CONTAINING LINKS TO 51991 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM FEBRUARY 03, 2009
President Barack Obama invited all three network anchors to the White House. He intended to grant a round of interviews to use his bully pulpit to grab saturation coverage to push for his fiscal stimulus package. Then news broke out. Tom Daschle, the President's nominee to be Health Secretary, withdrew his name. He had used a chauffered limousine to travel around the nation's capital for three years without paying for it--and then had only paid taxes on the luxury perk retroactively once he was offered the Cabinet job. The Obama sitdowns, the Story of the Day, were divided between the two issues. ABC and NBC both led with their anchors' interviews. CBS kicked off with a White House report to set up its interview.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR FEBRUARY 03, 2009: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailCBSObama Administration transition vetting problemsProblems with unpaid taxes, ties to lobbyistsChip ReidWhite House
video thumbnailNBCHealth Secretary Tom Daschle nomination withdrawnWhite House chose to support stimulus insteadChuck ToddWhite House
video thumbnailCBSEconomy is officially in recessionSenate Republicans seek less stimulus spendingSharyl AttkissonCapitol Hill
video thumbnailNBCUnemployment: corporate layoffs continueLong lines for jobs, at job fairs, on job sitesMichelle KosinskiMiami
video thumbnailCBSSalmonella outbreak investigatedFormer peanut worker describes filthy factoryJeff GlorGeorgia
video thumbnailABCWinter weatherUtility crews still work on icestorm damageBarbara PintoKentucky
video thumbnailNBCIran-US frictions: American may be held prisonerRelease of FBI ex-agent would be conciliatoryAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailABCEMS medevac helicopter flight safety worriesNTSB hearings into high night-time death tollBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailCBSDiagnostic CT scan overuse may cause cancerJAMA research warns of high radiation dosesJon LaPookNew York
video thumbnailCBSAcademy Awards ceremonies in Hollywood previewedMan on Wire docu nominated about Philippe PetitAnthony MasonNew York
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
OBAMA FORGETS TO TELL ABC HE SCREWED UP President Barack Obama invited all three network anchors to the White House. He intended to grant a round of interviews to use his bully pulpit to grab saturation coverage to push for his fiscal stimulus package. Then news broke out. Tom Daschle, the President's nominee to be Health Secretary, withdrew his name. He had used a chauffered limousine to travel around the nation's capital for three years without paying for it--and then had only paid taxes on the luxury perk retroactively once he was offered the Cabinet job. The Obama sitdowns, the Story of the Day, were divided between the two issues. ABC and NBC both led with their anchors' interviews. CBS kicked off with a White House report to set up its interview.

"The Theme of the Day has a funny way of going awry," mused NBC anchor Brian Williams, a onetime White House correspondent. "This one sure did today." Obama used almost the same form of words in each q-&-a to explain why he accepted Daschle's decision to step down. "We do not have two sets of rules here. Everybody has responsibilities," he declared to ABC anchor Charles Gibson, referring to the duty to pay one's taxes. "I do not want my administration to be sending a message that there are two sets of rules, one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks" he told CBS anchor Katie Couric. For NBC's Williams the formulation was almost identical: "It is important for this administration to send the message that there are not two sets of rules, one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks."

The President was a trifle more creative when asked to describe his emotional reaction to the Daschle debacle. He conceded to ABC's Gibson that he was "embarrassed" and "angry." "Angry and disappointed," were his offerings to NBC's Williams, and then "frustrated" and later "an embarrassment." "Frustrating," was also used for CBS' Couric. Couric and Williams both nailed the major soundbite that, for some reason, Obama withheld from Gibson. "I screwed up," was only heard by viewers of CBS and NBC.


OBAMA, AS NEWS MEDIA CRITIC, CONCURS WITH TYNDALL REPORT President Barack Obama has the same complaint about the journalistic coverage of his fiscal stimulus proposal that Tyndall Report made here and here. The most highly publicized criticisms concern the most marginal of details, a $825bn proposal lambasted for line items in the mere millions. He nailed that point in all three interviews.

"Of all the things that some opponents of the package have talked about, if you tally all those up, they amount to less than 1% of the entire package"--to NBC anchor Brian Williams.

"Most of the programs that have been criticized as part of this package amount to less than 1% of the overall package"--to ABC anchor Charles Gibson.

"People have plucked out this program or that program that does not look particularly stimulative…If you add all that stuff up, it accounts for less than 1% of the overall package"--to CBS anchor Katie Couric.

As for Couric, she cannot have been paying attention. In response to the President's point, she asked a follow-up that exemplified precisely the nickel-and-dime mentality that he had just criticized. "Let me mention some of the spending in this package: $6.2bn for home weatherization; $100m for children to learn green construction; $50m for port modernization, water and wastewater infrastructure needs in Guam; $50m for the National Endowment for the Arts." Check out the expression on Obama's face as he listens. He cannot believe his ears.

And anyway, what is the grudge Couric holds against Guam? Its sewage does not deserve proper treatment?

