CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM MARCH 05, 2010
A botched assault by a mentally-ill gunman was Story of the Day. The man wounded a pair of security guards who in turn shot him dead. Normally such an incident would barely warrant a mention on a local newscast, let alone the networks' national news agenda. Yet NBC and CBS both led with the gunplay, deeming it more newsworthy than the latest unemployment statistics. ABC, to its credit, showed the sound judgment to lead with a 9.7% nationwide joblessness rate. What was it about the death of John Patrick Bedell, a 36-year-old Californian, that attracted so much attention? The guards who killed him happened to be protecting the Pentagon.    
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video thumbnailNBCPentagon guards attacked by gunman: shooter killedDead man suffered from delusions, mental illnessJim MiklaszewskiPentagon
video thumbnailABCUnemployment: joblessness, corporate layoffs persistFebruary statistics show 9.7% rate, 36K lossesBetsy StarkNew York
video thumbnailCBSRep Eric Massa (D-NY) accused of sexual harassmentResigns, compounds Democrats' image as corruptNancy CordesCapitol Hill
video thumbnailNBC2010 Arizona Senate race: Republican primaryIncumbent John McCain faces conservative rivalKelly O'DonnellPhoenix
video thumbnailCBSAuto safety: Toyota jammed accelerator problemsRunaways persist in several cars after pedal fixDean ReynoldsChicago
video thumbnailCBSIraq: political progress, parliamentary electionsIssues are security, reconstruction, corruptionElizabeth PalmerBaghdad
video thumbnailABCChile earthquake hits city of Concepcion: Richter 8.8Photojournalist finds iconic mud-covered flagJeffrey KofmanChile
video thumbnailNBCEarthquake preparedness along Pacific coastSouthern end of San Andreas Fault is vulnerableGeorge LewisCalifornia
video thumbnailABCKidnapped Cal girl, 11, found alive 18 years laterHome video shows return to normal family lifeChris CuomoNo Dateline
video thumbnailABCAcademy Awards ceremonies in HollywoodWill be co-hosted by Alec Baldwin, Steve MartinDiane SawyerNew York
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
LOCAL VIRGINIA CRIME TRUMPS NATIONWIDE JOBLESSNESS A botched assault by a mentally-ill gunman was Story of the Day. The man wounded a pair of security guards who in turn shot him dead. Normally such an incident would barely warrant a mention on a local newscast, let alone the networks' national news agenda. Yet NBC and CBS both led with the gunplay, deeming it more newsworthy than the latest unemployment statistics. ABC, to its credit, showed the sound judgment to lead with a 9.7% nationwide joblessness rate. What was it about the death of John Patrick Bedell, a 36-year-old Californian, that attracted so much attention? The guards who killed him happened to be protecting the Pentagon.

All three newscasts treated Bedell as a national security story, assigning the incident to their Pentagon correspondents. Bedell was certainly a colorful character. CBS' David Martin played us a clip from a get-rich-quick scheme he had posted on YouTube. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski checked Bedell's "frequent rants on the Internet" and found that Bedell was a Truther, accusing the federal government of instigating the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. ABC's Martha Raddatz was more interested in the War on Drugs than the War on Terrorism: "Since 2004, Bedell had been treated for bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety that he had tried to alleviate with marijuana. In 2006, Bedell was arrested for growing marijuana."

Bedell was armed with a pair of semi-automatic handguns. Justice Department correspondent Bob Orr on CBS (at the tail of the Martin videostream) checked into how this mental patient could obtain such weapons: "If there was a court order or if Bedell was ever deemed to be a threat to himself or other people, then that information should have shown up on a background check, preventing him from ever owning a weapon in California…In neighboring states, like Arizona and Nevada, weapons can be bought in private sales with no background checks."


WINTER OFFERS COLD COMFORT The 9.7% unemployment rate in February did not improve compared with January. Worse, the total number in employment deteriorated, declining by 36,000. Yet the month's severe winter weather proved to be the silver lining. ABC's Betsy Stark consulted her economist sources and concluded that "given all the businesses forced by fierce snowstorms to shut down in February, many took it as a hopeful omen that last month's job losses were not a lot worse." Similar unidentified experts told John Yang the same thing on NBC: "It could have been even better if it had not been for February's severe weather." This was cold comfort for college graduates, CBS' Anthony Mason warned. Many have to settle for internships rather than jobs.


