CONTAINING LINKS TO 51991 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM FEBRUARY 25, 2009
The three networks had radically different reactions to Barack Obama's State-of-the-Union-style address to a Joint Session of Congress in primetime on Tuesday. CBS gave it the full treatment, leading with the President's emphasis on the economy and following up with an analysis of his rhetoric and then an up-close-and-personal profile of the "no quitter" teenager showcased at the speech's climax. ABC decided not to lead with the speech--choosing its own polling on the recession instead--but covered both Obama's agenda and his Twittering audience of legislators. NBC took the opposite tack, treating the address as yesterday's news. It led with the continuing woes of high finance and did not assign a single report to the speech itself.    
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click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailABCState of the Union style address by President ObamaAmbitious healthcare-education-energy agendaJake TapperWhite House
video thumbnailCBSState of the Union style address by President ObamaSpeech balanced moods of foreboding, optimismJim AxelrodWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSState of the Union style address by President ObamaFeatured SC teenage student who is no quitterMark StrassmannSouth Carolina
video thumbnailNBCFinancial industry regulation, reform, bailoutDelay new regulations; disavow nationalizationSavannah GuthrieWhite House
video thumbnailABCFinancial industry regulation, reform, bailoutTreasury Department stress tests 19 major banksBetsy StarkNew York
video thumbnailABCEconomy is officially in recessionABC News poll finds ripple effect of anxietyDavid MuirNew York
video thumbnailCBSWar on Drugs: Mexico narcotics gang warsDEA makes mass arrests in Operation XcelleratorBill WhitakerLos Angeles
video thumbnailCBSTurkish Airlines 1951 crash in Amsterdam: nine deadBreaks apart in field short of airport, no fireMark PhillipsAmsterdam
video thumbnailNBCDiet and weight-loss products, techniquesNEJoM finds all plans are effective, if followedNancy SnydermanNew York
video thumbnailABCGuns: fast food worker shot on job, denied healthcareCustomer protection was ruled non-work-relatedSteve OsunsamiArkansas
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
OBAMA SPEECH REACTION--CBS ON BOARD; NBC ACTS BORED The three networks had radically different reactions to Barack Obama's State-of-the-Union-style address to a Joint Session of Congress in primetime on Tuesday. CBS gave it the full treatment, leading with the President's emphasis on the economy and following up with an analysis of his rhetoric and then an up-close-and-personal profile of the "no quitter" teenager showcased at the speech's climax. ABC decided not to lead with the speech--choosing its own polling on the recession instead--but covered both Obama's agenda and his Twittering audience of legislators. NBC took the opposite tack, treating the address as yesterday's news. It led with the continuing woes of high finance and did not assign a single report to the speech itself.

CBS' Jim Axelrod contrasted Obama's warnings of "economic crisis" during his lobbying for fiscal stimulus legislation with his "optimism" on Tuesday night: "We will rebuild. We will recover and the United States will emerge stronger than before." Axelrod resorted to history for analogies to Obama's "mood and message." He likened the fearful talk to Jimmy Carter's "gloomy rhetoric" and his confidence to that of Ronald Reagan, stating that Presidential confidence is required to inspire employers to hire and consumers to spend. The problem with this argument is that Reagan's recession was deeper and longer than Carter's. Axelrod himself mentioned that Reagan was confronted by "even higher unemployment."

The White House correspondents at ABC and CBS came away with different agendas after listening to the President. CBS' Chip Reid concluded that Obama's emphasis was on the economy, reporting on his proposals for bank regulation, fiscal stimulus and the housing market. ABC's Jake Tapper heard "the most ambitious--perhaps the word is even audacious--agenda in generations." He highlighted the President's Biblical Day of Reckoning phrase to envision universal healthcare plus global leadership in college graduation plus limits to carbon pollution from greenhouse gases. George Stephanopoulos of ABC's This Week handicapped the chances of passage for all that audacity: education reform and deficit reduction look possible; healthcare and climate change less so. "The idea is to pick off different groups of Republicans around different issues to get those 60 votes they need in House," he reported, calling it "a roving coalition strategy."


NON-QUITTERS & TWITTERS And both ABC and CBS closed their newscasts with sideline features on the President's primetime address (NBC closed with Roger O'Neil admiring Tiger Woods). CBS sent Mark Strassmann to Dillon SC where Ty'Sheoma Bethea is an eighth-grade student. She is the 14-year-old who wrote to the President to ask for federal help for her schoolhouse. Strassmann explained her plight: 85% of the students at JV Martin JHS live in poverty; the building is 113 years old and "falling apart;" the school's dropout rate is 60%. Barack Obama quoted from the girl's letter: "We are not quitters."

ABC's closing feature was by David Wright, who noticed tweets from legislators all night long--on celebrity guest Chesley Sullenberger and the health of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the House-vs-Senate rivalry. "Among hipsters and high school kids, Twittering is all the rage," mused Wright. "Now the establishment is catching on." He pondered the pros and cons of the phenomenon going politico: pro--it is "ideal for self-promotion and networking;" con--"politicians are not known for brevity." Can a Solon really confine himself to 140 characters?


