CONTAINING LINKS TO 55600 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM DECEMBER 17, 2010
There was a split decision about the day's top story. ABC led with the staggering sum of money that the widow of a major investor in Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme decided to repay to the bankruptcy trustee: $7.2bn. CBS led with the press availability that Julian Assange, the figurehead of WikiLeaks.org, granted upon his release from jail on bail: anchor Katie Couric pre-taped her interview. NBC chose the two-year extension of the tax cuts from the Bush Administration that would otherwise have expired at the end of the year. All three networks had their White House correspondents cover President Barack Obama's signing ceremony. The tax deal, which had been Story of the Day last Friday when former President Bill Clinton lobbied for it, was Story of the Day once more as it was enacted.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR DECEMBER 17, 2010: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailABCTax cuts from Bush Administration due to expireExtension deal passes House, signed into lawJake TapperWhite House
video thumbnailCBSTax cuts from Bush Administration due to expireHouse Democrats were divided over extension dealNancy CordesCapitol Hill
video thumbnailABCHijacked jets kamikaze attacks on NYC, DCWTC workers' $7bn healthcare fund may be blockedJonathan KarlCapitol Hill
video thumbnailABCState Department secret diplomatic cables leakedWikiLeaks leader denies data dump is espionageJim SciuttoEngland
video thumbnailABCFinancier Bernard Madoff convicted of $65bn fraudWidow of investor hands back $7bn to trusteeBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailCBSChristmas holiday season gets under wayRetailers see shopping rebound, best since 2006Anthony MasonNew York State
video thumbnailNBCFast food restaurant industry trendsHappy Meals toys sued for hyping poor nutritionLee CowanLos Angeles
video thumbnailNBCLos Angeles serial killer: ten dead since 1985Photo gallery of 180 women may be targets tooKristen WelkerLos Angeles
video thumbnailCBSBooks scanned by Google to form digital databaseTrack 500 years of word trends interactivelyJohn BlackstoneSan Francisco
video thumbnailABCThird World public health aid effortsInfant nutrition, potable water are key issuesDiane SawyerNew York
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
OBAMA SIGNS HIMSELF A $300K/YR TAKE-HOME RAISE There was a split decision about the day's top story. ABC led with the staggering sum of money that the widow of a major investor in Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme decided to repay to the bankruptcy trustee: $7.2bn. CBS led with the press availability that Julian Assange, the figurehead of WikiLeaks.org, granted upon his release from jail on bail: anchor Katie Couric pre-taped her interview. NBC chose the two-year extension of the tax cuts from the Bush Administration that would otherwise have expired at the end of the year. All three networks had their White House correspondents cover President Barack Obama's signing ceremony. The tax deal, which had been Story of the Day last Friday when former President Bill Clinton lobbied for it, was Story of the Day once more as it was enacted.

Jake Tapper on ABC went into more taxing detail than either Chip Reid on CBS or Savannah Guthrie on NBC. He contrasted the extra money that three different households will pocket now that the deal has passed. An unemployed woman in Sacramento will get $270 each week; a two-income family of three in Maryland will take home roughly $6,000 more for the entire year; the First Family of the United States will be $295,223 richer--and the National Debt will expand by $858bn.

CBS' Reid noted a lack of Democrats at the signing ceremony. Neither Speaker Nancy Pelosi nor Majority Leader Harry Reid attended. At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, CBS' Nancy Cordes ticked off the next business for the lame duck Congress: the Pentagon's don't-ask-don't-tell policy on gays in the military may be repealed, and the $8bn in earmarks that her colleague Sharyl Attkisson has been lambasting (here and here) as porkbarrel spending will fail. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell covered the conflicting priorities in the Senate between DADT repeal and START ratification. ABC's Jonathan Karl took inspiration from Jon Stewart's non-comedic crusade on The Daily Show to push for passage of the $7bn plan to provide healthcare for workers poisoned by toxic rubble at the World Trade Center. Despite that publicity, Karl concluded that "time is running out."


