CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM OCTOBER 27, 2009
The beginning of Brian Williams' field trip to Afghanistan coincided with an upsurge of violence in the guerrilla war there. Afghanistan was Story of the Day as the military death toll for the United States reached 55 in October, the nation's most deadly single month there since the invasion in 2001. All three newscasts led with the ambush of a Stryker armored vehicle in Kandahar Province that killed seven soldiers from Fort Lewis. NBC's newscast split anchoring chores between Williams in the field and Today's Ann Curry in the New York studio. CBS also used a substitute anchor, Early Show's Harry Smith.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR OCTOBER 27, 2009: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailABCAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingStryker ambush hikes October GI death toll to 55Jim SciuttoAfghanistan
video thumbnailCBSAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingState Department anti-war official resignsDavid MartinPentagon
video thumbnailNBCAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingLocal troops deliver humanitarian aid to villageBrian WilliamsAfghanistan
video thumbnailABCAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingArmored off-road MATVs deployed against IEDsBob WoodruffWisconsin
video thumbnailCBSInfluenza season: swine strain H1N1 virus outbreakVaccine distribution operates state by stateJeff GlorNew Jersey
video thumbnailNBCAir safety: jetliner pilots complain about fatigueNWAir off-course pilots stripped of FAA licensesTom CostelloWashington DC
video thumbnailABCAir safety: jetliner pilots complain about fatigueAuto pilots create low-stimulus cockpit moodLisa StarkWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSTeenage girl gang raped at high school danceAllege crowd stood and watched campus sex crimeSandra HughesLos Angeles
video thumbnailCBSPop singer Michael Jackson dies, aged 50Posthumous rehearsal docu This Is It premieresBen TracyLos Angeles
video thumbnailNBCBroadway musical 101 Dalmatians goes on tourReal spotted dogs perform, trained from sheltersKevin TibblesWisconsin
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
NBC’S FIELD TRIP AS WAR ZONE WORSENS The beginning of Brian Williams' field trip to Afghanistan coincided with an upsurge of violence in the guerrilla war there. Afghanistan was Story of the Day as the military death toll for the United States reached 55 in October, the nation's most deadly single month there since the invasion in 2001. All three newscasts led with the ambush of a Stryker armored vehicle in Kandahar Province that killed seven soldiers from Fort Lewis. NBC's newscast split anchoring chores between Williams in the field and Today's Ann Curry in the New York studio. CBS also used a substitute anchor, Early Show's Harry Smith.

"After weeks of escalation here violence has now reached record levels," Richard Engel calculated on NBC. "The Taliban have been gaining momentum, especially since the failed elections this summer. There are more US troops to attack and the militants are using bigger bombs." On CBS, Mandy Clark added the ambushed Stryker soldiers to the commandos who died during a drug bust on Monday: "This record spate of violence--22 deaths in 48 hours--comes at a time of year when fighting in Afghanistan usually slows down as the falling snow closes off mountain passes." ABC anchor Charles Gibson repeated a theory from an unidentified member of the Pentagon brass that the Taliban's are "trying hard to influence this nation's decisions regarding additional troop deployments."

NBC News included the question of further troop deployment in its national opinion poll. Chuck Todd tracked the trends after a month of debate: support for sending reinforcements to the war has inched up, from 44% to 47%; opposition has declined markedly, from 51% to 43%. Astonishingly, the majority of NBC's respondents repudiates the idea of civilian control of the military. Those who believe that Afghan-based generals should decide on troop levels rather than Barack Obama, the Commander-in-Chief, make up a "whopping 62%."

In September Matthew Hoh, a State Department official and former officer in the Marine Corps, resigned from the foreign service in protest against the war in Afghanistan. "A Pollyannish misadventure," he called it. CBS' David Martin reported Hoh's contention that the US military presence there "greatly contributes to the legitimacy and strategic message of the Taliban insurgency." NBC anchor Brian Williams kicked off his reporting from Afghanistan from a secret location, a "special forces outpost" in an eastern province where American commandos train their local comrades. Williams visited an unnamed "bleak little town…no more than one or two streets wide," a short drive from the base, where Afghan commandos distribute food to the locals. "It all goes back to the Vietnam-era slogan Winning Hearts & Minds," was his foreboding reminder.