A nonsensical question by ABC's Gibson--although not as glaringly flawed as Couric's--betrayed his lack of attention to the very Economics 101 tutorials that his business correspondent Betsy Stark taught us here and here last week. "There is a lot of people who have said it is a spending bill and not a stimulus," Gibson inquired. Yet, by definition, a demand-side fiscal stimulus of a recessionary economy consists of deficit-financed government spending. Charlie! Pay attention to Betsy!

On the other hand, Gibson and Obama had the most playful exchange. "Did haste make waste?" the anchor asked. There is a "need for speed," replied the President.


DASCHLE DEPARTS The President's own words aside, all three White House correspondents covered the demise of Tom Daschle's Cabinet ambitions. "Government ethics groups and even some Democrats raised questions and Republicans and editorial writers called on him to step aside," reported CBS' Chip Reid, quoting The New York Times' editorialist that Daschle's confirmation "would send a terrible message to the public." ABC's Jake Tapper looked at Daschle's withdrawal from his point of view, arguing that healthcare reform would need to be bipartisan when Daschle had become "polarizing" and "controversial." NBC's Chuck Todd argued it from the White House's point of view: to get the nominee confirmed it would have to twist arms in the Senate at the same time as lobbying for fiscal stimulus. "They made a choice…stimulus matters more than Tom Daschle."


STIMULUS PROPOSAL WOULD BALLOON SPENDING As for the Capitol Hill debate, only CBS covered the Senate Republicans' counterproposal, what they called "a simpler more targeted stimulus bill, half the size," according to Sharyl Attkisson. Attkisson mentioned that the Democrats' plan "balloons virtually every federal agency in terms of dollars" in a tone of voice that implied that this was a problem rather than a design. Then she fell into the same trap that Tyndall Report finds so exasperating, singling out a tiny fraction of the package, some $500m assigned to discretionary spending at the Department of Health and Human Services, and calling it "huge pots of money." As Barack Obama might say, "that is less than 1% of the entire package."


DRY ROASTED RAT WITH YOUR PEANUTS The Presidential interviews, plus the news about Tom Daschle and the stimulus bill, took up the lion's share (58%--34 min out of 58) of the three-network newshole. Each of the newscasts chose to follow up one of the past week's major domestic stories. Unemployment was the focus for NBC's Michelle Kosinski, who showed us 1200 applicants camped out through the weekend in Miami for just 35 firefighting jobs. The fastest growing sites on the worldwide web are monster.com and careerbuilder.com, she told us. ABC sent Barbara Pinto to Kentucky where the icestorm has finally melted and out-of-state utility workers have joined the effort to restore electricity. CBS' Jeff Glor found Jonathan Prater, a laid off worker at the closed Peanut Corporation of America processing plant in Georgia. The factory is believed to be the source of a salmonella outbreak that killed eight. Prater told him of an infestation of cockroaches in the plant and, one time, "a rat was dry-roasted in the peanuts."


LOST ON KISH ISLAND There was no new development to report in the case of Bob Levinson, the businessman who disappeared while visiting Kish Island in the Persian Gulf nearly two years ago. Yet NBC's Andrea Mitchell filed a report anyway as his family arrived in Washington to urge diplomatic action. Levinson's wife Christine believes he is being held captive by the Islamic Republic of Iran even though she "ran into a dead end" when she tried to find him there. "So have the CIA and FBI." Mitchell heard talk of a prisoner swap between Teheran and the Pentagon, which for its part has "suspected members of an elite Iranian fighting force captured in Iraq two years ago." Mitchell did not tell us what sort of business Levinson was doing in Kish when he went missing, satisfying herself with the spookishly vague "former FBI agent."


SCANNERS & CHOPPERS For feature coverage, CBS offered in-house physician Jon LaPook keeping an Eye on Your Health. He warned us about the radiation dangers from diagnostic CT scan machines, whose doses can be 600 times as strong as a chest X-ray. The $800 procedure is safer than invasive angiography surgery for heart patients but the CT machines themselves can be falsely calibrated. Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that some scanners are six times more radioactive than others performing the same procedure.

ABC and NBC both filed medical features too, on EMS medevac helicopter fleets. The National Transportation Safety Board held hearings into "the highest fatal accident rate in all of aviation," according to Tom Costello for NBC's In Depth. On ABC, Brian Ross' Investigates told us about so-called "helicopter shopping." Most of the fleets are privately owned and "there is fierce competition" to make the $10,000 flights: even in bad weather or at night, when one helicopter turns down a job on safety grounds, a second medevac will get the call.


REMEMBERING THE TWIN TOWERS IN A GOOD WAY For CBS' closing feature, Anthony Mason traveled upstate to Woodstock NY to visit Philippe Petit, the now 60-year-old tightrope walker. Petit is in the news because he is the subject of Man on Wire, the Academy Award nominated documentary about his 1974 stunt, walking 140 feet above the ground for 45 minutes between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. "Can you still imagine it now that they are not there?" "Those towers--to me they were alive. They were almost human. They breathe. They move. They allowed me to pass. They smiled when I walked."