CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM OCTOBER 19, 2009
The size of the alleged fraud in Afghanistan's presidential election was the Story of the Day. Hamid Karzai in Kabul makes Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the purported vote rigging in next-door Teheran, look like a piker. According to the United Nations, almost one vote out of three cast for Karzai was a phony, over 990,000 of them. All three networks had a correspondent file from Kabul on the prospects of scheduling a do-over election against challenger Abdullah Abdullah. Yet none of the newscasts led with Afghanistan. ABC kicked off with its in-house opinion poll on Barack Obama's popularity. NBC picked up on a story from The New York Times about the President's fundraising from Wall Street fat cats. CBS went tabloid, leading with legal trouble for the parents of Colorado's fake balloon boy castaway.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR OCTOBER 19, 2009: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailABCAfghanistan politics: presidential election voteUN disqualifies one million Karzai ballotsNick SchifrinAfghanistan
video thumbnailCBSSudan civil war: ethnic cleansing in DarfurUS may replace sanctions with incentivesChip ReidWhite House
video thumbnailNBCWall Street bankers paid bonanza bonusesFew fat cats attend DNC's Manhattan fundraiserSavannah GuthrieWhite House
video thumbnailNBCGenders supersede traditional sex-role stereotypesFamily life transformed by recession job changesMaria ShriverDetroit
video thumbnailNBCInfluenza season: swine strain H1N1 virus outbreakPregnant woman not given antiviral drugs, diesRobert BazellOhio
video thumbnailCBSInfluenza season: swine strain H1N1 virus outbreakExperimental antiviral drug Peramivir developedWyatt AndrewsAtlanta
video thumbnailABCWar on Drugs: medicinal use of marijuanaJustice Dept defers to legalization by statesBrian RooneyLos Angeles
video thumbnailCBSSweat lodge in Sedona Desert suffers mystery deathsSpiritual retreat guru James Ray may be suedBen TracyLos Angeles
video thumbnailNBCRestaurants recycle food waste for compostSan Francisco bans organic scraps from landfillsRoger O'NeilSan Francisco
video thumbnailCBSHelium balloon flies untethered over ColoradoFather suspected of missing boy hoax stuntDean ReynoldsColorado
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
KARZAI IS KING OF THE BALLOT STUFFERS The size of the alleged fraud in Afghanistan's presidential election was the Story of the Day. Hamid Karzai in Kabul makes Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the purported vote rigging in next-door Teheran, look like a piker. According to the United Nations, almost one vote out of three cast for Karzai was a phony, over 990,000 of them. All three networks had a correspondent file from Kabul on the prospects of scheduling a do-over election against challenger Abdullah Abdullah. Yet none of the newscasts led with Afghanistan. ABC kicked off with its in-house opinion poll on Barack Obama's popularity. NBC picked up on a story from The New York Times about the President's fundraising from Wall Street fat cats. CBS went tabloid, leading with legal trouble for the parents of Colorado's fake balloon boy castaway.

How corrupt was the election in Afghanistan? CBS' Mandy Clark called it "staggering." NBC's Richard Engel found Karzai's government "increasingly unstable and weak." ABC's Nick Schifrin quoted the Taliban's condemnation of the Kabul regime as "a slave and a puppet to the west" adding that "already the political vacuum is helping fuel the insurgency." Back at the White House, ABC's Jake Tapper reported that Amb Karl Eikenberry had been "negotiating furiously" trying to persuade Karzai to accept either a run-off election or a coalition government with his rival Abdullah. The diplomat is "now confident" that Karzai has agreed.

Perhaps Commander-in-Chief Obama will not have to decide whether to commit extra troops to Afghanistan after all. His decision may be moot, ABC's Tapper pointed out. The Pentagon will not implement its "clear, hold and build" counterinsurgency if the Kabul regime cannot be called legitimate. "If they do not have a partner that can do the holding and the building, then they cannot pursue that strategy."


OLIVE BRANCH TO ACCUSED WAR CRIMINAL The second major foreign policy story of the day originated from the State Department yet only CBS' White House correspondent Chip Reid deemed it newsworthy enough for a report. Perhaps the reason was that Barack Obama refused to dignify his latest decision on Darfur with a soundbite: "The President issued only a written statement on his new policy and that worries some human rights activists." What he has decided to do is to offer "unspecified incentives" to the Khartoum government despite the fact that Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has been charged with war crimes at the International Criminal Court.


NBC LOSES THE PLOT This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos led off ABC's newscast with his network's own poll, conducted with Washington Post, on Barack Obama's approval. It stands at 57%, a month-over-month improvement for the first time since April. The proportion of those polled identifying themselves as Republicans is now just 20%. "This is a huge problem," Stephanopoulos suggested, noting that this is a 26-year low.

