ABC and NBC led their morning shows on Tuesday with nearly 10 minutes of "breaking news" coverage of Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy. This celebrity-driven story was apparently deemed more important than abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell being found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder, as Good Morning America and Today devoted just 38 seconds to the Gosnell trial. (audio clips of Jolie coverage available here; video below the jump)
Altogether, the ABC and NBC morning newscasts aired 19 minutes and 3 seconds of coverage on Jolie. Tuesday's CBS This Morning waited 12 minutes to cover the Hollywood news item, but ultimately ended up setting aside 7 minutes and 49 seconds of air time to the surgeries, versus a 18 second news brief on Gosnell. The total Big Three coverage of Jolie on Tuesday morning, including CBS's reporting, added up to 26 minutes and 52 seconds, as opposed to 56 seconds on the Gosnell case.
After Paul Ryan released his last two years of tax returns late Friday, reporters on ABC and CBS not only made sure to point out that Ryan paid a higher federal tax rate than the wealthier Mitt Romney, but also noted that he had supplied more than two years to the Romney campaign as part of the vetting process, as if to put additional pressure on Romney and Ryan that they should make more than two years public.
On Tuesday's Early Show, correspondent Ben Tracy acknowledged that the facts in the Tuscon shooting do not support media spin that the tragedy was incited by right-wing political rhetoric: "Authorities tell CBS News that Loughner's attack on Congresswoman Giffords' was not partisan, but more likely because he was anti-government in general and she was a symbol of it."
Minutes later, co-host Erica Hill reported on a new CBS News poll on the shooting: "The Sheriff [Clarence Dupnik] investigating the shootings in Arizona has publicly blamed the extreme political rhetoric across this country for the tragedy....A majority of Americans, however, don't necessarily agree that's the case....57% of respondents don't believe the harsh tone had anything to do with the shootings. Just 32% say it did." At the top of the 8:00AM ET hour, news reader Jeff Glor again touted the new poll: "...there's more debate over whether a heated political atmosphere played a role....most Americans reject that idea."
At the top of Monday's CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric warned viewers: "They promised to fight childhood obesity, but the biggest chains may be working harder than ever to get kids hooked on fast foods." Moments later she touted a new study: "...the big chains promised to help fight childhood obesity, but a report out today suggests they've done the exact opposite."
Couric fretted over the findings: "...out of more than 3,000 possible kids meal combinations at the major chains, only 12 meet nutritional guidelines for pre-schoolers....last year, children between the ages of 6 and 11 saw 26% more ads for McDonald's than they did just two years earlier." Correspondent Ben Tracy attacked the marketing strategy: "First there's the hot new movie kids just have to see....Then there's the fast food movie toy tie in they just have to get. And with the toys come this, a Happy Meal packed with calories and fat....a happy deal for marketers but an unhealthy one for children."
At the top of Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez declared that vicious gossip monger Perez Hilton "makes nice....with so much bullying going on he doesn't want to be a bully himself anymore." While the report that followed cheered Hilton's efforts to reform himself, the morning show has been happy to promote his bullying tactics in the past.
Correspondent Ben Tracy noted how Hilton "controversially outed gay performers like Lance Bass and Neil Patrick Harris." However, on the September 25, 2008 Early Show, correspondent Michelle Gillen seemed to have no problem with it as she reported on Hollywood's acceptance of gay celebrities: "Neal Patrick Harris...remains a high profile star since he was outed by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton." A clip was played of Hilton claiming such outing was "par for the course" and Gillen concluded: "Now that 'out' is apparently 'in.'"
Despite a new CBS poll showing low approval numbers for President Obama, at the top of Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith emphasized weak numbers for the tea party: "...most Americans think President Obama is not living up to their expectations. But, they don't know if the tea party is an answer to the problem."
