2. Jennings Refers to Late Senator Howell Heflin as "Senator Howell"
3. Rather Returns to
60 Minutes, Has "Howdy" & "Adios" Voice Mail
4. Of Three Cable News Networks, MSNBC Falls to Fourth in Ratings
Wherever Jesse Jackson goes the media usually follow and on Tuesday the cable news networks highlighted his arrival outside the Florida hospice care facility holding Terri Schiavo, but the day Jackson took the side of those wishing to save Schiavo, and put a Democratic face with those on the side of her life, ABC's World News Tonight suddenly found the whole matter unnewsworthy. For the first time in more than ten days, the newscast had no Schiavo story and didn't utter a syllable about Jackson, but Peter Jennings found time to pick up on a liberal cause celebre, abuse of prisoners in Iraq, as he showcased how "the American Civil Liberties Union has released" what Jennings characterized as "a rather damning memo... written by the former senior U.S. military commander." On CBS, Bob Schieffer gave a few words to Jackson. Of the broadcast network evening shows, only NBC aired a clip of him or showed any video of him.
CNN, FNC and MSNBC all devoted portions of their prime time shows to interviews with Jackson, but the broadcast networks were much less interested. The CBS Evening News held its coverage to this from anchor Bob Schieffer introducing a piece on two families who faced the situation faced by Schiavo's relatives, one which sided with her parents and one which sided with her husband: "In Florida today, the Reverend Jesse Jackson prayed with the parents of Terri Schiavo. Jackson said he favors restoring her feeding tube. Schiavo is now in her 12th night without food or water."
CBS didn't show Jackson, but the NBC Nightly News did. Anchor Brian Williams announced: "Now to Terri Schiavo in her 12th day without a feeding tube. Her parents continued today to call for help to get the tube re-attached and they brought in reinforcements. From Florida tonight, here is NBC's Mark Potter."
Potter began his March 29 story, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "The Reverend Jesse Jackson was invited to the hospice by Terri Schiavo's parents and joined them in urging Schiavo's husband or Florida Governor Jeb Bush to reinsert her feeding tube. But Michael Schiavo refused to allow Jackson to even visit with his wife. And Jackson said Bush didn't return his call. So he turned to the cameras and made a public plea."
Potter moved on to other developments in the story.
As noted above, ABC's World News Tonight aired zilch about Schiavo, but Jennings made time for a liberal agenda item as he highlighted a press release from the ACLU, a topic neither CBS or NBC touched and which, at least judging by an early Wednesday review of their Web sites, was ignored by the New York Times and Washington Post.
Jennings intoned: "The American Civil Liberties Union has released a rather damning memo today written by the former senior U.S. military commander there, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez. In the memo, General Sanchez authorizes a number of aggressive tactics for interrogation, including allowing dogs in interrogations, which he describes as a way to [text on screen by picture of Sanchez] 'exploit Arab fear of dogs.' The ACLU says that 12 of the techniques authorized by General Sanchez exceeded the limits allowed by the Army. Late today the Defense Department said that General Sanchez and his staff reviewed the Geneva Conventions on prisoner's rights before they authorized the techniques."
The ACLU press release: www.aclu.org
Reuters also picked up on the press release. For, "Memo Shows U.S. Inmate Interrogation Plans in Iraq," go to: news.yahoo.com
Did Peter Jennings confuse the late Senator Howell Heflin with the "Thurston Howell III" character on the old Gilligan's Island sit-com series? On Tuesday's World News Tonight, in reporting the death of former Democratic Senator Howell Heflin of Alabama, Jennings referred to him as "Senator Howell."
Jennings' item on his March 29 newscast: "We have one other death to report which we just learned of today. Former Senator Howell Heflin of Alabama has died. He served three terms in the Senate. He had his start as a country lawyer representing black clients in Alabama at a time when it was unpopular to do so. He became Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and his reform of the court system was a model for the nation. Senator Howell was 83."
Actor Jim Backus played "Thurston Howell III" on the 1964-67 sit-com. TVTome's page on Gilligan's Island: www.tvtome.com
The Internet Movie Database's page: us.imdb.com
Just three weeks after his last night as anchor of the CBS Evening News, on Wednesday night Dan Rather will start his new job as a full-time correspondent on the Wednesday edition of 60 Minutes, the very program sullied by Rather's September hit piece on President Bush based on forged memos. Rather's first story: An interview with retired GE Chairman Jack Welch and his new wife. Rather hopes to boost the ratings of the 59th-ranked prime time program so CBS keeps it on the fall schedule and thus provide him with a job. Rather told the Philadelphia Inquirer's Gail Shister that he "always dreamed" of having his new voice mail greeting which opens with, "howdy, this is Dan Rather," and ends with, "for now, adios."
