written not by a political opponent but by a man who for six years was one of the President's closest aides"--ABC's Charles Gibson; the book "raises profound questions about the character, leadership and management style of the President"--NBC's Brian Williams.

The Iraq War and the CIA leak case were the two prominent headlines that White House correspondents found in What Happened. On ABC, Martha Raddatz (embargoed link) described McClellan's portrait of a President and top advisors who "did not hesitate to spin, hide, shade and exaggerate the truth, waging a political propaganda campaign to sell the war." CBS' Jim Axelrod picked up on McClellan's claim that the invasion "was not necessary" and that "the White House was not open and forthright on Iraq." NBC's David Gregory focused on Plame, speculating that the case "played a huge role" in persuading McClellan to denounce his former allies. He quoted McClellan's charge that top White House officials--Karl Rove, Lewis Libby, possibly Dick Cheney--"allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie."

In its defense, the White House focused not on the substance of McClellan's criticism but on the contrast between his current condemnation and his onetime loyalty. McClellan's predecessor and former boss Ari Fleischer was interviewed by Couric on CBS: "I am looking forward to hearing from Scott why, what would have led him to change 180 degrees, so dramatically." McClellan's successor Dana Perino speculated that "disgruntled" may be the motive for his change of heart. ABC's Gibson reminded us that when McClellan was behind the podium, he himself had suggested that members of the administration who disagreed with its conduct in tell-all books should have resigned. "Why does that same question not apply to him?" he inquired of Raddatz. "Basically he says he was sincere at the time," she replied. "He has had time to think about it and has changed his mind." Commenting on McClellan's change of heart, NBC's Gregory quipped: "What a difference a memoir makes!" Yet whatever the motive, "it will not diminish the impact of a stinging rebuke of the President."

NBC's Williams invited Tom Brokaw, his predecessor, to answer McClellan's charge of dereliction by the mainstream news media in the run up to the invasion of Iraq. "Are you confident, taking the coverage in toto, that the right questions were asked, the right tone employed?"

Brokaw's answer meandered through caveats about weapons of mass destruction and lack of opposition in the US Senate and lack of links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda before zeroing in on hard truth: "This President was determined to go to war and it was more theology than it was anything else and that is pretty hard to deal with." He quoted McClellan's own assertion that the veracity of the CIA's claims about weapons of mass destruction was neither here nor there: "The real reason for it was an idealistic democratic Iraq in the post 9/11 world."


DELEGATE ENDGAME Campaign coverage concentrated on the count of Democratic delegates. Sunday morning anchors Tim Russert on Tuesday and George Stephanopoulos Wednesday came to virtually the same conclusion: that Barack Obama is thisclose to securing the majority he needs for the nomination. NBC's Russert reckoned that after a split vote in Puerto Rico and Montana and South Dakota, the three remaining primaries, he will need 40 superdelegates: "They have identified them. The Obama campaign will claim a mathematical lock on the nomination one week from tonight." ABC's Stephanopoulos threw the disputes delegations from Florida and Michigan into his calculus yet reached the same conclusion. Obama needs between three dozen and four dozen more superdelegates and "he is almost certain to get that next week."

ABC's Jake Tapper illustrated Obama's impending triumph with a clip of Hillary Rodham Clinton on the campaign trail in South Dakota: "Mount Rushmore may be as close as she gets to the Presidency."


HARD TIMES ROUND-UP America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest organization of food banks, issued a report on increasing hunger in the United States. NBC's Lisa Myers told us that there has been a 15% to 20% increase in the number of Americans in line for food handouts in the last year. She used the confusing terminology that thousands of the hungry belong to the "middle class." It would seem that, by definition, membership in the middle class requires enough income to feed oneself. The word for those without enough to eat is "poor."

