CONTAINING LINKS TO 58103 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM NOVEMBER 12, 2009
A week after the shooting spree at Fort Hood, its dominance over the networks' news agenda was finally broken. NBC still chose to lead with the killings, as Major Nidal Hasan was formally indicted by a court martial. CBS selected the latest swine 'flu statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. ABC turned to the continuing dismal state of the labor market. Yet the Story of the Day was none of the above: a series of diplomatic cables from Amb Karl Eikenberry in Kabul questioned the wisdom of sending troop reinforcements to the warzone in Afghanistan. Barack Obama responded by ordering the Pentagon to review its recommendations in favor of a build-up.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR NOVEMBER 12, 2009: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailCBSAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingPresident Obama seeks timeline, exit strategyChip ReidTokyo
video thumbnailABCAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingGuerrilla offensive on Wanat outpost videotapedJim SciuttoAfghanistan
video thumbnailNBCMilitary personnel suffer mental health problemsCombat stress therapy sessions at Bagram AFBRichard EngelAfghanistan
video thumbnailNBCFort Hood shooting spree: 13 soldiers killed on baseSuspect Hasan formally charged with murderPete WilliamsWashington DC
video thumbnailABCFort Hood shooting spree: 13 soldiers killed on baseSuspect Hasan's onetime imam fled to YemenBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailCBSInfluenza season: swine strain H1N1 virus outbreakCDC projections estimate 22m cases, 3,900 deathsJon LaPookNew York
video thumbnailCBSInfluenza season: swine strain H1N1 virus outbreakHealth service prioritizes vaccine in BritainSheila MacVicarLondon
video thumbnailABCUnemployment: corporate layoffs continuePresident Obama to convene job-creation summitDavid MuirNo Dateline
video thumbnailCBSHurricane Ida causes killer El Salvador mudslidesRegroups as nor'easter, floods coastal NC, VaJim AxelrodNew Jersey
video thumbnailNBCFormer Gov Sarah Palin (R-AK) writes memoirGoing Rogue booktour may mark political comebackAndrea MitchellWashington DC
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
DIPLOMAT UNDERCUTS CBS CERTAINTY A week after the shooting spree at Fort Hood, its dominance over the networks' news agenda was finally broken. NBC still chose to lead with the killings, as Major Nidal Hasan was formally indicted by a court martial. CBS selected the latest swine 'flu statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. ABC turned to the continuing dismal state of the labor market. Yet the Story of the Day was none of the above: a series of diplomatic cables from Amb Karl Eikenberry in Kabul questioned the wisdom of sending troop reinforcements to the warzone in Afghanistan. Barack Obama responded by ordering the Pentagon to review its recommendations in favor of a build-up.

The ambassador's cable and the President's response amounted to a black eye for CBS. On Monday David Martin, its man at the Pentagon, trumpeted an Exclusive in which he guaranteed that the decision to send more troops to Afghanistan was a done deal behind closed doors, awaiting only a public announcement. Not so fast, his colleague Chip Reid cautioned. White House correspondent Reid filed from Tokyo, where Obama is starting a tour of east Asia: "He is sending the Pentagon back to the drawing board." Reid's unidentified sources told him that the President "is especially concerned that the options fail to include an exit strategy and a timeline for turning over control to Afghan forces."

ABC's Martha Raddatz, too, zeroed in on Eikenberry's pair of "urgent classified cables." She reported that the ambassador described President Hamid Karzai as failing to "confront corruption in his own government." Raddatz' analysis was that the diplomat Eikenberry is now "at odds" with military brass and that the dispute has now been "brought to a head" for Obama. Eikenberry "does have a lot of clout."

There is no doubt that the transparency of this debate over reinforcements is good for journalists and good for democracy's decision making. Oddly, CBS' Reid failed to see the bright side. He called it "another problem for the President. Instead of being debated in the Situation Room it is all over the front pages." Maybe Reid was upset that the back-and-forth sabotaged the credibility of his colleague Martin.


THE BATTLE OF WANAT NBC and ABC both filed from Afghanistan itself. ABC's Jim Sciutto used exclusive videotape from the NEFA Foundation to show us an ambush in the mountains of Nuristan. In July 2008, a USArmy outpost in the village of Wanat was attacked by Taliban guerrillas led by Maulvi Manibullah, leaving nine American soldiers dead and forcing the army to abandon its defense of the valley on the day after the battle. Last month CBS' David Martin showed us Pentagon footage he obtained from the army's after-action review of its defeat. Now Sciutto airs the Taliban's victorious videotape from NEFA.

NBC's Richard Engel focused on the wear and tear of the Afghan fighting on GIs. He visited the "extremely active" Combat Stress Center at Bagram AFB where as many as 1,500 counseling sessions are held each month. Some soldiers have trouble sleeping or managing their anger; others hurt themselves or others. Engel suggested some warning signs: "If soldiers stop socializing, give away their belongings or make threats, commanders isolate them."


