The President of the United States demonstrated his power to be the News-Agenda-Setter-in-Chief when he wants to. Barack Obama's 52-minute appearance in the White House briefing room to answer questions about the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act made headlines. He was not there for a bully pep talk, however, more like a recital of his fumbles and a repeated apology for breaking a promise. All three newscasts kicked off with their White House correspondent and healthcare reform was Story of the Day.    
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video thumbnailABCHealthcare reform: universal and managed carePresident Obama apologizes for bungled launchJim AvilaWhite House
video thumbnailNBCHealthcare reform: universal and managed careRules changed for canceled individual plansTom CostelloMiami
video thumbnailCBSHealthcare reform: universal and managed careInsurers are skeptical about change to rulesCarter EvansLos Angeles
video thumbnailCBSFederal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen nominationWould be first female to hold top banking jobAnthony MasonNew York
video thumbnailNBCCIA management breaks sexist glass ceilingFemale OSS trailblazers inspire current brassAnn CurryWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSTyphoon Haiyan batters The PhilippinesTacloban still clearing debris, no rebuildingSeth DoaneThe Philippines
video thumbnailNBCTyphoon Haiyan batters The PhilippinesRemote villages are cut off, need relief by airHarry SmithThe Philippines
video thumbnailABCSinkholes swallow land in limestone regionsMore homes evacuated in northern Tampa suburbsSteve OsunsamiFlorida
video thumbnailCBSAfrican elephant herd conservation effortsIvory confiscated from smugglers ground to dustBarry PetersenColorado
video thumbnailNBCBritish royals coveragePrince Harry's Antarctic racers meet the QueenKeir SimmonsLondon
NOT SUCH A BULLY PULPIT The President of the United States demonstrated his power to be the News-Agenda-Setter-in-Chief when he wants to. Barack Obama's 52-minute appearance in the White House briefing room to answer questions about the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act made headlines. He was not there for a bully pep talk, however, more like a recital of his fumbles and a repeated apology for breaking a promise. All three newscasts kicked off with their White House correspondent and healthcare reform was Story of the Day.

It is easy to tease correspondents for grandstanding, when they quote their own questions, asked in the course of routine newsgathering, rather than reporting on the answers. Just check out recent examples, here and here, from ABC's Jonathan Karl. In this case, though, Major Garrett, CBS' man at the White House, seems quite justified in quoting himself, since his questions hit the nail on the head, and they were addressed directly, rather than brushed aside or stonewalled, by President Obama. Why did he launch the federal healthcare exchange Website when the White House had been warned that it would not work? Why did he promise that all individuals could keep existing insurance plans that they liked, even though he knew that the ACA would force some of them to be canceled?

By all, the President explained, he meant "98%."

ABC's Jim Avila dramatized how damaging the bungled rollout was by counting the number of times -- 29 -- that the President apologized for it. He quoted Obama's criticism of federal procurement of computer programming as "cumbersome, convoluted, outdated." ABC underscored the seriousness of the problem by inviting analysis from This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos (at the tail of the Avila videostream): he sees the whole of Obama's second term at stake. NBC's Chuck Todd, who first heard the President apologize in his Exclusive one-on-one last week, included some of the reaction to the President's contrition on Capitol Hill, by folding in reporting by his colleague Kelly O'Donnell.

All three newscasts followed up on those millions of canceled individual health insurance plans. ABC's Rebecca Jarvis (also at the tail of the Avila videostream), imprecisely, reported that they could now be renewed. CBS' Carter Evans was clearer: the mere fact that the ACA no longer insists on their cancelation does not mean that the one million discontinued policies in California will automatically be offered for renewal. NBC's Tom Costello noted that state insurance commissions have decision-making power, not the President. And anyway, even if the canceled policies are reinstated, premiums might be hiked.

HERE COME THE MARINES The President's contrition nudged the relief effort in The Philippines out of the headlines. NBC's Harry Smith and CBS' Seth Doane continued their coverage of the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, each filing full packages. Doane concentrated on the continuing clean-up in the city of Tacloban; Smith on the growing international relief effort, including the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and Australia -- and the delivery of aid to remote villages by the Marine Corps' Osprey helicopters under the command of General John Whistler. ABC was represented by Terry Moran in Manila, who filed a brief stand-up on the USMC contribution.

