CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM MARCH 08, 2010
The task of digesting the Oscar buzz after Sunday night's ceremonies qualified the Academy Awards the Story of the Day even though they were treated as mere celebrity trivia by ABC and NBC and as the basis for a movie industry trend feature on CBS. As far as hard news was concerned, NBC led with the countdown to the vote on healthcare reform and CBS chose Toyota's runaway car crashes. ABC decided to lead with an investigative feature into one of Merck's best selling prescription drugs. The only news story to be covered by a correspondent on all three newscasts was the parliamentary election in Iraq.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR MARCH 08, 2010: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailCBSIraq: political progress, parliamentary electionsTurnout exceeded 60% despite threats of violenceElizabeth PalmerBaghdad
video thumbnailCBSAuto safety: Toyota jammed accelerator problemsEngineers challenge criticism of electronicsDean ReynoldsChicago
video thumbnailNBCHealthcare reform: universal and managed carePresident Obama mobilizes against insurersSavannah GuthrieWhite House
video thumbnailNBCSodas, colas and soft drinks health concernsTax might reduce consumption, help weight lossRobert BazellNew York
video thumbnailABCPrescription drug Fosamax side-effect problemsProlonged use can make thigh bone brittleRichard BesserNew York
video thumbnailCBSJFK assassination in Dallas rememberedBook assembles collection of condolence lettersNancy CordesWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCMilitary funerals picketed by homophobe protestorsFree speech vs kin's privacy at Supreme CourtPete WilliamsSupreme Court
video thumbnailCBSUSMC boot camp makes men of fresh-faced youthCollege dropout acquires maturity in uniformSteve HartmanNew York
video thumbnailABCAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingBomb squad works on IEDs, real-life Hurt LockerDiane SawyerNew York
video thumbnailNBCAcademy Awards ceremonies in HollywoodHighlights, quirks of ceremonies summarizedLee CowanLos Angeles
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
ACADEMY VOTERS OUTRANK IRAQI VOTERS The task of digesting the Oscar buzz after Sunday night's ceremonies qualified the Academy Awards the Story of the Day even though they were treated as mere celebrity trivia by ABC and NBC and as the basis for a movie industry trend feature on CBS. As far as hard news was concerned, NBC led with the countdown to the vote on healthcare reform and CBS chose Toyota's runaway car crashes. ABC decided to lead with an investigative feature into one of Merck's best selling prescription drugs. The only news story to be covered by a correspondent on all three newscasts was the parliamentary election in Iraq.

All three networks sent a reporter to Baghdad to cover the vote. "The results are going to take a few days to come in and even when they do, they are unlikely to produce one clear winner with enough power to rule," CBS' Elizabeth Palmer pointed out. "That means furious horse trading all summer to come up with a ruling coalition." So the angle of the day was the massive turnout--12m votes cast, 62% of those eligible. ABC's Miguel Marquez consulted the vox pop in the Karrada District: "No matter how many bombings there were in Baghdad yesterday, they would have gone out to vote." NBC's Richard Engel noted that organizing the vote and maintaining precinct security was an entirely Iraqi affair, with no role for the US military: "After seven years of war it seems Iraqis have grown hard to intimidate."


BRIAN ROSS RAPPED AS DRAMA QUEEN ABC News itself was at the center of the day's developments in the ongoing Toyota runaway story. It was three weeks ago that Brian Ross had showcased an experiment by Professor David Gilbert of Southern Illinois University that demonstrated how to produce uncontrollable acceleration by manipulating a car's electronics. The professor showed Ross the runaway even as the automaker was insisting that its problems were purely mechanical. CBS' Dean Reynolds noticed "a new aggressiveness" as Toyota's consultants at a firm called Exponent "sought to debunk both the research and what was called ABC's 'dramatized report.'" Exponent claimed that Gilbert's conclusions were based on "extreme improbability" and were "essentially meaningless."

For his part, Ross was not on hand, so ABC had David Muir cover Exponent's presentation. Muir did not mention the accusation of "dramatization" against Ross but he did repeat the charges against the professor: "Gilbert's scenario could not have happened in the real world and Toyota could easily manipulate the same results, not only with a Toyota, but with several other cars too." NBC did not mention Toyota's press conference.

That very afternoon, a Toyota Prius happened to experience a jammed accelerator while driving along I-8 in San Diego. The car reached speeds of 90 mph before it was intercepted by the Highway Patrol and brought safely to a halt. Ben Tracy kicked off CBS' newscast with a brief verbal summary of the incident.