DO NOT CONFLATE MEDIA WITH ESPIONAGE; DO NOT ASK ABOUT SEX CBS anchor Katie Couric aired her one-on-one with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.org, as he granted a round of interviews from his bail location in the snowy English countryside. Couric's major criticism of WikiLeaks' dump of State Department secrets was the one mentioned by David Martin, CBS' Pentagon correspondent, last week: that it publicized global infrastructure weak points, making them terrorist targets. Assange's answer to Couric comes at 2:55.

On CBS, Assange criticized prosecutors for an attempt to "conflate media activities with espionage." ABC's Jim Sciutto was on the scene for his q-&-a: "Security officers have a job to keep things secret. The press has a job to expose the public to the truth. So that is our job and we are doing it. The fact that the State Department was not able to do their job is a matter for them," was Assange's money quote. Sciutto asked Assange if he had forcibly spread his lover's legs and held her down to have sex with her in Sweden. Watch Assange's response non-verbal at the end of the Sciutto package. On CBS, Couric asked only about secrets, not about sex.


OTHER NOTES FROM FRIDAY’S NEWSCASTS… Brian Ross has owned the Bernard Madoff story on ABC, accounting for 13 of 20 World News reports since the Ponzi scheme was exposed two years ago. The agreement by Barbara Picower, the widow of Madoff's biggest investor, to repay the billions of dollars that her husband Jeffry withdrew from Madoff's fund was covered both by Ross and his investigative counterpart on CBS, Armen Keteyian. Ross' speculation was the juicier. Citing the "belief" of unidentified investigators, Ross reported that Madoff may have paid Picower such astronomical rates of return as hush money, because Picower knew about the fraud and was blackmailing him.

A trio of consumer trends, one on each newscast: NBC's Lee Cowan was unimpressed by the class action lawsuit filed against McDonald's for luring children into poor nutrition with the promise of Happy Meals toys. "For parents, sometimes, a No has to be a No," he instructed firmly…ABC's Sharyn Alfonsi followed a tenfold increase in credit card marketing, much of it targeted at borrowers with bad credit ratings, charging usurious interest rates, as high as 30%...Taking the conventional route, CBS' Anthony Mason checked the jewelry counter at a mall in Scarsdale NY for spending trends this Christmas. It is the strongest year for retailers since 2006, with a marked increase in selfishness--6% more so-called "self-gifting."

Los Angeles Times got a tip of the hat from NBC for its front page coverage of the so-called Grim Sleeper case. Kristen Welker told us that Lonnie Franklin, aged 57, is under arrest for the suspected serial killings of ten women in South Central starting in 1985. The newspaper printed a pitiful gallery of thumbnail photographs of 180 additional women, images found on film and on videotape in Franklin's home. "There may be more victims," warned Welker chillingly.

On a much jauntier note was John Blackstone's tip of the hat to Google on CBS. He walked us through its latest word-search chartmaker from a database of five million digitally scanned books. He toyed with groovy teenagers, and dogs and cats. Yet, disgracefully, Blackstone never bothered to give us the link or even to supply it at the cbsnews.com transcript of his story. CBS had to rely on a considerate commenter to perform that simplest piece of Internet etiqutte: here it is.


ABC PROMISES A NEW BEAT ABC anchor Diane Sawyer announced a new commitment by her network in 2011, which, if fulfilled, will go a long way to restoring the authenticity of the title of her newscast, ABC World News. Back in the days of the anchorship of Canadian-born Peter Jennings, ABC used to be the perennial leader among the three nightly newscasts in international coverage. ABC's streak from 1988 through 2006 was interrupted in only one year. Be the Change--Save a Life offers the prospect of a return to that preemenince with the launch of a new beat: development aid in the Third World. The beat is being subsidized, in part, by the foundation run by billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates. Sawyer showcased examples as she promised a "year-long odyssey": infant mortality prevention (Elizabeth Vargas), potable water (Chris Cuomo), girls' literacy (Christiane Amanpour), child nutrition (Richard Besser). Tyndall Report will keep track to see whether Sawyer's pledge is fulfilled.