CONTAINING LINKS TO 51991 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM FEBRUARY 06, 2009
Politics or statistics? There were two aspects of the recessionary economy that were covered by correspondents on all three networks. The Labor Department issued January job market statistics that showed 588,000 fewer people in work and an unemployment rate that jumped to 7.6%. In the Senate, three Republicans decided to side with Democrats when the fiscal stimulus bill was whittled down to $780bn, thus forming a filibusterproof majority. The negotiations over fiscal stimulus were the Story of the Day and the lead item on all three newscasts: ABC and NBC kicked off from Capitol Hill; CBS chose the White House.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR FEBRUARY 06, 2009: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailABCEconomy is officially in recessionSenate reaches $780bn stimulus bill compromiseJonathan KarlCapitol Hill
video thumbnailCBSEconomy is officially in recessionPresident Obama to campaign for stimulus billChip ReidWhite House
video thumbnailCBSUnemployment: January jobless rate rises to 7.6%Layoffs accelerate, reach 588K monthly totalAnthony MasonNew York
video thumbnailNBCState government budgets face fiscal crisisCalifornia furloughs workers on Fridays, no payChris JansingLos Angeles
video thumbnailNBCMilitary personnel suffer mental health problemsSuicide kills more soldiers than combatRon MottGeorgia
video thumbnailCBSAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingTaliban guerrillas threaten NATO supply linesSheila MacVicarLondon
video thumbnailCBSICE border controls along Mexico lineIllicit entries monitored online by CCTV camerasSteve HartmanTexas
video thumbnailABCMultiple births: octuplets born in CaliforniaMother defends ethics of fertility treatmentJohn McKenzieNew York
video thumbnailABCSalmonella outbreak investigatedPCA accused of knowing distribution of toxinsDavid WrightWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCSpam luncheon meat enjoys surge in popularityVersatile, self-deprecating, inexpensive brandMara SchiavocampoMinnesota
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
STIMULUS GETS SENATE GOLDILOCKS TREATMENT Politics or statistics? There were two aspects of the recessionary economy that were covered by correspondents on all three networks. The Labor Department issued January job market statistics that showed 588,000 fewer people in work and an unemployment rate that jumped to 7.6%. In the Senate, three Republicans decided to side with Democrats when the fiscal stimulus bill was whittled down to $780bn, thus forming a filibusterproof majority. The negotiations over fiscal stimulus were the Story of the Day and the lead item on all three newscasts: ABC and NBC kicked off from Capitol Hill; CBS chose the White House.

Some Democrats in the Senate, ABC's Jonathan Karl pointed out, had threatened to vote against the stimulus legislation "if too much is taken out" so the spending cuts negotiated behind closed doors had to Goldilockslike: not too much to alienate Democrats; enough to attract a bare minimum of Republicans. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell pointed to "social programs like healthcare and education" as well as funds designated for the states to help close their deficits as the areas that took the $100bn hit. O'Donnell explained that Republicans wanted to spend money instead on programs that would "create new jobs." O'Donnell implied, although did not spell out, that economically speaking, creating "new jobs" is distinguishable from and preferable to preventing layoffs from existing ones.

The next step is to reach a compromise between the Senate and House versions of the legislation. "Nancy Pelosi and other liberal Democrats in the House do not like these cuts," CBS' Chip Reid reported from the White House. A pair of Sunday morning anchors put in their two cents' worth: George Stephanopoulos of ABC's This Week predicted that Congressional Democrats will eventually settle for any compromise that passes, even if it has less spending than they want. "The argument will come from the White House: 'The President must win this package. This is his first big fight. You cannot weaken him in his first days in office.'" On NBC, David Gregory of Meet the Press predicted the opposite. Barack Obama "will try to put the political pressure that he has with the mandate on these lawmakers to say: 'We have to act and we have got to go bigger than smaller.'"

ABC's White House correspondent Jake Tapper previewed President Obama's trip to Indiana and Florida to propagandize for the legislation and a follow-up primetime press conference. CBS' Reid noted that Elkhart and Fort Myers are cities "devastated by the economy." Elkhart has already been designated as the apotheosis of distress on the nightly newscasts (here, here and here). Reid traced its rise in unemployment from 4.7% as recently as December 2007 to 15.3% in December 2008.


WHEEL OF MISFORTUNE You know the economic news is bad whenever ABC rolls out its wheel format to tell you about it. Last month's series of corporate layoffs was illustrated by a montage of woeful vignettes from Steve Osunsami to Barbara Pinto to Neal Karlinsky. Last week's news of a shrinking Gross Domestic Product strung together Betsy Stark and Barbara Pinto and Laura Marquez. Now unemployment is up to 7.6% and ABC illustrates (embargoed link) hard times with Laura Marquez at an overattended jobs fair in Silicon Valley followed by Chris Bury pinpointing twentysomething jobseekers as the hardest hit demographic cohort and Betsy Stark checking out long lines at the unemployment benefits office in Hackensack NJ.