CBS' Cynthia Bowers summarized the problems afflicting Ford Motors, which is about to lay off 2,000 more salaried workers and extend the summer period for idle plants by three weeks. Sales of pick-up trucks and SUVs have stalled; profit margins on economy sized cars are minute by comparison; the price of raw materials such as steel has suddenly jumped; the size of the overall national market for new vehicles has shrunk from 17m annually to 15m. "For automakers, small sales and small cars add up to big headaches."

NBC had Tom Costello continue his Running on Empty series on the ripple effect of high oil prices from Iowa. Corn farmers have to pay more for diesel and fertilizer. Trucking fleets such as Heartland Express face a 35% cut in profits despite "buying fuel in bulk, cutting idle time and empty truck runs, adding a fuel surcharge." And independent truckers make ends meet by--horror of horrors--"driving under the speed limit."

Seth Doane also looked at the impact of the high price of diesel on the trucking industry in CBS' Hitting Home series. He filed a profile Romano & Son Trucking of Phoenix that financially failed to add up. Angelo Romano claimed his firm is a "multimillion dollar business" yet his remedy for keeping his fleet of a dozen trucks on the road consists of 360-mile six-hour round trips to Nogales to fill a pick-up truck with the equivalent of $400 worth of Mexican diesel at the peso equivalent of $2 per gallon. Romano complained about the hassle of border questions, paperwork and customs duties but Doane did not explain how just 200 gallons of cut price diesel can keep an entire fleet of Romano trucks in operation.


RATHER HERE THAN PENNSYLVANIA ABC's Brian Ross exposed loopholes in lobbying regulations. He went on The Money Trail to uncover the innovation by Rep Dan Lungren (D-CA) that allowed him to attend the American Airport Executives Conference despite a ban on lobbyists paying for travel. So how could he enjoy an all-expenses paid trip to Honolulu, including first class air fare? He organized a $1,000-a-head fundraiser at the same hotel as the conference. The aviation lobbyists attended, making the checks payable to Lungren's campaign, not him personally. The campaign then paid for the candidate to attend his own fundraiser. Ross wondered if he would have scheduled a fundraiser if the conference had been held in Pennsylvania instead of the Big Island. "I probably would not have been in Pittsburgh in January. Do I look like I would go to Pittsburgh in January?"


JUST SIX MONTHS TO LIVE CBS' Thalia Assuras found flaws in Medicare funding for care of the terminally ill which is half as expensive in a hospice as in hospital ($21K per patient vs $46K). Congress, therefore, mandated no limits for hospices yet Medicare decided to cut off reimbursement if a hospice patient takes longer than six months to die. Assuras introduced us to the Seyah Hospice in the Mississippi Delta that has to repay $3m to Medicare because its patients took too long to die. Hospice owners "want Congress to freeze their debts until it can come up with a way to pay for extended hospice care."


FOR CLOSERS… NBC rounded off its newscast with history while CBS and ABC chose animal stories. Rehema Ellis on NBC paid tribute to Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem NY on its 200th anniversary. It was built by free blacks in 1808. CBS' Mark Strassmann was in Iraq where the Baghdad Zoo has been restocked after its animals nearly died during the war. Back then, the zookeeper had to kill the ostrich to feed the lion. Now "it is the best cheap date in Baghdad--30c to get in." On ABC, Robert Krulwich traveled to Cornell University to discover a beetle's secret weapon against predators, which Charles Darwin encountered when he put a bug in his mouth in 1828. The sudden hot flash was so intense that he "was forced to spit it out."

Krulwich showed us what happens when two chemicals kept in the beetle's tail glands combine: "This spray is not only stinky it is very hot." The chemicals "explode at 100C and get pumped out like a machine gun." Hence the bombardier beetle.


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: the USNavy, whose offer of relief aid has been rejected, will no longer station its flotilla off the Irrawaddy Delta…an elevated train in Chicago's mass transit system derailed…Dow Chemical announced an across-the-board increase in its price list…USAirways will no longer serve in-flight pretzels…the three-network fundraiser for cancer research has an online presence at standup2cancer.org.