Document-Shredding Buddhist Nuns?

Media-Friendly Pictures Drew All Four Networks Last NIght, But Morning Shows Aired Nothing Today

The TV networks continued their paparazzi-style devotion to the Princess Diana tragedy for the fifth consecutive day yesterday, but the pictures and stories at the resumption of Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearings yesterday were apparently too powerful for the network evening shows to miss. Nevertheless, all three morning shows ignored it. Viewers could not view the spectacle live as it unfolded on CNN or MSNBC: neither provided any live coverage and actually provided fewer live updates than they did most days during the July hearings.

Evening news, September 4:

ABC's World News Tonight led with six minutes on Diana, but had the least amount of coverage with nine minutes. Reporter Linda Douglass arrived 20 minutes into the broadcast noting Gore has "gone into the bunker" to avoid the press and that the nuns were "illegally reimbursed." But Douglass concluded with a mostly favorable spin: "There is no evidence that Gore knew about the reimbursement scheme. Plus, he insists he didn't know the event was a fundraiser in the first place. Still, an investigation into all of this could threaten one of Gore's most important political assets: his squeaky-clean image."

CBS Evening News began with 6.5 minutes on Diana-related stories, and devoted 11 minutes overall, exactly half the newscast. In his fundraising story, reporter Bob Schieffer concluded skeptically: "The nuns now concede the fundraiser was to raise money. The Democratic officials who were there say they knew it was a fundraiser. The Vice President's staff has said previously they knew it was to raise money, but some way, they say, no one told the Vice President."

NBC Nightly News had the most Diana coverage with 12 minutes. Almost 20 minutes into the newscast, NBC's Lisa Myers noted "Documents show that Gore's staff knew it was a fundraiser, called it that in memos, even listed the price per head." Reporter Claire Shipman then explored the impact on Gore's political future.

CNN's The World Today led with 6.5 minutes on the Jerusalem bombing, and four minutes on the Diana story (seven minutes overall), which anchor Leon Harris called "the evening's other major story." Roughly 15 minutes into the newscast, Harris briefly summarized the nuns' testimony. Then, reporter Brooks Jackson's three-minute story covered both the temple fundraiser and his phone calls on federal property, concluding: "Already, his legal advisers are looking for loopholes. One is saying there are court opinions to the effect that the Vice President is not necessarily a federal employee, and so his office is not a federal workplace where fundraising is banned."

Morning news, September 5:

ABC's Good Morning America had only two news updates instead of four, dedicating their two hours to departing host Joan Lunden. ABC did note an astronaut was cleared for a space walk.

CBS This Morning had no other news story this morning except Diana - even a brief on the MTV Video Music Awards focused on what rock stars said about her.

NBC's Today aired a segment on Elton John rewriting "Candle in the Wind" for Diana with New York Times music writer Jon Pareles. Matt Lauer did not ask whether Elton John would rededicate "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" to Al Gore. -Tim Graham & Brent Baker