Only the conclusion of the tabloid tale of Amanda Knox could keep unexpected news from the labor market from scoring a clean sweep of the day's headlines. A decline in the unemployment rate to 10.0% in November with the pace of job losses almost halting—only 11,000 jobs were lost nationwide—was the Story of the Day and the lead item on NBC and ABC. Technically speaking, November was the 23rd straight month of net layoffs but it was the closest month to positive since the start of the recession. Only CBS decided not to lead with jobs. It selected the verdict in the murder trial in Perugia.    
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video thumbnailABCUnemployment: November jobless rate falls to 10.0%Layoffs improve, only 11,000 jobs lost in monthBetsy StarkNew York
video thumbnailNBCUnemployment: November jobless rate falls to 10.0%President Obama to unveil hiring aid, incentivesChuck ToddWhite House
video thumbnailNBCUnemployment: November jobless rate falls to 10.0%Black population hardest hit, face hiring woesRon AllenNew York
video thumbnailNBCGlobal warming greenhouse effect climate changeScientists hacked, accused of fudging dataAnne ThompsonNew York
video thumbnailABCAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingUSMC offensive in Helmand's Now Zad ValleyMiguel MarquezAfghanistan
video thumbnailCBSAbortion: Kansas clinic doctor assassinatedLate-term procedures now performed by colleagueJim AxelrodNebraska
video thumbnailABCIndestructible soccer ball inventedFor children's play in Third World refugee campsCharles GibsonNew York
video thumbnailNBCThird World public health aid effortsCharity recycles hospital surplus suppliesMichael OkwuColorado
video thumbnailCBSEnglish exchange student murdered in Perugia, ItalySeattle coed convicted of killing her roommateAllen PizzeyItaly
video thumbnailNBCGiant panda conservation efforts at zoosCub born at National Zoo reclaimed by ChinaAndrea MitchellWashington DC
COED KILLER DISTRACTS CBS FROM IMPROVING ECONOMY Only the conclusion of the tabloid tale of Amanda Knox could keep unexpected news from the labor market from scoring a clean sweep of the day's headlines. A decline in the unemployment rate to 10.0% in November with the pace of job losses almost halting—only 11,000 jobs were lost nationwide—was the Story of the Day and the lead item on NBC and ABC. Technically speaking, November was the 23rd straight month of net layoffs but it was the closest month to positive since the start of the recession. Only CBS decided not to lead with jobs. It selected the verdict in the murder trial in Perugia.

"Economists say a turnaround in the job market may be in sight. Employers all but stopped laying off workers in November," was how CBS' business correspondent Anthony Mason summarized the response to the data. "Economists credit the government's massive stimulus spending with getting the job market to this point," reported ABC's business correspondent Betsy Stark. NBC's Chuck Todd quoted CNBC's in-house economist Steve Liesman, who was more dismal than his colleagues: "The job market is still very tough. The best you can say from this report," he shrugged, "is that it is less bad than we thought it was. It is still bad and we are still losing jobs."

ABC's Stark pointed to the bright spots of hiring in public education and retail department stores--plus a pick-up at temp agencies, "which typically signals better job numbers ahead."

All three White House correspondents predicted that Barack Obama will roll out new proposals for federal spending to boost hiring. CBS' Chip Reid (no link) reported that $70bn would likely be designated from the Treasury Department's TARP bailout fund for the financial industry. "The White House refuses to call the plan a second stimulus but in fact it looks a lot like a smaller version of the first stimulus." The money would be spent on a combination of subsidies to state and local governments to prevent layoffs, for tax breaks for businesses that hire workers, and in investments in infrastructure and energy efficiency. "He wants money going out of the door immediately," ABC's Jake Tapper told us about the President.

At a town hall meeting in Allentown Pa, the President congratulated a college student for the "boldness" of his question suggesting that the economy could be stimulated by decriminalizing narcotics dealers and legalizing sex workers. "Rest assured," responded NBC's puritanical Todd, "the President said he is not considering any of those ideas to stimulate job growth." Why should that allow us to rest assured?

NBC sent Ron Allen into the African-American community to inquire why blacks suffer a 15.6% unemployment rate compared with 9.3% for whites. The unidentified "analysts" whom Allen consulted told him that there have been disproportionate losses in low wage positions in urban areas in manufacturing and retail, "many jobs black workers traditionally hold." Allen also mentioned an Economic Policy Institute experiment that sent out identical resumes using different first names: Emily got more positive responses than Lakeisha; Greg got more than Jamaal.

HACKED WARMING E-MAILS FINALLY COVERED Climate change has a hard time cracking the network's news agenda. Reporters have filed only 53 packages on global warming in the past three years on all three newscasts combined. NBC (24 reports v ABC 18, CBS 11) has been the least remiss. Environmental correspondent Anne Thompson alone has been responsible for 14 of them. Thompson's latest report covered "the hottest debate in the blogosphere" in the lead-up to the United Nations' conference on global warming in Copenhagen. She was referring to the hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia in England that revealed "climate scientists massaging data and suppressing studies by those who disagree." The upshot, Thompson's unidentified sources predicted, would not so much undercut environmental diplomacy in Denmark as block carbon politics on Capitol Hill, "giving politicians from coal-and-oil producing states another reason to delay action to reduce emissions."