Smith later declared: "...less than a month before the midterm elections, there's a lot of voter uncertainty about the tea party movement." Correspondent Ben Tracy then reported: "...most Americans haven't made up their minds about the growing tea party movement. The rest are nearly evenly split in their views." A headline on-screen read: "Voter Frustration; CBS News Poll: Not Good News for Obama or Tea Party."
In concluding his report, Tracy remarked on how according to another poll finding, Sarah Palin "hasn't won over the country." He touted that "When asked if Palin would make an effective president, only 22% say yes. 64%, no, including nearly half [45%] of Republicans." Only then did Tracy finally mention the numbers for Obama: "66% Of Americans view him as an average or poor president, while another 31% say his backing of a candidate running for office will actually be a detriment." Tracy observed: "...the two biggest names in the respective parties may actually be something to avoid come election day."
Following Tracy's report, Smith talked to St. Louis conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch about the poll and proclaimed: "...while people are certainly aware of the tea party, the vast middle in America is not exactly running toward it. They certainly seem to be moving away from the President, but they're not running toward the tea party. They're still sitting on the fence."
At the top of Wednesday's CBS Evening News, during a report on the Gulf oil spill, correspondent Mark Strassmann found a silver lining: "The good news: since President Obama's visit to Grand Isle [Louisiana] last Friday, local officials report better coordination with BP and federal agencies."
Strassmann went on to add: "Since the President's visit, the local fire chief says there are three times as many response workers on this island. He also says while local response leaders and national response leaders may have disagreements, at least now once a decision is made everybody's marching in the same direction."
Meanwhile, in a story minutes later, correspondent Ben Tracy discussed the public backlash against oil company BP: "On YouTube, anger at BP is just a mouse click away....The Facebook page calling for a boycott of BP now has nearly 300,000 followers." Tracy pointed out: "BP is about to launch a multimillion dollar television PR campaign. But the company has not been getting much help from its CEO who at times seems tone deaf to the loss of life and livelihood in the Gulf." The broadcast featured no mention of any backlash against the Obama administration.
President Obama’s health plan announced Monday is little more than the Senate bill with a new tax and federal price control regime, but ABC’s Diane Sawyer touted how “Obama today officially put forward his plan” and CBS’s Katie Couric hailed “a plan of his own,” though she pointed out “it includes no public option.” (In contrast, NBC’s Savannah Guthrie observed: “This new plan of the President's looks a lot like the old plan, just repackaged.”)
All three evening newscasts employed terminology congenial to Obama’s wish to interfere in the marketplace by trumpeting how Obama would “block insurance companies from unreasonable rate increases” while CBS and NBC both advanced Obama’s effort to disparage insurance companies by showcasing sympathetic victims of a health insurance rate hike – pregnant women.
Sawyer delivered a very innocuous summary: “It would give the government new power to control big hikes in insurance premiums, it would give a maximum of nearly $8,500 to a family of four to help them buy insurance and it would prevent insurers from denying coverage to anyone who's already sick or at risk of illness.”
On CBS, Couric segued to “a lot of anger about soaring insurance premiums” and reporter Ben Tracy found a woman “seven months pregnant” upset by a 35 percent hike. She scolded: “You have a right to make money but not at the expense of abusing other people.” NBC’s Guthrie noted “the White House has seized on a California company's decision to jack up rates 39 percent. This Redondo Beach mother was stunned.” Viewers then heard from the woman, near tears: “Do I go without insurance? Does my daughter go without insurance? What are we supposed to do?”
On Thursday’s CBS Evening News, correspondent Ben Tracy reported on the ending of the problem-ridden Cash for Clunkers car buying program, but spun it this way: "Thanks to Cash for Clunkers, what could have been a dismal summer for car sales now has a Hollywood ending....But now, the wildly successful program that provided up to $4500 per clunker is being scrapped."
Tracy visited a Los Angeles Toyota car dealership, hence the Hollywood reference, and spoke with owner Don Mushin who explained: "We normally sell about 300 cars a month. We’re on track this month to do about 600." However, Tracy went on to acknowledge: "Yet, there have been problems. Dealers have to front the money for the rebates, sometimes to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the government has been slow to pay them back.."
