For the second straight day, all three newscasts decided to kick off with the early winter cold snap that stretches from the Great Lakes to Florida. CBS and ABC, which had George Stephanopoulos as substitute anchor, both led off from Florida, where a frost threatens the fruit harvest. NBC chose the Lake Effect snowstorm that immobilized a highway in Ontario, stranding hundreds.    
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video thumbnailABCWinter weatherFrost in southeast, snow around Great LakesMatt GutmanFlorida
video thumbnailNBCWinter weatherSnows strand motorists on Ontario highwayJohn YangIndiana
video thumbnailNBCWinter weatherUnusual cold surprises Sunshine State touristsKerry SandersFlorida
video thumbnailNBCFederal porkbarrel spending on earmarked projectsLame duck adds $8bn in extras to $1.1tr budgetKelly O'DonnellCapitol Hill
video thumbnailCBSAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingUSMC foot patrols amputated by roadside bombsDavid MartinMaryland
video thumbnailCBSDiplomat Richard Holbrooke dies, aged 69Harmed his health in Afghan-Pakistan shuttleChip ReidWhite House
video thumbnailNBCDiplomat Richard Holbrooke dies, aged 69ObituaryBrian WilliamsNew York
video thumbnailCBSState Department secret diplomatic cables leakedWikiLeaks leader's release on bail blockedElizabeth PalmerLondon
video thumbnailABCState Department secret diplomatic cables leakedWikiLeaks leadership splits, Openleaks spinoffBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailABCWar on Drugs: prescription painkiller medicine abuseDealers pay homeless to fake pain, obtain RXsChris CuomoHouston
EARLY WINTER COLD FROM THE LAKES TO THE KEYS For the second straight day, all three newscasts decided to kick off with the early winter cold snap that stretches from the Great Lakes to Florida. CBS and ABC, which had George Stephanopoulos as substitute anchor, both led off from Florida, where a frost threatens the fruit harvest. NBC chose the Lake Effect snowstorm that immobilized a highway in Ontario, stranding hundreds.

There really was not very much news to be found in the cold. NBC's John Yang demonstrated what frozen sand looks like. ABC's Stephanopoulos brought in his Good Morning America colleague Sam Champion (at the tail of the Matt Gutman videostream) to show us how the jetstream works. CBS' Mark Strassmann checked that oranges will still be juicy. ABC's Gutman worried about the chilly macaws at the Palm Beach Zoo. NBC's Kerry Sanders slipped in a crafty cross-promotion for Universal Orlando's theme park, NBC's corporate sibling, as he filed vox pop on disappointed sun-seeking tourists.

OTHER NOTES FROM TUESDAY’S NEWSCASTS… Porkbarrel spending on Capitol Hill is normally a specialty of CBS (13 reports in the past four years v ABC 8, NBC 4) and NBC's Kelly O'Donnell proved that she really does not have Sharyl Attkisson's Follow the Money feel for populist outrage. O'Donnell started off publicizing the righteous indignation of John McCain as the Senate debated an additional $1.1tr in spending but then she ran out of steam. The four earmark examples she cited--beavers, weeds, peanuts, wine--were for paltry amounts; overall, the additions amounted to $8bn, less than 1% of the total. O'Donnell's intention was apparently to make McCain look like a people's anti-pork champion; her math turned him into a blowhard--but she buried that lead.

One has to admire David Martin's bedside manner when covering the maimed, disfigured and amputated casualties of war. Here is a playlist of eight such reports over the past 30 months by the CBS Pentagon correspondent. In striking a tone that is stoic rather than maudlin, Martin does himself proud and bestows honor on the wounded. His latest from Bethesda Naval Hospital looks at the legion of legs blown off during Marine Corps foot patrols in Afghanistan.

The news of the death of diplomat Richard Holbrooke, aged 69, arrived too late for the east coast feed of the nightly newscasts on Monday. Tuesday saw catch-up: NBC anchor Brian Williams filed the most comprehensive formal obituary. ABC and CBS folded their coverage of Holbrooke into their reporting on the National Security Council review of the strategy for Afghanistan. CBS' Chip Reid suggested that Holbrooke's hectic Afghanistan-Pakistan diplomacy was to blame for his ruptured artery. ABC's Martha Raddatz called the Kabul-Islamabad shuttle "perhaps the most difficult job of all."

If the media management strategy at the State Department in the face of's looming data dump of secret cables is to try to change the subject then it has succeeded in spades. The story is now Julian Assange's legal jeopardy not the global diplomacy of the United States. All three newscasts covered Assange's bail hearing in London: CBS' Elizabeth Palmer, ABC's Jim Sciutto, NBC's Peter Alexander. ABC followed up with Brian Ross' Investigates feature on the rift between Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg, leading to Openleaks, a WikiLeaks spinoff. There was not a single mention in all four reports on the content of any fresh secrets leaking out of the State Department.

How good is Chris Cuomo as a pill smurf? That is the nickname for fake patients paid to visit pain clinics with imaginary bad backs to wangle illicit prescriptions for narcotic relief. The 20/20 anchor dressed up as a homeless person in Houston on ABC for an Investigation to see what scrip he could score. Cuomo is a bad smurf. All he could land was a little Loriset.

THAT’S NOT NEWS; THAT’S… CBS was the first network newscast to spot The King's Speech as the season's movie with big buzz. Colin Firth, who plays the stuttering King George VI, sat down with @katiecouric last month for an online one-on-one to go with the anchor's Evening News package. The other two networks avoided the celebrity route, filing features about the speech impediment instead, first NBC's Lee Cowan, now ABC's Sharyn Alfonsi. No matter: whether it is about glamour or about stammer, that's not news; that's publicity-and-promotion.

In a whirligig of cross-promotion, CBS had Richard Schlesinger file the latest in its demographically-pandering Senior Moment series (previous entries had been Jon LaPook on Alzheimer's Disease and Anthony Mason on Social Security), produced in collaboration with USA Today. Schlesinger used his feature to publicize Nora Ephron's latest book, I Remember Nothing, which is about divorce, which is the topic of the new vertical that Ephron has launched at Huffington Post. So what is the news that Schlesinger has to tell us? Babyboomers are the divorcingest generation in American history--except that our cohort's divorce rate is not peaking now but already peaked back in 1979. That's not news; that's history.

NBC relied on ITN, its British newsgathering partner, to cover the storm-tossed Royal Caribbean cruise liner Brilliance of the Seas. John Ray was in safe harbor in Malta to cover the buffeted passengers that ABC's Linsey Davis had told us about Monday. Ray called the shipboard protests "something close to mutiny." So NBC fills its limited newshole with a pair of stories about tourists disgruntled by weather: Kerry Sanders on the cold in Orlando and ITN's Ray on high seas in the Mediterranean. That's not news; that's complaining.