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Broadcast preview & viewer mailbag

Wow. Just last night I told my wife I would take some time off to be with the family "as soon as the news calmed down." Not bloody likely. 

Cell phones and pagers lit up this morning just prior to our morning editorial meeting with word that the Miers nomination had been withdrawn. Tim Russert almost immediately reported that a nose count in the GOP Senate Caucus showed they did not have 51 votes in the President's own party. As for the official version of the pullout, that was foreshadowed by Charles Krauthammer in his column: the request for documents pertaining to her service to the President was just too much.

Now the President is faced with another huge nomination. And now the President has to make it through tomorrow. An insider told me today that the White House "is certainly mentally preparing for the possible indictment of Libby and Rove." Again, no leaks from the Grand Jury, none from possible targets, very few tea leaves and that leaves all guess work and no facts (or few facts) to go on. We'll have reports and analysis of all of the above from Pete Williams, David Gregory and Tim Russert. What a week in politics, and in the life of this Administration.

The President was in Florida today, checking into the post-Wilma recovery effort, with his brother (and Rep. Katherine Harris) at his side. There are problems with power, water, ice and gasoline availability. It's not so much that Wilma caught anyone by surprise (have we ever had MORE NOTICE than we have today when storms approach? Again, I recommend the book ISAAC'S STORM as a measurement of how scarily blind we once were to these approaching monsters), as much as it is the new scrutiny of the government's reaction after any storm in this post-Katrina era.

We'll take on the issue of Tamiflu tonight... suddenly the hottest black-market substance in the free world, seemingly. There's a run on this stuff, which was available on eBay until this morning. For people with means, the rush is on to get doctors to write the scrip to allow them to stock up. While taking it as a prophylactic is of no use, it's also a flu medication, and the manufacturer has now made news by moving to keep it available for when it's truly needed.

We have an emotional update on New Orleans tonight, specifically: a return to the Lower 9th Ward. And our special report tonight on our incredible shrinking retirement benefits. Along the way we will report on seemingly gross oil company profits, and much else tonight.


To the mailbag...

Having written the equivalent of a James Michener novel each day in this space for the past several days, it's time to cut back as there's other work to do. But I did want to post an e-mail I received yesterday. I found it very disturbing and I read it aloud to a few employees gathered in the newsroom, who had the same reaction. I will link to it here and in lieu of personally responding to the author's charge, I'll briefly explain it below, on the off chance that there were other viewers laboring under the same misconception.
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"I was disappointed that you put Rosa Parks at the back of the bus upon her death. If she was white, would she have come before the Bird Flu story? For a channel who has always been fair and not prejudice tonight that was not the case. I feel betrayed, insulted and sad that you would place her death behind all other news. She changed this country to the positive for all not just black people. In the future please be more sensitive in the order of your news. She should have had a seat in the front of the news instead of the back." -- Lisa in Warwick, R.I.
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Anyone who has watched this broadcast with any regularity over the years knows that the final position in our broadcast, known as the last "block" in our trade (which on normal nights is often devoted to a lighter, happier or perhaps inspirational news item, if subject matter and time allow), traditionally serves as a place where we pay tribute and remember those who have left us. Too many prominent people to mention, including Presidents, Queens and Kings. I think any rational review of our coverage of Rosa Parks would stand up to scrutiny. Further, we were proud of how we chose to look at her life and its meaning. I was the author of the words.

As much as we should always examine our own work and how it's received by our viewers, implications like the one in this viewer's e-mail can be devastating and dangerous. Very simply: does anyone truly believe it was the intent of this broadcast to downplay or diminish in any way the life or death of an icon in the Civil Rights movement?

On the whole, I much preferred the kind sentiment contained in the e-mail to our blog that invoked David and Chet (click and scroll down for the comment from P. Soler in Moraga, Calif.), two of the men we see in our opening montage each night, which serves to remind us of the need for good reporting every time out.

We hope you can join us tonight.