On Wednesday’s CBS Evening News, correspondent Ben Tracy filed a report linking angry protesters opposing ObamaCare at town hall events to conservative groups, examining the possibility that the "outrage" has been "organized" by these groups, or even affected by "anti-government" sentiment over other issues, rather than legitimate concerns about the plans under consideration.
Tracy began his report: "For some, their anger is tightly focused on health care reform. But for others, this issue is simply the final straw." After a soundbite of a woman complaining about the legalization of abortion and the removal of prayer from public schools, Tracy continued: "Some experts believe a growing anti-government sentiment, fueled by extraordinary events such as the bailouts of the banking and auto industries, is spilling over into the health care debate."
Notably, eight minutes after the end of Tracy’s report, a piece was run in which correspondent Bob Orr relayed concerns by the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center about right-wing extremism motivated by "anti-government" sentiment, Democratic party control of the government, and the first black President, and the possibility of violence from these extreme groups in the near future.
On Monday’s CBS Evening News, correspondent Ben Tracy filed a report documenting the thousands of guns that are illegally smuggled to Mexican drug cartels which they use in battle with the Mexican army, and suggested that lax gun laws in America are to blame. Without delving into the possibility that greater availability of guns in Mexico might help the country’s citizens to reduce that country’s overall crime rate, Tracy informed viewers that it is "nearly impossible" to buy guns in Mexico legally, as he pointed out America’s less strict laws:
Mexican law makes it nearly impossible to buy guns there legally, but less restrictive gun laws in the U.S. keep the firearms flowing over the border. Court papers in the [George] Iknadosian case claim U.S. border states provide three-quarters of black market firearms to Mexico. And with more than 1,000 people already killed in drug violence in Mexico this year, cutting off the gun supply is now a top concern on this side of the border.
CBS anchor Katie Couric on Friday night used the jump in the unemployment rate to 8.1 percent to cheerlead for how the “stimulus” bill is “creating” jobs, an impact her newscast illustrated with two full stories after reporter Anthony Mason declared: “It's the government that's going to have to pull us out of this recession.” (On ABC's World News, Betsy Stark similarly saw salvation in the stimulus spending. Citing predictions of even higher unemployment, she contended: “That's why the stimulus plan is so important. If it's successful, those huge job losses should slow down.”)
Couric teased the CBS Evening News: “The recession has now cost nearly four-and-a-half million Americans their jobs. We'll show you the new jobs his stimulus plan is creating.” She then led by promising: “In a moment we'll be telling you about all the jobs the stimulus plan is creating, but first, why those jobs are so desperately needed.”
"Don't know much about history, don't know much biology."
Those famous lyrics from Sam Cooke's 1958 song, "Wonderful World," never rang truer than today. American students continue to test far behind the highest performing nations in science and math, according to the American Institutes for Research. And many would be hard pressed to name the three branches of government or the authors of the Constitution. But they are learning their environmental dos and don'ts. And, as the Jan. 27th CBS "Evening News" showed, the best students have truly internalized their green indoctrination.
That broadcast dedicated over two and a half minutes to children determined to live a "green" lifestyle. The children in this segment don't just recycle or turn off the lights; they have convinced their parents to buy eco-friendly light bulbs, wash their clothes in cold water, and even get an "untraditional" Christmas tree they could replant in the backyard.
On Tuesday’s CBS Early Show, fill-in co-host Chris Wragge seemed to feel sorry for Barack Obama having to withstand the media spotlight while vacationing in Hawaii: "Coming up, life in the media bubble. How is Barack Obama adjusting to the press following his every move?" However, as correspondent Ben Tracy later reported, that spotlight is not exactly harsh: "Tours of Obama's childhood stop at the apartment building where he grew up, a favorite lunch hangout, and the ice cream store where he had his first job. Tourist shops are also riding the Obama wave. The soon-to-be president is already a global celebrity."