GLASS CEILING NBC and CBS filed federal gender glass ceiling stories that were more earnest than interesting. On CBS, Anthony Mason used the news hook of the Senate Banking Finance Committee confirmation hearings for Janet Yellen, the first woman nominated as Chair of the Federal Reserve Board, to cross-promote his profile of her on Sunday Morning, complete with a soundbite from a predecessor, Alan Greenspan. CBS' Mason spends more time covering the Federal Reserve than all other nightly newscast correspondents put together. Check out this playlist on Benjamin Bernanke over the last three years.

On NBC, Ann Curry traveled to Langley to meet two female trailblazers from World War II, Betty McIntosh and Doris Bohrer. Curry drew a direct line from those so-called girl spies to a couple of present-day female agency directors. Yet Curry told us very little about WWII derring-do and too much about bureaucratic organization charts. She even had to resort to inserting a fictionalized clip from the Hollywood thriller Zero Dark Thirty, so little pep was there in her real-life spy story. While she was at it, she could have added Madam M from James Bond.

FARIS BACK ON TRACK After a day's deviation away from techie promotion, Paula Faris returned to her tried-and-true formula on ABC's Real Money series, whereby she lavishes free publicity on smartphone apps by way of helping nuclear family households improve their budgets. This time personal organizer Lisa Zaslow was on hand to plug apps from,, and as well as touting auctions on eBay, discounts from Amazon, and shipping via the Postal Service.

50 YEARS & COUNTING The 50th anniversary of the assassination for President John Kennedy is closing fast. Getting a jump on the observances is Face the Nation anchor Bob Schieffer at CBS. Last month, he gave a plug to Philip Shenon's book A Cruel and Shocking Act and its behind-the-scenes look at the Warren Commission. Now, Schieffer airs the enhanced audio from the Dallas police radio scanner. More, much more, to come.

There is one journalistic legacy of the JFK assassination: elevating the newsworthiness of the Secret Service. That is the only thing of interest I found in Pierre Thomas' report on ABC about Ignacio Zamora, an indiscreet agent who left a live bullet in a lady's room at the Hay Adams Hotel. Thomas appears to have received the tip on this non-story from Rep Michael McCaul, the Texan Republican. McCaul's press office has been busy: it landed a McCaul soundbite in Tom Costello's report on undercover airport security operatives on NBC on Wednesday.

SINKHOLE FAILS TO DELIVER When a 70-foot sinkhole opened up in Dunedin in the northern suburbs of Tampa, the collapse was not quite as spectacular as the disappearing stand of trees in the Louisiana Bayou that ABC's Matt Gutman reported on in August. In Dunedin, all to be seen were a cratered swimming pool and cracks in the seven homes that were evacuated -- essentially a local story not worthy of the national attention of the network newscasts. So what were ABC's Steve Osunsami and NBC's Janet Shamlian to do to make the sinkhole visually interesting? Both turned to their in-house computer graphic artists (ABC's Virtual View, NBC's News Animation) for an imaginary below-ground rendition of the collapsing rock. And both reran a clip of those trees in the bayou.

Thus they showed something similar that happened elsewhere, previously, to illustrate what this story might have looked like if something more catastrophic had happened.

MORE REALITY TV ABC is indeed the leader in the trend whereby reporters shuck off the role of journalist and turn themselves into the central character of their own reality TV show. Just this week we have seen Bob Woodruff the hardhat ironworker, Alex Marquart the liontamer, Linzie Janis the daredevil foodtaster -- and now Janis again, as the selfie snapshotter, in her story on the twentysomethings Bob Murphy and Evan Spiegel, onetime Stanford University fraternity brothers, who turned down Facebook's billions.

NBC is not immune. Check out Tom Costello as the windtunnel guinea pig and now Keir Simmons as the treadmilling Antarctic racer, the kind of adventurer that makes the Queen of England giggle.

IN ANIMAL NEWS CBS publicized efforts to save African elephants from terrorist-funding poachers; ABC's America Strong series publicized those to save dogs from violent criminals. ABC's Gio Benitez brought us Sandy Marsault of Vested Interest in Canines, the Massachusetts charity that provides bulletproof vests to police dogs, at $950 apiece. CBS' Barry Petersen brought us the rockcrusher that turned six tons of ivory, confiscated over the past 25 years, into gravel. Petersen did not explain how the symbolic step of eliminating so much ivory would make the $1,000-a-pound black market less -- not more -- lucrative for poachers.