STRYKERS STRUCK "The Strykers are fast and offer some protection against roadside bombs," ABC's Jim Sciutto reported from Kabul, "but clearly not nearly enough." The IED ambush in Kandahar that killed seven soldiers prompted Sciutto's colleague Bob Woodruff to travel to Wisconsin where the Oshkosh Corporation is filling a rush Pentagon order for a new type of armored vehicle that can travel off-road. Woodruff explained that the armored MRAP that the Pentagon deployed in Iraq to protect soldiers from roadside bombs is too heavy for Afghanistan's primitive infrastructure. Oshkosh's lighter MATV is designated as the replacement: it is building 5,000 vehicles at a cost of $1.5m each. Woodruff went for a test drive.


BILL & MELINDA’S BILLIONS SAVE MILLIONS Last year Bill Gates the billionaire received publicity for his philanthropy (here and here) from Tom Brokaw, the longtime anchor at NBC. Now Gates turns to ABC's Charles Gibson for A Closer Look sitdown to discuss the good works achieved by his $20bn in donations. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has launched the Living Proof Project to audit the efficacy of its spending. Gibson was worried that the couple was just throwing their money away: "The problems are so enormous. Sometimes do you feel it is like throwing something into the ocean and the ripples extend--but eventually it just goes back to the way it was?" Melinda reassured him that a pair of foundation vaccines--one for diarrhea and one for pneumonia--has saved 2.5m African lives.


‘FLU, ‘FLU, ‘FLU As usual, each of the newscasts assigned a reporter to file yet another influenza story. ABC went for human interest, sending Barbara Pinto to hang out in a college gym in Chicago where families waited to be vaccinated against H1N1: "The crowd of the anxious and the patient began lining up at 9am." The shots arrived at 3pm; 1,600 doses were dispensed in 30 minutes. "There were so many people, not enough vaccine. Hundreds were turned away." CBS' Jeff Glor explained the vaccine distribution system from the warehouses of the McKesson medical supply company to the clinics and public schools of a New Jersey county. On NBC, Robert Bazell noted that the Centers for Disease Control "again apologized that the government had promised far more than has been delivered so far."


THE FLIGHT DRONES ON All that publicity surrounding the last week's late-arriving Northwest Airlines flight has ended badly for the two pilots. The Federal Aviation Administration has determined that the pair, who flew 150 miles past their Minneapolis destination before doing a midair U-turn, should lose their licenses. NBC's Tom Costello repeated the rap against them: "Failing to comply with air traffic control instructions and clearances, and operating carelessly and recklessly." CBS' Nancy Cordes expected them to appeal against the FAA's decision: "After all, if they lose their licenses they lose their jobs."

CBS' Cordes exaggerated the consequence of the crew's error on Flight 188 by likening it to a distracted Delta Airlines pilot who crashed his plane in 1988, killing 14, and an Eastern Airlines crew that became preoccupied and crashed into the Florida Everglades in 1972: 99 people died then. ABC's Lisa Stark offered some sympathy for the pilots' failure to concentrate: "The flight systems on modern jet aircraft are so sophisticated the plane can be programed essentially to fly itself," she explained. "Pilots are supposed to be monitoring the aircraft, watching instruments, checking fuel levels, communicating with air traffic control, even as the flight drones on."


HOMECOMING HELL "Horrific," "shocking," "morally reprehensible." CBS' Sandra Hughes quite rightly abandoned journalistic non-judgmental norms to lash out at the Saturday night outrage on the campus of Richmond High School in the San Francisco Bay area. As the homecoming dance at the school gym was finishing, a 15-year-old female student was raped over and over again: "Police say at least twenty people were either involved in the rape--or stood and watched the crime without going for help." Richmond HS does not have a stellar reputation, Hughes pointed out: local reporters at KPIX-TV investigated its security and found "only a handful" of cameras working. The school has a 69% truancy rate and 19 students were murdered in the school district last year.


BEHIND-SCENES DOCUS & SPOTTED DOGS All three newscasts closed with show business stories. ABC aired clips from By The People, an HBO documentary with behind-the-scenes access to Barack Obama's Presidential campaign last year. NBC's Kevin Tibbles introduced us to 15 spotted dogs from animal shelters, trained to perform on stage in the traveling production of 101 Dalmatians. And on CBS, Ben Tracy publicized the SONY documentary This Is It, airing at 15,000 theaters in 97 nations on a two-week release. The movie follows Michael Jackson's rehearsals in the weeks before his death. Cameras recorded 100 hours; audience will see just 111 minutes.