An excerpt from Shister's March 29 column, which was highlighted Tuesday on Romenesko's Web page (www.poynter.org ):
CBS's Dan Rather saw an alligator the other day while fishing for bass near his Texas vacation home.
Any dangerous reptiles at CBS?
"CBS has no alligators... and no snakes and no coyotes," Rather said, chuckling, in an interview yesterday. "Every man and woman is a knight."...
Though he's juggling several pieces with his usual intensity, Rather sounds almost, well, laid-back on his new voice-mail message. It begins, "Howdy, this is Dan Rather," and ends, "For now, adios."
"I always dreamed of having that voice mail. That's who and what I am, the way I grew up. Now I'm able to let that side out a little more than before."
Rather is scheduled to return to New York tonight. For the last five days, he's been fishing, playing with his two young grandsons, visiting with close friends.
He loves the time in his native Texas, but "it's not that hard to leave. I've had a lifetime of doing it. When I come down here, I hit the off switch. I take it down. When it's time to go back to work, I hit the switch to on. It's taken me years to develop that."
Once back, Rather plans to "plunge hard into 60 Wednesday. April is our month of decision. We need to do well. We need to prove we're valuable to the schedule."
Like Rather, 60 Wednesday is under fire.
The show has been on the shelf all month because of NCAA basketball coverage. With shaky ratings and no public endorsement from CBS czar Les Moonves, its future is dubious, at best. CBS announces its fall schedule in May.
"Dan has sort of given us new life," says executive producer Jeff Fager. "People are pumped up. He's a big figure, and he means a lot to the people working here."...
The 60 Wednesday staff threw a small gathering last week to welcome Rather. (Refreshments included beer and Rather's longtime beverage of choice - Wild Turkey bourbon.)
Despite his stature, Rather doesn't try to "big-foot" assignments from other correspondents, Fager says.
"What has always made 60 Wednesday and 60 Minutes unique is that it's an ensemble of reporters. It's not driven by one anchor, but by the team. There's no one star."
60 Wednesday will need many stars to avoid cancellation.
Clobbered by ABC freshman smash Lost, it averages just 8.6 million viewers this season, tying for 59th on Nielsen's Hit Parade. By comparison, 60 delivers 14.6 million viewers to rank 17th....
END of Excerpt
MSNBC is now rated fourth in what had traditionally been considered a three cable news channel universe. In a Tuesday night dispatch, the AP's David Bauder reported that "CNN Headline News has supplanted MSNBC as the third-place cable news channel" in both daytime and prime time, though he noted that the ratings for both, over the first three months of the year, "are relatively minuscule" with CNN's Headline News Channel averaging 337,000 viewers in prime time compared 328,000 watching MSNBC. FNC's prime time attracted twice as many viewers, at 1.9 million, than did CNN with about 900,000 -- but that still means about three times more watch CNN than MSNBC at night.
An excerpt from Bauder's March 28 story:
CNN Headline News Passes MSNBC in Ratings
CNN Headline News has supplanted MSNBC as the third-place cable news channel. CNN's sister network recently started a new prime-time lineup that has gotten off to a strong start, particularly a legal-oriented talk show with Nancy Grace.
The new format replaced the continuous half-hour newscasts that CNN Headline News still carries for most of the day. But in its first month, the changes enabled the network to eclipse MSNBC in the prime-time ratings, according to Nielsen Media Research.
For the full day, CNN Headline News also beat MSNBC for the first three months of the year....
The numbers are relatively miniscule -- Headline News' prime-time average was 337,000 viewers to MSNBC's 328,000 -- but they're important for perception and for the business of television news.
Fox News Channel remains far and away the most popular cable news outlet, and its prime-time average of nearly 1.9 million viewers for the first quarter is up 14 percent over the first three months of 2004 -- an impressive increase considering last year was an election year.
CNN's prime-time average of 896,000 was down 1 percent from last year, Nielsen said.
Grace, who benefited from a busy month of legal news including Michael Jackson's trial, averaged 518,000 viewers in March, Nielsen said. That instantly made her show more popular than anything on MSNBC, including "Hardball" with Chris Matthews....
END of Excerpt
For Bauder's AP story in full:
-- Brent Baker