CONTAINING LINKS TO 51991 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM FEBRUARY 11, 2009
A busy day of news saw five separate stories jockeying for the title of Story of the Day. All three newscasts sent a correspondent to Oklahoma to cover the killer tornado in the small town of Lone Grove. All three signed off with Stump the Sussex Spaniel, Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club. CBS and ABC chose to lead with the Capitol Hill compromise on a fiscal stimulus bill; CBS had Katie Couric anchor from Washington, where she interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the deal. NBC led with House hearings into the Treasury Department's TARP bailout of high finance. Yet the Story of the Day was generated by another House hearing that led no newscast. Stuart Parnell, the boss of the Peanut Corporation of the America, refused to admit that his factory had produced the salmonella that killed nine customers. Parnell took the Fifth instead.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR FEBRUARY 11, 2009: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailABCSalmonella outbreak investigatedPCA boss takes Fifth at House peanut hearingsLisa StarkGeorgia
video thumbnailCBSSalmonella outbreak investigatedScare takes toll on peanut snack food industryMark StrassmannNorth Carolina
video thumbnailNBCFinancial industry regulation, reform, bailoutBosses of biggest banks at House TARP hearingsKelly O'DonnellCapitol Hill
video thumbnailCBSEconomy is officially in recessionFiscal stimulus compromise agreed, $789bn billChip ReidWhite House
video thumbnailABCAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingBomb attacks on Kabul ministries leaves 28 deadNick SchifrinAfghanistan
video thumbnailNBCPirates threaten shipping off coast of AfricaUSNavy, Russian ships patrol Gulf of AdenJim MiklaszewskiSomalia
video thumbnailCBSWar on Drugs: Mexico narcotics gang warsDesert shootout south of Juarez leaves 21 deadBill WhitakerLos Angeles
video thumbnailABCWar on Drugs: Mexico narcotics gang warsViolence spreads to Phoenix, wave of kidnappingsBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailCBSTornado seasonOkla twister kills eight in mobile home parkHari SreenivasanOklahoma
video thumbnailNBCWestminster Kennel Club dog show held in NYCBest in Show is ten-year-old Sussex spanielMike TaibbiNew York
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
PEANUT BOSS TAKES FIFTH IN PROBE OF NINE DEATHS A busy day of news saw five separate stories jockeying for the title of Story of the Day. All three newscasts sent a correspondent to Oklahoma to cover the killer tornado in the small town of Lone Grove. All three signed off with Stump the Sussex Spaniel, Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club. CBS and ABC chose to lead with the Capitol Hill compromise on a fiscal stimulus bill; CBS had Katie Couric anchor from Washington, where she interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the deal. NBC led with House hearings into the Treasury Department's TARP bailout of high finance. Yet the Story of the Day was generated by another House hearing that led no newscast. Stuart Parnell, the boss of the Peanut Corporation of the America, refused to admit that his factory had produced the salmonella that killed nine customers. Parnell took the Fifth instead.

"The man at the center of the nation's largest food recall ever made no apologies today. In fact he said almost nothing at all," remarked CBS' Nancy Cordes (welcome back from maternity leave). His silence availed him little, however, since his Congressional questioners had his own seemingly incriminating e-mails. NBC's Tom Costello, for example, quoted a Parnell response to the news that a batch of processed peanuts had tested positive for salmonella: "Thanks, Mary. I go through this about once a week." ABC's Lisa Stark, who was in Georgia at the offending peanut factory, quoted Parnell's e-mail instructions after a batch had tested positive for salmonella and had then been retested and found negative: "OK. Let's turn them loose then." Parnell's non-responsive testimony happened to coincide with the outbreak's ninth death.

A 24% decline in the popularity of peanut products since the PCA story broke has Lance Crackers, makers of peanut-flavored snack foods. losing $1m each month. So Lance is trying to counter "guilt by association" by mounting a public relations campaign with print ads, online videos and a visit by Mark Strassmann of CBS to its "spotless" North Carolina factory--"no food contamination in 37 years."


PANDIT PAID BELOW MINIMUM WAGE The House hearings on TARP saw the bosses of the nation's eight major investment banks sit through "a grilling that lasted all day," according to NBC's Kelly O'Donnell. Depending on whose numbers one uses, the eight have received $160bn (CBS) in capital infusions from the federal bailout or $125bn (ABC) or $165bn (NBC). CBS' investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson focused on $4bn of that amount--the year end bonuses paid by Merrill Lynch "just before getting swallowed up by Bank of America." ABC had its business correspondent Betsy Stark cover the hearings: "These bankers painted a surprisingly sunny picture considering the crisis the government has described." NBC's O'Donnell, a Congressional correspondent, heard a contrite tone instead, "sorry for real world effects like credit card rates going up and loans for homes and small businesses so hard to get."

ABC's Stark ran a montage of soundbites on these executives' expectations at Christmas time: "There will be no bonus"…"No bonus"…"Zero bonus"… "Zero bonus"… "No bonus"… "No bonus"…"My bonus is zero." CBS' Attkisson listed the current annual salary of Vikram Pandit, the Chief Executive Officer of Citigroup, as did NBC's O'Donnell: "$1."


STIMULUS LIGHTNING The compromise between House and Senate negotiators on fiscal stimulus was "reached at lightning speed," according to CBS' Chip Reid. ABC anchor Charles Gibson, a onetime Congressional correspondent, told This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos that he found the 17 days from start to finish "remarkable…I must express some amazement." Yet the precise elements of the $789bn bill were still not crystal clear.