STRESSFUL SCENARIOS NBC's White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie covered the continuing debate over the federal bailout for high finance. "The administration is nowhere near ready with detailed plans for a major regulatory overhaul," she cautioned. Key positions at the Treasury Department have not yet been filled by the transition team. On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, Chairman Benjamin Bernanke "again shot down concerns" that Barack Obama plans to nationalize the major banks. He defined nationalization as wiping out shareholders with the government managing the business. "We do not plan anything like that."

Both CBS and ABC explained the so-called stress test of 19 major banks being launched by the Treasury Department. ABC's Betsy Stark put it this way: "Specifically what happens to banks if the recession drags on into 2010." Those institutions that fail to prove their solvency under such adverse conditions "will have six months to raise money from private investors." CBS called Wyatt Andrews' explainer What It Means. He laid out the specific imaginary stresses: unemployment at 10.3%; real estate prices falling a further 22%; the economy contracting at a 3.3% annual rate.

Failing the test would mean an injection of more federal bailout capital, CBS' Andrews projected: "There are two very big things Treasury officials do not know. They do not know whether, instead of instilling confidence, they may actually undermine confidence in the banks that fail the test. And they do not know if the remaining $350bn in bailout funds will cover what these 19 banks really need."

Anyway, isn't much of that $350bn already assigned to President Obama's foreclosure prevention plan? CNBC's Erin Burnett walked us through that plan as part of NBC's weeklong series Meltdown: Making Sense of it All as her cable channel invited Sheila Bair of the FDIC to a town hall meeting to discuss the housing mess. Later, for NBC's In Depth, CNBC's Jane Wells returned to real estate, introducing us to a house-hunting tour of Chinese millionaires taking in Pasadena, Las Vegas, San Francisco, New York City and Boston. "The tourists are divided between those looking for just the rock bottom prices on foreclosures and those who want to buy near schools so that maybe they can send their children here."


MISERY LOVES COMPANY ABC generated its own story to lead off its newscast. Its polling unit surveyed Americans about economic anxiety and discovered it in spades. "If there is any comfort in all of this, it is comfort in numbers," suggested David Muir bleakly. He called is a "striking portrait of fear." Fully 67% of the population has cut back on spending and 70% believe that the recession will persist longer than 2010, the date Chairman Benjamin Bernanke of the Federal Reserve Board designated for resumed growth.


CAUGHT IN THE NARCOSí CROSSFIRE The arrest of 755 suspects in Operation Xcellerator inspired reports by CBS' Bill Whitaker in Los Angeles and NBC's Mark Potter in Nogales. The operation was a sweep by the Drug Enforcement Agency targeted at Mexican narcotraffickers in this country. CBS' Whitaker examined the violence south of the border with dynamic news footage from TV Mexcanal of a shootout in Reynosa. Reporter Miguel Turriza was forced to prostrate himself in the shelter of a highway divider as he was caught in crossfire. In Juarez, the city is plastered with posters threatening to kill the mayor: "The Chief of Police resigned last week after drug thugs started killing his officers one by one." NBC's Potter looked at the north-of-the-border source of carnage, as 90% of the narcotics cartels' firepower come from "dealers and gunshows in the United States, where firearms laws are more lenient than in Mexico."


SHORT OF SCHIPOL All three newscasts assigned a reporter to the crash of Turkish Airlines Flight 1951 in Holland. It plowed into a field and broke into three pieces two miles short of the runway at Schipol Airport: nine were killed including the cockpit crew. CBS' Mark Phillips and ABC's Miguel Marquez were on the scene in Amsterdam; Tom Costello covered the crash remotely from NBC's Washington bureau. Many passengers were able literally to walk away from the wreckage "due to the relatively low impact speed, to the waterlogged field on which the plane landed and to the fact there was no fire," CBS' Phillips pointed out, "leading to speculation the plane may have had some sort of fuel problem." In all, 126 of the 135 on board survived.


GMA ALUMNI TAKE THE NEJOM BAIT The New England Journal of Medicine grabbed attention from both NBC and ABC for the sort of research that is a no-brainer for the networks' morning shows but could easily have been skipped on such a hard news day by the nightly newscasts. NBC's in-house physician Nancy Snyderman--a veteran of ABC's Good Morning America--and ABC's Ned Potter--in a show anchored by Charles Gibson, formerly of ABC's Good Morning America--took the bait and reported on the NEJoM's comparison of four different weight loss plans, with differing regimes of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. The result was that reducing calories is the important ingredient to a successful diet, not which foods to eat while cutting back. "That old formula," smiled NBC's Snyderman, "calories in and calories out."

To her credit, former Today anchor Katie Couric resisted the temptation to nibble on this story at CBS Evening News.


NIGEL DESERVES A BREAK It was a bad day for Ramsey, Krug, Farrell & Lensing. They are the firm that supplies healthcare coverage to a McDonald's franchise in Little Rock Ark. Their refusal to pay a claim placed them in the crosshairs of ABC's Steve Osunsami. Nigel Haskett, a 22-year-old fast food worker, broke up a fight last August. The customer he tried to escort from the premises shot him, damaging his aorta, his liver and his pancreas, requiring $300,000 in surgery. Now Ramsey, Krug, Farrell & Lensing have refused to pay, arguing that "the employee was not required or encouraged to put himself in harm's way." Haskett showed Osunsami his horrendous scar: he "cannot afford to see a doctor and the bullet remains lodged near his spine."