Both CBS' Anthony Mason and CNBC's Trish Regan on NBC cited the statistic that this recession has already cost 3.5m jobs. "The job market is collapsing," Mason generalized. "For 13 straight months now the economy has been shedding jobs, the longest losing streak since the Depression." The last twelve months have seen "the largest yearly decline since 1939," was how CNBC's Regan massaged the same numbers. Regan's pessimism focused on the small business sector citing a survey that 14% of such firms plan to issue pink slips within the next three months. Mason's gloom went like this: "There is nothing that is going to stop unemployment from rising sharply over the next six to eight months."


TGIF DMV GOES DARK CBS had Los Angeles based Ben Tracy review the budget crisis in California on Wednesday. Now NBC has Los Angelina Chris Jansing show us jobless Fridays, as Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered many state offices closed, with as many as 230,000 workers having pay docked, for a pair of Fridays each month. "No drivers' tests, no registrations, no renewals," Jansing shrugged as frustrated Californians were turned away by the shuttered Department of Motor Vehicles. "For 45 other states facing budget deficits, California's woes may be just a sign of things to come."


SELF-INFLICTED WOUNDS Combat with the enemy was less deadly than a soldier's own hand during the month of January, NBC's Ron Mott reported from Fort Benning. The death toll for the USArmy in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was smaller than the 24 soldiers who committed suicide, "the most in a single month since the army started keeping track nearly 30 years ago." The story of the failures of the army's mental health system has been owned by CBS' Armen Keteyian last year. Mott's contribution was to point to a trio of factors: a shortfall in suicide prevention monitoring; long deployments overseas; and strained relationships at home.


KHYBER PASS IS CHOKE POINT The demolition of a bridge in the Khyber Pass along NATO's military supply line from Pakistan to Afghanistan grabbed the attention of CBS' Sheila MacVicar in London. Increasing guerrilla attacks and looting of NATO supply convoys have produced a bonanza in the bazaars of Peshawar. MacVicar showed us videotape that she claimed as a CBS Exclusive of the goods on display--"military equipment, boots, camouflage, even high-powered binoculars and sophisticated night-vision gear." With the Khyber Pass supply route so vulnerable to sabotage, MacVicar looked at the feasibility of air supply from the north. "There are problems," she warned. Kyrgyzstan has just evicted the United States from its air base there "under Russian pressure."


THE BORDER NEEDS A SPONSOR CBS' closing Assignment America feature from Steve Hartman looked at the Texas-Mexico border. A $2m grant to the Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition has installed 15 closed-circuit surveillance cameras on border utility poles and connected the video feed to a live streaming Website. The coalition has enlisted the support of 35,000 so-called virtual deputies, civilian monitors who contact the sheriff when they spot suspicious movement. In two months "the program has only produced eight arrests and four drug seizures, not much bang for the buck." So when its grant expires, the coalition will need commercial funding to continue operations: "Since it is a virtual stakeout the first sponsor they are hoping to get is Dunkin' Donuts."


EIGHT IS NOT ENOUGH ABC displayed a rare non-competitive attitude when John McKenzie promoted Ann Curry's exclusive interview with Nadya Suleman on NBC's Today. Suleman is the 33-year-old mother of 14, whose final eight arrived all at once last week. Curry dotes on large families, making Iowa's McCaughey septuplets her specialty on Dateline. Her soundbites with Suleman came with a prominent Today logo superimposed on the lower left hand corner, yet such generous publicity for a rival did not deter McKenzie. In violation of IVF guidelines, the octuplets' mother explained that she decided to implant all of her fertilized eggs: "Those are my children and that is what was available and I used them. I took a risk. It is a gamble. For me I feel as though I have been under the microscope because I have chosen this unconventional kind of life."


SPAM SUSHI Fun food and toxic food rounded out the week. ABC's David Wright updated us on the Food & Drug Administration's investigation of the Peanut Corporation of America concerning the deaths of eight from salmonella poisoning. The FDA now alleges that PCA broke the law by failing to suspend shipments of processed peanuts from its Georgia factory after a positive test for the lethal bacteria. That finding increases the possibility that PCA executives will be punished with prison sentences.

NBC sent Mara Schiavocampo to Spamtown USA for food fun. She visited the Hormel luncheon meat factory in Austin Minn, which is working "around the clock churning out can after can of Spam." The brand's newfound popularity derives in part from its low price in these recessionary times and in part from its versatility as an ingredient in foods from "muffins to salads to burgers." Then there is the Presidential factor. Barack Obama, on his recent vacation to his native state, revealed himself to be a fan: see Hawaii's Spam sushi.