CONTAINING LINKS TO 51991 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM FEBRUARY 04, 2009
"Failure to act--and act now--will turn crisis into catastrophe." Such a cataclysmic soundbite was treated with understated calm by the network newscasts. President Barack Obama was lobbying for his $825bn fiscal stimulus to pass the Senate. Yet the networks' response seemed to indicate that he did not deserve maximum airtime on Wednesday, too, following Tuesday's triple interview fest. Only CBS led with the fiscal stimulus debate; ABC and NBC, instead, chose the President's plan to attach a salary cap to the Treasury Department's TARP bailout of the financial sector. The Senate debate on the stimulus did qualify as Story of the Day, however, thanks in part to CBS' decision air a detailed interview with Sen John McCain to explain Republican opposition to the plan.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR FEBRUARY 04, 2009: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailCBSEconomy is officially in recessionPresident Obama urges Senate stimulus supportChip ReidWhite House
video thumbnailCBSState government budgets face fiscal crisisCalifornia faces $42bn deficit, halts paymentsBen TracyLos Angeles
video thumbnailABCFinancial industry regulation, reform, bailoutExecutives at TARP recipients face salary capJake TapperWhite House
video thumbnailCBSFinancier Bernard Madoff accused of $50bn fraudFinancial analyst blasts SEC at House hearingsArmen KeteyianWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCTylenol tampering murders of 1982 are cold caseRenewed investigation of shakedown suspectPete WilliamsWashington DC
video thumbnailABCCatholic Church schism ends: bishops rehabilitatedEmbrace of Nazi Holocaust denier sparks furorDan HarrisNew York
video thumbnailNBCBroadcast television switches from analog to digitalChangeover postponed, 6m viewers are unpreparedTom CostelloWashington DC
video thumbnailABCCellular telephone computer combination inventedGoogle GPS application tracks iPhone locationsJohn BermanNew York
video thumbnailCBSGolf prodigy: first grade player is phenomBrett Sodetz was world's best six-year-oldSandra HughesNevada
video thumbnailNBCPythons infest Florida Keys: exotic speciesGiant Burmese snakes threaten local wildlifeMark PotterFlorida
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
COURIC GIVES MCCAIN PLATFORM TO DISS KEYNES "Failure to act--and act now--will turn crisis into catastrophe." Such a cataclysmic soundbite was treated with understated calm by the network newscasts. President Barack Obama was lobbying for his $825bn fiscal stimulus to pass the Senate. Yet the networks' response seemed to indicate that he did not deserve maximum airtime on Wednesday, too, following Tuesday's triple interview fest. Only CBS led with the fiscal stimulus debate; ABC and NBC, instead, chose the President's plan to attach a salary cap to the Treasury Department's TARP bailout of the financial sector. The Senate debate on the stimulus did qualify as Story of the Day, however, thanks in part to CBS' decision air a detailed interview with Sen John McCain to explain Republican opposition to the plan.

CBS anchor Katie Couric devoted more than four minutes of airtime to McCain's flat-out rejection of the Keynesian principles underlying the bill. The justification for fiscal stimulus during a recession is that only deficit spending by the government can generate demand at a time when consumers and businesses are, rationally, scaling back. McCain categorically contradicted such demand-side thinking: "No bill is better than this bill because it increases the deficit by over $1tr." The inveterate opponent of pork barrel spending agreed that "technically" there were no earmarked projects in the bill so he opposed non-earmarks instead: "There is a myriad of programs that are not stimulative nor are they job creating…I do not believe that you can, within the next six to twelve months, stimulate the economy and create jobs with programs like these." McCain, instead, stuck with a supply-side formula advocating "payroll tax cuts and business tax cuts."

Does McCain speak for the Republican caucus in the Senate? "Senate Democrats concede that if the vote were held today it is unlikely the bill would pass," CBS' Chip Reid reported. On NBC, Chuck Todd found the same: "If they were scoring the fight for this stimulus package like a political campaign White House aides admit they would be losing." And on ABC, George Stephanopoulos made it unanimous: "If the vote were held in the Senate right now it would not pass." Stephanopoulos reported that Obama has targeted "a group of about six, at most, Republicans" to cobble together a coalition to approve the spending. "One thing he did insist on though--it has to be at least $800bn."


CALIFORNIA STARES INTO CHASM CBS and ABC offered contrasting pictures about the need for federal stimulus funds in the states and municipalities. ABC's Lisa Stark was skeptical, citing a "wish list" of 18,750 urban projects submitted by the nation's mayors. "Pork or paycheck?" she wondered. "That is exactly the kind of debate that is going on in the halls of Congress." Does Washington need its sewers upgraded? Could Shreveport use an aquatic center? Should Lincoln's municipal golf course have a green clubhouse? Will the city park in Boynton Beach Fla be improved by a butterfly garden?

At the state level, CBS' Ben Tracy left no doubt about the desperate need for funds in California. Facing the "chasm" of a $42bn budget deficit this year, state workers are being furloughed without pay for two days each month, tax refund checks are being withheld, college students are not receiving grants and vendors are "being stiffed." In the past, California has been able to borrow to cover fiscal shortfalls but it now "has the lowest credit rating of any state in the country."