EMPIRE STATE DEMS AND ARIZONA GOP The decision by upstate New Yorker Eric Massa to resign from Congress capped a bad week for the Empire State's Democrats. CBS' Nancy Cordes pointed to allegations of sexual harassment against Congressman Massa plus the ethically-challenged Charles Rangel's decision to relinquish his chairmanship of the House Ways & Means Committee plus Gov David Paterson's decision not to run for re-election, accused of interfering in a domestic violence investigation. "This has been a dreadful week for Democrats," ABC's Jonathan Karl commented, digging up Speaker Nancy Pelosi's pledge to "drain the swamp that is Washington DC" when her party came into power in 2006.

NBC focused on the other side of the aisle, as John McCain, the incumbent Republican Senator from Arizona, faces a primary challenge from JD Hayworth, the "former radio host and former Congressman," as Kelly O'Donnell called him. Hayworth's online advertising paints McCain in blue face to accuse him of only acting the part of a conservative. McCain's campaign called the Avatar spoof "offensive and outrageous."


RUNAWAYS GRAB ATTENTION Are Toyota runaways a thing of the past now that the mechanical problems of fat floor mats and grabbing gas pedals have been fixed? The network nightly newscasts have spent an enormous amount of time (ABC 51 min, CBS 53, NBC 49) since the worry about jammed accelerators was catapulted into national prominence last September by the fatal crash of a Lexus in Los Angeles last September, complete with a terrified passenger's cellphone commentary--Hold on! Pray! Pray!--as he hurtled to his death.

ABC's Brian Ross (14 reports) and CBS' Dean Reynolds (10 reports) have led the way and now both report anecdotal evidence that several cars still suffer from runaway acceleration, even after the dealerships' fix. Ross mentioned 16 complaints in his report on Thursday, including the Camry driven by Stewart Stogel, a former ABC News colleague; Reynolds put the number at 60 on Friday: "Toyota pointed out that these new complaints involve what it called 'a tiny fraction' of the more than 1m recalled vehicles its dealers have repaired so far."


SHOPPING IN SHORJA Dateline Baghdad: both NBC's Richard Engel and CBS' Elizabeth Palmer filed a final preview of Iraq's parliamentary elections. Just as Miguel Marquez did on Thursday for ABC, Palmer enjoyed the once-bombed Shorja Market, now "revitalized" and "again bustling with shoppers." Palmer pointed to Ayad Allawi, a former prime minister, and Nouri al-Maliki, the incumbent, as the major contenders to run a nation that still lacks basic services such as garbage collection and household electricity. "No one is expected to win outright," noted Engel. He predicted six months of horse trading as the parties jockey for power in a coalition government.


WHAT SO PROUDLY HE HAILED A week of reconstruction in Chile after the earthquake was marked by NBC's Mark Potter in the remote south, where both army and navy are finally delivering supplies. ABC's Jeffrey Kofman was in Santiago where a telethon fundraiser was about to go on air. Its guest of honor will be Bruno Sandoval, the subject of an iconic piece of photournalism. He was searching through the mudstrewn debris that was once his home when he found a splattered national flag. Sandoval retrieved it and cleaned it up and that famous photo was taken: "He is in every newspaper here, every magazine. TV programs closed with his image."

NBC followed up with George Lewis filing the domestic angle from the southern end of the San Andreas Fault in California's San Bernardino County. The Cajon Pass, "a vital California lifeline, carrying Interstate highway traffic, rail traffic, power, oil and natural gas supplies" would be cut off in a big earthquake. The probability that such a quake will happen before 2040 is 94%.


SAWYER'S A SHILL, TOO It is no violation of journalistic integrity for a network news division to use its nightly newscast to cross-promote a newsworthy story being covered on one of its other programs. So Andrea Mitchell can legitimately cross-promote NBC's exclusive interview with Karl Rove as he promotes his book on Today. Chris Cuomo can legitimately promote ABC's exclusive homevideo of Jaycee Dugard on 20/20, showing the girl who was kidnapped and held captive for 18 years readjusting to family life with her daughters, mother and sister.

When cross-promotion undercuts the journalistic credibility of the network anchors is when they try with a straight face to treat entertainment as newsworthy. NBC's Brian Williams spent two weeks in Vancouver purporting to present the Winter Olympic Games as a legitimate story. Now Diane Sawyer misuses her network's Person of the Week feature a second time in order to drum up an audience for ABC's coverage of the Academy Awards ceremonies. A month ago she named The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow; now Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, the co-presenters, get the treatment. "It is a high wire assignment, all of us at home deciding whether they are funny or not, all of us thinking we know everything there is to know about movies"…all of us knowing that there is no journalistic purpose whatsoever being served by such free advertising for Disney's entertainment timeslot.