Tax cuts: NBC reckoned the tax cut total at $275bn while ABC's number was $280bn. CBS merely called it 35% of the package. You do the math: $276bn.

Federal spending: CBS and NBC agreed that $150bn will go to infrastructure spending. ABC lumped infrastructure in with other federal spending and came up with a $311bn total.

Direct payments: ABC put the total to states, municipalities and individuals at $196bn; NBC included only $54bn in payments to states; CBS had much larger state payments--at fully one third of the package or $263bn.

Both CBS' Reid and ABC's Stephanopoulos agreed that just three lawmakers--Senate Republicans Susan Collins, Arlen Specter and Olympia Snowe--dictated the terms of the House-Senate compromise. CBS' Reid reported that the trio "largely controled the discussions and forced Democrats to cut spending by more than $30bn," mostly from healthcare and education. ABC's Stephanopoulos observed that Congressional Democrats "realized pretty quickly that they had no choice but to basically agree to the demands of those three."

CBS anchor Katie Couric interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was pleased anyway, claiming that 90% of the House's original proposal is to be found in the final legislation. Couric asked Pelosi if she had been too partisan during the stimulus debate and Pelosi paid Republicans the implied compliment that their opposition had been principled: "We have strong philosophical differences in the Congress. This is not interparty bickering. This is major differences of opinion on philosophy, on how our country should go forward."


MUMBAI COMES TO KABUL ABC had correspondent Nick Schifrin on the scene in Kabul for a coordinated bomb attack by suicidal guerrillas on three separate ministries of the Afghan government: Justice, Corrections and Education. In all 28 ended up dead, including the bombers. Schifrin, who is based in India, saw a similarity between this plot and last year's assault on Mumbai, "highly coordinated with multiple targets and the blame here, too, has fallen on Pakistan."


SEARCHING FOR SOMALI SKIFFS Jim Miklaszewski, NBC's man at the Pentagon, found himself on the high seas for his In Depth report on Somali pirates. He joined Adm Terry McKnight on the USS Vella Gulf as it patroled the Gulf of Aden, part of a 20-ship international flotilla to protect the shipping lanes. Last year, he told us, pirates attacked 120 ships, successfully hijacking 41 of them and extracting $20m in ransom payments. Miklaszewski narrated the coordination between the Vella Gulf and a Russian destroyer as they rushed to protect a Panamanian ship being shadowed by a suspicious skiff. "The suspected pirates it turned out were innocent fishermen."


VIOLENCE CROSSES BORDER NORTHWARDS AND SOUTHWARDS By coincidence, ABC and CBS chose the same day to focus on the narcotrafficking violence that is plaguing Mexico. Los Angeles based Bill Whitaker narrated videotape of a shootout in the high desert south of Juarez for CBS. Mexican troops launched an attack on Villa Ahumada, a town where narco gangsters had killed three different police chiefs and driven out the mayor. Whitaker reported that 21 people were left dead in the desert snow, only one of them a soldier. On ABC, investigative reporter Brian Ross filed A Closer Look preview of his story for Nightline on the northward creep of Mexican narcotics violence. Phoenix now averages a kidnapping a day as "cartels send their operatives across the border to claim territory or settle scores." Ross played hair raising audiotape of threats against a hostage: "I am about to cut off his hand. Which hand would you like, the left of the right?"

For his part, CBS' Whitaker put Ross' tale of violence heading north in context. The $14bn the Mexican cartels earn each year comes from "the insatiable US appetite for drugs" and it is estimated that 95% of the cartels' guns are smuggled southwards from the United States, 2,000 weapons a day.


LONE GROVE STRIPPED BARE All three newscasts had a correspondent in Lone Grove, the small Oklahoma town. "Always vulnerable," NBC's Janet Shamlian reflected, as she reported that almost all of the eight deaths occurred in a trailer park for mobile homes. CBS' Hari Sreenivasan reported the National Weather Service estimate that the tornado contained winds blowing in excess of 165 mph. ABC's Ryan Owens (embargoed link) showed us "foundations stripped bare. Aluminum siding hung like clothes out to dry."


STUMP, THE FLOPPY-EARED PLODDER The Westminster Kennel Club dog show produced an irresistible angle when it selected Stump the Sussex Spaniel as its Best in Show. Stump, at ten years old, is two year's older than Westminster's previous oldest Top Dog. "I guess ten is the new eight," joked CBS anchor Katie Couric as she narrated video of Stump's triumph from Washington DC. ABC's Sharyn Alfonsi stretched too far in a convoluted anthropomorphic comparison that tried to imagine Goldie Hawn, the sixtysomething actress, on the cover of the bathing suit issue of Sports Illustrated and then compared Stump with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and Jack Nicholson.

NBC's Mike Taibbi got to scratch Stump's head to close his report: "He had the crowd from his first floppy eared, tail wagging, low slung plod across the floor."


PALEY’S PILOT MAXMEDIA PODCAST I was flattered to be invited to be the pilot podcast in my friend Max Robins' new MaxMedia series at the Paley Center, nee the Museum of Broadcasting. You should all know Robins from his perceptive finger on the TV pulse at Broadcasting & Cable and before that TV Guide and before that Variety. MaxMedia is billed as a series of half-hour conversations with media's "most intriguing players." So there you are--I am intriguing! Take a listen.