TAKE A PAY CUT TO A MERE $500K/YR All three newscasts assigned a correspondent to cover the Treasury Department's plan to impose a salary cap on financial sector executives who receive funds from the next tranche of the TARP bailout. CBS used business correspondent Anthony Mason in New York. Both NBC and ABC treated it as a political story, filed by their White House correspondents. The cap of $500,000 a year is not retroactive, ABC's Jake Tapper pointed out, so the bosses at AIG and Bank of America and Citigroup do not have to take a pay cut yet. Even in the future, NBC's Chuck Todd was puzzled: "What is unclear is the penalties for not complying."

CBS' Anthony Mason did give us an idea of the size of the hit that the execs can expect: Ken Lewis, boss of Bank of America, made $5.7m in salary and bonuses in 2007 plus $14.7m in stock options and other income; John Stumpf, Wells Fargo's chief, took home $11.4m. Such lavish executive pay is not unusual, Mason generalized, citing Forbes magazine's statistics: in 1980, the average corporate boss made 40 times the pay of the average worker; by 2007, that ratio was grown to 433:1.


MARKOPOLOS MAKES HIS CASE Both CBS and NBC assigned their investigative reporters to cover Harry Markopolos' appearance at House hearings where he "blistered" the Securities & Exchange Commission, in the words of NBC's Lisa Myers. Markopolos, described by Myers as "an independent financial analyst and fraud examiner," is the author of the 2005 memo to the SEC concerning Bernard Madoff's investment fund entitled The World's Largest Hedge Fund is a Fraud. Madoff is currently confined to his apartment on bail pending trial for running his $50bn fund as a Ponzi Scheme. Armen Keteyian's Investigation for CBS noted that Markopolos claimed he had discovered money from Russian mobsters and Latin American narcotics cartels being laundered through Madoff's fund as early as 2002.

The SEC did nothing, Markopolos claimed: "If you flew the entire SEC staff to Boston, sat them at Fenway Park for an afternoon, they would not be able to find first base." And later: "I gave them a road map and a flash light to find the fraud and they did not go where I told them."


COLD CASE OF TYLENOL ABC's investigative reporter Brian Ross, meanwhile, was on the trail of a 1982 cold case of serial murder. He reminded us of the seven Chicago deaths from poisoning by cyanide that had been inserted into Tylenol capsules on store shelves before they were purchased. James Lewis was convicted at the time for a $1m extortion scheme against Johnson & Johnson, which makes Tylenol, but was not charged with the tampering itself. Now Lewis is under "some very serious scrutiny by the FBI" concerning the underlying murders, although ABC's Ross was careful to note that there are "no people in custody, no charges brought, no arrests imminent." NBC's Pete Williams reminded us that the Tylenol murders transformed drug store shelves: they "led to new tamperproof packaging for all kinds of medicines."


WILLIAMSON’S WACKY HISTORY The day's sole foreign story to attract a correspondent originated in the Vatican, even though Dan Harris actually filed ABC's A Closer Look from New York. Harris examined Pope Benedict XVI's decision to rehabilitate a schismatic group of "right-wing" bishops who had been excommunicated for their repudiation of Vatican II. Their ecclesiastical dispute was not what Harris found newsworthy, however. It was Bishop Richard Williamson's counterfactual--to put it politely--understanding of history: "I believe there were no gas chambers," Williamson asserted concerning the Nazi Holocaust. "The Germans have a guilt complex…I do not think 6m Jews were gassed." ABC's Harris called the Holy Father's rehabilitation of Williamson a "public relations fiasco," earning him "a rare public rebuke" from Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel. Williamson has apologized to Benedict "for causing him embarrassment but not for what he said about the Holocaust."


RABBIT EARS WIN STAY OF EXECUTION NBC assigned Tom Costello to cover television itself. "It may be yesterday's TV technology but the rabbit ears will be sticking around a bit longer." The planned February switch of the broadcast signal from analog to digital will now take place in June, he reported. More than 6m homes do not yet have a converter box--"many of them elderly and low income"--and the federal government has run out of coupons to help them pay for them.


BEST PART IS IN THE TAIL All three newscasts had fun with their Wednesday closers. ABC's John Berman mused on the "privacy paradox going mobile" posing the question: "Just because you do not want to get lost, does that really mean you want to be found?" He was doling out free publicity to Google's new Latitude application for smart phones such as the BlackBerry and the iPhone. Latitude allows the exact location of the telephone to be tracked by GPS at all times and downloaded to another phone--your parent or your boss or your lover or your spouse.

CBS' Sandra Hughes decided to take in some afternoon golf on a desert course in Nevada with world champion player Brett Sodetz. Sodetz finished seven under par in last year's championship to be crowned the best six-year-old on the planet. He drives the ball 150 yards--watch his swing--but prefers to putt--no yips. "How many days a week do you play?" "Maybe like eight days a week."

NBC closed its newscast from the Florida Keys where exotic snakes are threatening indigenous wildlife. Mark Potter told us that Burmese pythons, former pets, were first let loose in The Everglades some ten years ago. Now some have swum across six miles of sea to the Keys, where they grow up to 20 feet long. The pythons are eating the local wood rats and Key deer. They are insatiable, devouring prey as long as it is available and only digesting the food once there is no more to be eaten. Play the videostream right to the end. The best part is in the tail.