WHAT DOES SOA (SWT) MEAN? A court martial at Fort Hood charged Major Nidal Hasan with 13 counts of capital murder. "He will not face a terrorism charge because the military justice system does not have one," NBC's Pete Williams explained. There are two strands of speculation about Hasan's mindset leading up to the shooting: radically militant or mentally unstable? CBS' Don Teague emphasized the former reporting that Hasan's colleagues found his Islamic views so extreme that "some believed he could be delusional but they worried taking action against him might be considered discrimination." ABC's Brian Ross focused on Hasan's ideology instead, citing "reports on the many contacts Hasan allegedly made with people who have urged attacks on the United States."

ABC's Ross mentioned only one of these "people" by name. He profiled Hasan's exiled onetime imam Anwar al-Awkali. The cleric accuses the FBI of torturing him during an 18-month imprisonment in Yemen. Upon his release, Ross reported that the imam switched from being "a strict but mainstream Islamic preacher" to urging "attacks on the United States" in online lectures. Ross asserted that al-Awlaki "is considered," he did not say by whom, to be "an important al-Qaeda recruiter." A pair of foiled conspiracies--against soldiers at Fort Dix and against the Canadian parliament in Ottawa--used al-Awkali's video sermons as inspiration, Ross pointed out.

Ross did not report that Major Hasan watched the same sermons, only that he corresponded with al-Awlaki by e-mail. Ross did zero in on Hasan's personal business cards, which were found in his apartment. Instead of identifying himself as a member of the US military, the cards designated Hasan as SoA. "al-Awlaki addresses his followers as Soldiers of Allah," Ross warned, which makes Nasan himself "a Soldier of Allah." NBC's Williams saw no such ominous connection. He told us that under Hasan's name the card had "the abbreviation SoA (SWT), standing for Servant of Allah (His Name be Praised), a sign of Hasan's fervent religious beliefs."


CDC & NHS ON H1N1 CBS led off its newscast with an apparently sensational headline from the Centers of Disease Control. In-house physician Jon LaPook told us that the H1N1 swine 'flu has infected four times more Americans than just six days ago, some 22m, causing 3,900 deaths. LaPook immediately calmed us down. "The agency insists that the outbreak has not actually worsened." Instead the CDC's new computer model assigns many sicknesses to H1N1 even if they were not tested for the virus. Even after the adjustment, the H1N1 death toll is "only one tenth of what we see in a typical 'flu season." On NBC, Robert Bazell offered anecdotes from the frontlines of the outbreak. He visited the pediatric emergency room at Boston's Children's Hospital where visits have increased by 50% over the past few weeks.

Amid the badmouthing of socialized healthcare during the domestic political debate over reform, Sheila MacVicar offered positive publicity for Britain's government-run National Health Service. Why are there no long lines for the H1N1 vaccine in England? Why is there no panic about short supplies? CBS' MacVicar offered two explanations. First, Europeans make their vaccine differently, with an additive, producing four times as many doses from the same active ingredient. Second, the centralized healthcare bureaucracy of the NHS can prioritize patients according to their risk factors and underlying conditions. There are no lines for shots at clinics, because "vaccination is by invitation only." If you need one, your doctor's office calls you by telephone.


JOBS TAKE BACK SEAT TO HEALTHCARE, BANKERS After all the emphasis on healthcare reform this summer, ABC's David Muir picked up on signs that the White House is "putting jobs back at the top of the agenda." ABC's newscast offered the effort some credibility by leading off with Barack Obama's decision to convene a summit of job-creation experts. NBC and CBS offered no such support, not even mentioning the Jobs Summit in passing. And even Muir noted that the President's self-promotion for his efforts to help the economy boasted about "bold steps" to stabilize the financial sector--not new hiring.


HURRICANE SEASON NEEDS NON-TROPICAL ASSIST This has been a wimpy hurricane season, normally a headliner in the fall's news agenda. In the Atlantic alphabet, only Bill, Claudette and Danny have been deemed worthy of attention. Hurricane Ida seemed like a contender when she caused mudslides in El Salvador killing scores, but then she faded into a tropical storm over the Gulf of Mexico then a mere depression over Florida. Lo and behold! The remains of Ida joined forces with an Atlantic nor'easter and started drenching the mid-Atlantic with high waves and heavy rains. NBC's cable news sibling at the Weather Channel provided meteorology from Mike Seidel. CBS assigned Jim Axelrod to a storm watch on the Jersey Shore. ABC had David Kerley at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia.


MITCHELL ON PALIN ON OPRAH ON KATIE "Written at breakneck speed with a collaborator." That was Andrea Mitchell's understated dig at Going Rogue, the memoir by Sarah Palin. John McCain's Vice-Presidential running mate "is now running for revenge against what she sees as her tormentors in the campaign and in the media." NBC's Mitchell focused on Palin's interactions with other leading female media leading lights. She quoted Palin's written description of Katie Couric's Campaign 2008 interviews on CBS (links to all four parts here) as "badgering and biased."

Then Mitchell turned to Palin's comments on Couric on TV's Oprah. Winfrey persuaded Palin to be nicer to Couric and harsher on herself. Palin recounted her reaction to the positive pep talk about the interview she received from McCain's handlers: "If you thought that was a good interview I do not know what a bad interview was--because I knew it was not a good interview."