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Heading south

Tomorrow morning we fly to New Orleans. It's our sixth trip down there since Katrina, and it's in keeping with our vow to stay on the story that we watched unfold. An article in one of our industry trade journals this morning served, I believe, as a well-intended attempt to hold our feet to the fire on coverage of the other issues that Katrina raised. Point taken, as our coverage in the coming days and weeks will reflect (including, but not limited to a series of reports on poverty that have been commissioned but take time to produce). Our Executive Producer John Reiss will be part of our travel team on this trip, as among other things John wants to thank the folks in our New Orleans bureau for the extraordinary work (and the volume of work) they've been doing, under less than the best circumstances. Frieda Morris, our Bureau Chief, is from Atlanta... and has selflessly put her life on hold to take charge of our day-to-day operation down there. An enormous amount of planning has gone into this week's trip to New Orleans, and if these upcoming Nightly News broadcasts go as we hope, I think they will make for a revealing glimpse of the city, post-Katrina.


THE BUG-GEIST
Here in New York, a new obsession was launched by a page one story in the Sunday New York Times.  Suddenly, everyone is vigilant... on the lookout for bedbugs. It positively horrified Times readers, and it was among the topics of conversation at our morning editorial meeting today. I couldn't help but think: it's a good thing those of us in this business don't stay in a lot of strange hotels in strange places for a living!

And now, at long last, to today's news:

You may remember his father, Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark. Ramsey Clark has been involved in Democratic/liberal politics and law all his life (for example: when I first started collecting and listening to the audio tapes of President Lyndon Johnson's recorded telephone conversations, I was surprised by the familiarity the two men used in talking to one another). He has been in and out of the limelight for decades. But he's never done anything quite as baffling as this: he's arrived in Baghdad to be a part of Saddam Hussein's defense team. Richard Engel will have our report from court tonight.

Also, as Senior Producer Ed Deitch posted earlier, we'll have a tale of two members of Congress and their constituents... and how they reflect both sides in the current war debate. We'll look at the holiday retail season thus far: was "Black Friday" really black? Is this really "Cyber Monday" or are we all victims of the easy categories and simple labels that the media love to repeat? And if you've watched NBC for any length of time over this past holiday weekend, you've seen yours truly promoting a story about the dangers of opening those in-store credit card accounts. That will finally air tonight, relieving a nation of its collective suspense. And we'll have a fitting story from New Orleans to close out the broadcast on the eve of our trip there.

HITTING THE BOOKS
What a great weekend it was for fans of Book TV on C-Span. From Neil Armstrong's biographer James Hansen, to the author of One Bullet Away, former Marine Capt. Nathaniel C. Fick, an Iraq war veteran, to BOTH appearances by the wonderful David McCollough. For those of us who must constantly feed our book addictions, it is great to have a cable channel devoted to the discussion of great books.

GETTING TO THE BOTTOM OF THE STORY
Finally, the story identified by Nightly News writer Chris Colvin as the story of the day. In microcosm, it may say awful things about what we're becoming. If you've flown on those small "regional jets" (a great euphemism for "mailing tube") that the airlines have become so fond of, then you've seen this dynamic of human growth in sometimes-painful fashion.