CHASING GHOSTS IN A BOOBYTRAPPED NOW ZAD NBC's Jim Maceda dubbed it "Apocalypse Now Zad, a hellish mix of 130F heat and killer wasps" when he was embedded with USMC patrols in August (here and here). Now ABC's Miguel Marquez pursues his embedded mission (his previous reports are here, here and here) with the Marine Corps in southern Helmand Province as yet another offensive was launched on the town of Now Zad, where "over the last four years the Taliban has set up a shadow government."

Nominally, Operation Cobra's Anger was a joint mission of USMC forces and the Afghanistan national army. In fact only 150 local soldiers were fighting alongside the 1,000 leathernecks and their "tanks, helicopters, planes and artillery." ABC's Marquez told us that there was very little fighting to do anyway. Now Zad, with a supposed population of 30,000, turned out to be a boobytrapped ghost town. "We have been halted here and it looks like we are going to spend the night in this MRAP;"--the armored vehicle in which he was cramped--"we cannot even step out of it for fear of Taliban bombs."

AXELROD WADES INTO ABORTION MINEFIELD Brad Wilmouth, our conservative news-monitoring colleague at the Media Research Center, had six quibbles with Jim Axelrod's CBS profile of LeRoy Carhart, who runs an "abortion & contraception clinic" in Nebraska. Carhart provides late-term abortions in the heartland following the assassination of his Kansan colleague George Tiller in May. Axelrod showed Carhart driving by a different route each morning to get to his clinic for fear that he too would be murdered by a pro-life militant.

One, Wilmouth accused Axelrod of providing a "softball forum" for Carhart to describe his practice. Two, he objected to the use of the word "cause" to characterize Carhart's determination to "care for women." Three, Axelrod did not use the term "partial birth" to describe late-term abortions and did not describe the procedure. Four, Axelrod was criticized for using the formulation "not all of his strongest critics condone violence" when he could have used the word "most" instead. Five, Axelrod was not shown directly confronting Carhart with pro-life arguments. Six, Wilmouth criticized Axelrod for portraying pro-life arguments as having a religious basis rather than "a more solid physical argument."

Wilmouth also defined Carhart as a "late-term abortion doctor" even though Axelrod told us in his report that Carhart only rarely performs procedures later than the 22nd week--about once every ten days--compared with a total of 3,500 pregnancies that he terminates each year. Wilmouth did quote Axelrod's exchange with a pro-life picketer: "It is the law of the land that he is allowed to do what he is doing." "It was the law of the land in Germany to corral Jews and gas them. It was the law of the land to make black people slaves."

Wilmouth was wrong to call this feature "softball." His criticisms about word use--"cause""partial birth"--are nitpicking. His implication that pro-life arguments were underrepresented is groundless. And yes, Wilmouth is correct to call Axelrod on that "not all" disclaimer. There is no evidence that anything except a minuscule minority of pro-life activists have assassination in their minds.

INDESTRUCTIBLE FOOTBALL Both ABC and NBC closed the week with Third World charities. Michael Okwu took us to Project Cure's warehouse in Colorado for NBC's Making a Difference where surplus medical supplies from hospitals and collected, sorted, tested and shipped for reuse at the poorest clinics and hospitals in more than 120 countries. Photojournalist Bobby Sager and pop singer Sting were ABC's Persons of the Week for their book project The Power of the Invisible Sun, named after the hit song Sting wrote thirty years ago.

On the day that FIFA made its draw for the World Cup (see Nate Silver's predictions here) in South Africa it was apt that anchor Charles Gibson should publicize Sager's shots. Sting noticed one in particular--"a very poignant picture," he called it--of the makeshift football children used for a kickaround in a refugee camp in Rwanda. Sting commissioned the research & development of the Indestructible Ball: "It feels like a football. You can stick a knife in it. You can drive a car over it." And you can pay for its distribution to children all over the world by buying Sager's book.

KNOX BELONGS IN PRIMETIME The Amanda Knox story did not really belong on the nightly news agenda. All three newscasts implicitly acknowledged that the lurid murder trial in Perugia was more sensational than substantive by having their correspondents preview primetime newsmagazine coverage of the case. Elizabeth Vargas cross-promoted 20/20 on ABC. Allen Pizzey publicized 48 Hours Mystery on CBS. On NBC, Keith Miller offered a trailer for Dateline.

What was so sensational about Knox, the 22-year-old coed from Seattle, and her dead roommate Meredith Kercher, an English exchange student? ABC's Vargas characterized the prosecution as depicting Knox as "a she-devil" while the defense called her "an exuberant young woman." NBC's Miller paraphrased a prosecution allegation that Knox "attempted to lure Kercher into a sex game and when she refused Knox slit her throat" and later that Knox was "seeking vengeance against a roommate who complained that she was promiscuous." As for CBS' Pizzey: "The prosecution painted Knox as a promiscuous, manipulative liar with low personal hygiene standards."

MITCHELL TURNS CUDDLY Andrea Mitchell, NBC's serious senior diplomatic correspondent, was assigned to the soft side of the United States' dealings with the People's Republic of China. When the PRC reclaimed Tai Shan, the 200lb, four-year-old giant panda cub that was born at the National Zoo, even the spokesman at China's Washington Embassy "seemed embarrassed to be taking him away." How would he be able to explain to his colleagues that the cute critter could no longer be seen in the District of Columbia?