NBC also led with the President. Yet Savannah Guthrie's report from the White House was muddled and incoherent. She tried to tie popular dissatisfaction with bonuses paid to Wall Street bankers--Goldman Sachs $23bn, Citigroup $22bn, Bank of America $30bn, JP Morgan Chase $29bn--with a Democratic National Committee fundraiser being hosted by Obama at Manhattan's ritzy Mandarin Oriental Hotel. How did Guthrie yoke these two strands together? She quoted from The New York Times that a third of the attendees will be from Wall Street. How did she follow up? "Only about six executives from the big bailed out firms will be in attendance. In fact donations to Democrats from Wall Street are way down this year."

Huh?

It was not a happy newscast for NBC. Not only did its lead make no sense. It also devoted five whole minutes to Guest Editor Maria Shriver for her series A Woman's Nation. Shriver, the NBC News alumna and current First Lady of California, sat down with a focus group in Detroit to exchange anecdotes of changing gender roles. A father checks his teenage daughter's laundry…a breadwinning wife leaves the grocery shopping to her husband…a single mother does household handiwork.

So what?


ON THE ‘FLU FRONT Both NBC and CBS told us about what happens when the H1N1 influenza virus gets serious. NBC's Robert Bazell followed up on the tale of bereavement from one of his viewers. David Jones of Columbus Ohio is a new grandfather who will have to raise an orphan after his 20-year-old daughter Kelsey succumbed to the 'flu in the eighth month of her pregnancy. Her physician would not prescribe antiviral medicine when she showed 'flu symptoms because she tested negative. "Rapid 'flu tests are wrong as often as half of the time," noted Bazell. Yes, he said half of the time! They might as well toss a coin.

CBS' Eye on Medicine showed us the sunny side. John Boudrot was on a ventilator suffering from organ failure last month when he was given the experimental drug Peramivir. Now the 51-year-old is well enough to walk out of the hospital. Wyatt Andrews warned that the antiviral intravenous medicine is still in clinical trials so it requires four hours of paperwork to apply for a compassionate use exemption from the Food & Drug Administration. "The FDA has said that it will consider what is called an Emergency Use Authorization for Peramivir, allowing the government to stockpile the drug and reduce the paperwork."


GREEN CROSS All three newscasts covered the decision by the Department of Justice that it is "unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources"--as NBC's Pete Williams quoted from the memorandum--to prosecute patients who are using marijuana for medicinal purposes in compliance with local state laws. In all, 13 states permit the prescription and dispensing of marijuana as a medicine, with six more considering such legalization, noted Williams. Williams filed from the Justice Department. CBS' Bill Whitaker and ABC's Brian Rooney both filed from Los Angeles, which already has hundreds of green cross dispensaries. CBS' Whitaker reported that, 13 years after legalization, the state of California has 300,000 patients using marijuana as a medicine. "In the big picture," ABC's Rooney speculated, "where all of this is probably leading is towards some more regulated legality of marijuana--just like alcohol and cigarettes."


SPIRITUAL WARRIORS SUFFER CASUALTIES CBS' Ben Tracy told us about the trouble facing James Arthur Ray and his Spiritual Warrior retreat in Arizona's Sedona Desert. Attendees paid the guru $9,000 to attend the five-day retreat. Some 60 of them had been packed in a sweat lodge for two hours when breathing became difficult: 21 were hospitalized; now three are dead. "Ray has run into trouble before," Tracy noted, including the time he urged a follower to break a board with her hand--her bones, not the board, were what ended up broken. This summer a 46-year-old devotee "jumped to her death at a California mall after another Ray event." Ray faces wrongful death lawsuits following the sweat lodge calamity.


METHANE FREE San Francisco has the ambition to recycle its garbage totally within ten years, "to send zero waste to landfills," as NBC's Roger O'Neil put it. He covered the latest step, "the most aggressive composting law in the country." All organic matter must be put in green bins for eventual sale as fertilizer. Landfills will no longer emit methane and restaurants will save money since they no longer have to pay carting fees to haul away their uneaten scraps.


THE NEWS ITSELF, NOT HEENE, IS THE STORY "Richard Heene finally has found the fame he craved," declared ABC's Ryan Owens," but the wannabe reality star has lost control of this script." All three newscasts had correspondents in Fort Collins to cover the mounting evidence that the Heene family planned to hoax the cable TV news networks by claiming that the six-year-old Falcon was a castaway in the untethered helium balloon that soared over the Colorado countryside on Thursday.

The cable TV news networks were certainly fooled. Yet was it indeed a preplanned conspiracy? CBS' Dean Reynolds reminded us of the apparent confession from the boy's lips in response to CNN's Wolf Blitzer: "We did it for the show." NBC's Lee Cowan reported that the RDF production company in Santa Monica "admits it at one time had a reality show in development with the Heenes." ABC's Owens was told by police detectives that "they found e-mails and documents that detailed the plot, all to pretend their six-year-old floated away." CBS' Reynolds reported that a 25-year-old researcher had sold his story to gawker.com that "he and Heene drew up a master plan earlier this year to generate a massive media frenzy using a weather balloon."

All this seems beside the point. Journalists have a greater duty to inquire into why their own profession allowed itself to be fooled by the hoax than they do to cover the police investigation of the suspected hoaxer. If the cable TV news channels were not so gullible, all the plotting in the world by Heene would have been to no avail.