Tracy began the reported by lamenting: "...the other day, the president-elect just wanted to eat his tuna sandwich. This vacation has been a bit of a reality check as to how little privacy Obama now has...He at times bristles at the constant media coverage...Yet at others, offers to buy reporters dessert." Tracy concluded the report by declaring: "And the media's trying to strike a balance between covering the person who's about to be the most powerful man in the world and also giving him his space to just be himself."
John McCain finally received some positive coverage Friday night from the broadcast networks as Barack Obama's vacation ended -- a couple of sentences on ABC and CBS about how he raised $27 million in July, the most ever. Then those newscasts, and NBC's, ran full stories trumpeting evangelist Rick Warren's Saturday “Civil Forum on the Presidency” featuring McCain and Obama, with CBS and NBC stressing his rejection of past narrow conservative interests as both pegged their stories to conservative push back against the fear McCain will pick a “pro-choice” VP. Taking up McCain's consideration of Tom Ridge, CBS's Bob Schieffer asserted “religious conservatives...just went nuts.” NBC's Andrea Mitchell contrasted McCain's “rocky relationship with the religious right” with how Obama is “reaching out by softening the party's platform on abortion.”
On Warren, CBS reporter Ben Tracy trumpeted “Warren's attempt to redefine evangelicals by breaking with the politics of the past” and how Warren “doesn't want to talk about just abortion and gay marriage, but also poverty and disease.” NBC's Mitchell recalled that in 2004, 80 percent of evangelicals “voted for George Bush over John Kerry,” but “this year they could be less predictably Republican” and “that's because Rick Warren says many younger evangelicals define social issues broadly -- to include global warming, human rights, poverty, not just abortion.” She then featured a soundbite from Warren:
I call myself whole life, which means I don't just believe in that little girl before she's born but I believe that it's important to care about after she's born, whether she's poor, whether she's educated.
With Starbucks’ announcement that it will closing 600 of its locations nationwide, the network morning shows on Wednesday heralded this news as another sign of a bad economy. ABC’s Bianna Golodryga on "Good Morning America" lamented that "Americans are struggling just to pay for a cup of Starbucks coffee." NBC’s Matt Lauer’s clever headline: "Trouble brewing -- Starbucks announces its closing 600 stores in the next year. Is the demand for $4 lattes dying in a tough economy?"
But CBS’s "The Early Show" took the puns and the "doom and gloom" to a new level. Host Maggie Rodriguez teased the headline news: "Starbucks shutting its doors on hundreds of stores. Tough economic times or just a grande letdown?" Correspondent Ben Tracy, in his report on the closings, quipped, "The economic slowdown has been a real grind for Starbucks' profits. After filling up their gas tanks, some coffee lovers don't have enough left to fill up their cups."
Suppose you had trees on your property that served as a privacy barrier and provided shade for your home. Then imagine your eco-minded neighbor installs solar panels and demands you cut down your trees so sunlight can reach his panels.
You might think: It's my property! The problem is - your neighbor has the law backing him up, according to the April 7 "CBS Evening News." Sounds like a case of environmentalism gone wild, right?
"Richard Treanor lives across the fence, drives a hybrid car," CBS correspondent Ben Tracy said. "Ten years ago he planted these redwoods to provide privacy. Now they had his neighbor seeing red."
"He called us over to the fence one day and said ‘I am going to be installing solar panels and therefore you have to take your trees down,'" Treanor explained.
Surprise - another foreclosure hardship story on the national evening news.
This time it was the March 27 "CBS Evening News." CBS correspondent Ben Tracy had no difficulty finding one family affected, it's just that they were paid well to be affected. He showcased a family in Oakland, Calif., that had to move due to a foreclosure.
"What they did not know is that the owner of the home they've been renting near Oakland, California, wasn't paying her mortgage, and the bank foreclosed on the property at the worst possible time," CBS correspondent Ben Tracy said.