TEA PARTY PRESIDENT NBC decided to lead off its newscast with domestic politics as Barack Obama traveled to Philadelphia to rally his supporters in one final push for healthcare reform. White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie heard the President "looking to stiffen the spines of wavering Democrats" by making the health insurance industry his target. Jonathan Karl analyzed Obama's populist tone on ABC: "He hopes to tie into some of that Tea Party anger by focusing on a group that the White House believes is even more unpopular than Congress." He called it "a change in tactics." Last year the White House argued that healthcare reform "would actually be good for the insurance industry by giving them access to millions of more new customers."


CONNECTED TO THE THIGH BONE Viewers of the network nightly newscasts are bombarded constantly with advertising touting the benefits of brand-name prescription drugs. So Tyndall Report applauds the editorial side when it encourages countervailing skepticism. It is important for their own credibility that the network news divisions should not seem to be promotional arms of the pharmaceutical industry.

In an ABC News Investigates feature, in-house physician Richard Besser pointed to Merck's Fosamax brand. It is prescribed for osteoporosis to prevent the bone loss that can lead to fractures of the hip. Yet prolonged treatment can also make bones brittle. Dr Besser offered anecdotes of snapping thigh bones after eight years of Fosamax use and pointed to six words in the fine print in the musculoskeletal warning section--"low energy femoral shaft and subtroconteric fractures." Yet the Food & Drug Administration has never made an effort to inform physicians. Declared Dr Besser: "I was shocked by the lack of attention this has received by the federal government."


SIN TAX ON SODA? Score two out of three for the Gillings School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina. Both NBC and CBS picked up on its estimate that higher prices would reduce demand for sweetened sodas. Its research model projected that a tax of 1c/oz would raise retail prices by 18% and reduce daily consumption by 56 calories. CBS' Michelle Miller told us that Colorado already levies the tax; Illinois, California and New York may be next in line. NBC's Robert Bazell quoted an argument against the tax: "The American Beverage Association does not think a tax on beverages will solve a complex problem like obesity." That soundbite sets up a straw man, since the Gillings study never claimed it would "solve" obesity, merely mitigate it to the extent of five pounds a year. Bazell did not point to the straw man but he did observe that "there is a lot of evidence that so-called sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol reduce consumption and generate revenue."


YET MORE HIGHER EDUCATION After SIU and UNC, a third professor made the national news agenda. Ellen Fitzpatrick, a historian working at the Kennedy Presidential Library, found an archive of 15,000 letters of condolence out of the total of 1.5m messages written to the widowed Jacqueline Kennedy in the aftermath of JFK's assassination. She selected her 220 favorites and published them in a collection Letters to Jackie. CBS' Nancy Cordes gave the book some free publicity.


SOLDIERS’ STORIES A trio of military stories appeared on the three newscasts, one on each network. NBC selected a hard news story as Pete Williams told us about the Supreme Court's decision to take the case of the Rev Fred Phelps and the bereaved family of USMC Cpl Matthew Snyder. Phelps' congregation pickets military funerals warning that war deaths are God's punishment for allowing homosexuals to serve. The Justices will decide whether Phelps' "utterly distasteful" speech--in the lower court's words--is Constitutionally protected.

Steve Hartman introduced us to 21-year-old Heinrich Soltow for his Assignment America feature on CBS. Hartman became Big Brother to Soltow's Little Brother when the boy was in the third grade and mentored him weekly for ten years. Soltow went on to college but dropped out. "A five-star underachiever," Hartman called his protege. Imagine Hartman's surprise at a visit to Camp Pendleton as Cpl Soltow headed off to Afghanistan: "This story is about how the Marines changed him."

ABC's military story was inspired by the year's best movie at the Academy Awards. Karen Russo, one of the network's young generation of single-person digital reporting crews, was sent to Afghanistan to show us a bomb squad at work--The Hurt Locker in real life. Russo recorded the videotape and collected the defusers' soundbites but ABC was still unwilling to put her front and center. Anchor Diane Sawyer took over the narrating chores and voiced-over Russo's work from New York. Russo would get her chance on Nightline, Sawyer promised.


A KANYE MOMENT As for the Academy Awards ceremonies themselves, ABC's Sharyn Alfonsi isolated five highlights and NBC's Lee Cowan agreed with two of them…actor Ben Stiller spoofing Avatar-speak and the dueling documentarians' Kanye moment. Bill Whitaker forecast that Avatar's impact on the industry will be permanent despite Oscar's preference for the Locker but you have to take my word for that since CBS did not offer his prognostications as a videostream.