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Nightly News Feels Pinch of 24-Hour News (Feel the Pain of Fox News, Vermin!)
The New York Times ^ | April 15, 2003 | Bill Carter

Posted on 04/13/2003 7:14:50 PM PDT by Timesink

April 14, 2003

Nightly News Feels Pinch of 24-Hour News

By BILL CARTER

With the most televised war in history winding down, executives at TV news organizations are noticing one startling detail in how Americans are watching the coverage: viewers are increasingly tuning out the broadcast networks' evening newscasts.




The ratings for the nightly newscasts of Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings have surged in past crises. But early in the the war in Iraq, they did not.

During previous periods of intense news interest, most recently in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, viewers have tended to flock to the network news. There they found what they considered the best information but also the perspective and context from the anchors and reporters they trusted the most.

But in the first 16 days of the war with Iraq, the networks not only saw the gains of the first days vanish, they in fact suffered a drop-off from the average viewership during the preceding weeks of the television season. CBS and ABC together lost nearly two million viewers, or a combined 10 percent, during the period, according to Nielsen Media Research. Only NBC, which unlike the other networks has a cable news operation, recorded a slight increase.

The overall decline in the evening news programs' ratings, coming at the same time as the three cable news networks achieved gains of more than 300 percent, could be a watershed moment in how Americans get their news on television.

"Going back the 15 years that I have researched it," said Andrew Tyndall, founder of the Tyndall Report, which monitors network newscasts, "the networks always show an increase of about 10 percent in viewing during heavy news periods. This would be an unprecedented event."

Certainly, the cable networks are trying to cast it that way. This weekend, CNN, a unit of AOL Time Warner, included word of the drop in network newscast ratings in the crawl of "breaking news" headlines spooling across the bottom of its screen.

But executives at the broadcast networks urged caution before jumping to sweeping conclusions based on the evidence of a few weeks. The nature of the war in Iraq — much of it fought during nighttime in the United States, more than half a day away from the start of the evening newscasts — worked against the broadcast networks, they argued. And the technological advances in the coverage, which allowed for many more live shots of action at the front, provided another advantage to the cable networks, which could put them to use 24 hours a day.

Executives at ABC, a unit of Disney, dismissed the shrinking numbers as insignificant, if not completely irrelevant, saying slight declines over a small period of time cannot be interpreted as a trend. Indeed, viewing levels for the networks' newscasts, which totaled about 28 million people for the three networks, dwarfed the combined average of 7.3 million viewers attracted by the Fox News Channel, a unit of News Corporation, CNN and MSNBC, which is owned by Microsoft and General Electric, the parent of NBC.

ABC executives also noted that the network's other news programs, "Good Morning America" and "Nightline" added viewers, demonstrating that the overall appeal of the network's news division was not diminished.

At CBS, a unit of Viacom, where the declines were most significant, executives were a bit more willing to acknowledge that the drop-off was real. Not only did the "CBS Evening News" lose more than 15 percent of its viewers, but its morning news program, "The Early Show," was beaten in the ratings race last week by Fox News Channel's morning program, despite being available in 20 million more homes. CBS executives, however, argued that the development was likely unique to this war.

Andrew Heyward, the president of CBS News, said the Bush administration's new policy of placing reporters with the military units engaged in the fighting, was the most significant factor driving the decline. It introduced a new element of live, often visceral, coverage that had a profound impact on viewers, he said.

The decline in the number of people viewing the network newscasts was in stark contrast to what took place during the last sustained story of compelling national interest. "After 9-11, viewers looked to the network anchormen to help knit the fabric of the nation back together," Mr. Heyward said.

In contrast, he said, "This was a reporters' war, not an anchor war; this involved a series of very profound individual vignettes."

And while those carefully tracking news reports from Iraq found themselves drawn to the powerful images of developing battlefield action, Mr. Heyward said, for other viewers, especially some women, "the extraordinary and very upsetting imagery was simply too much."

Preliminary findings of research into viewing habits of the war that CBS commissioned showed that occasional viewers of the news still came to network newscasts in large numbers during the war, said David F. Poltrack, the executive vice president of research for the network. But, he said, a wide segment of what he called "core news viewers" felt compelled to keep up with the war regularly all day. "This group had no motivation to switch over and go the network newscasts to get a lot of the same story," he added.

That does not account for the ability of NBC to add viewers to its newscast while the others were losing them. NBC, though, does have the advantage of its own 24-hour news cable channel, MSNBC, which has been able to keep up with the story all day while urging viewers to watch the broadcast network's newscast each evening.

"The reason I think we're up is we can show what's happening on two different channels," said Neal Shapiro, the president of NBC News. "We know these news people are clicking all over the place. We have the peacock up in both places. We have our key people on the air in both places. That creates a comfort level. ABC and CBS don't have that."

Mr. Heyward agreed that NBC enjoyed a certain advantage in having a news operation that included both broadcast and cable outlets. "I've always said having the additional option of a cable network is valuable," he said. Among other reasons, he said, is savings that come from sharing the costs of news coverage. Both Mr. Heyward's network, CBS, and ABC have in the past sought to gain those advantages by combining operations with CNN. Those deals fell through. So far the war in Iraq has not led to a resumption of the partnership efforts.

Mr. Poltrack of CBS added that NBC had another unique advantage. "NBC already has the highest-rated newscast," he said. "They have the leading morning show in `Today' and that can drive viewers to their other programs throughout the day."

"Today" did pull in some additional viewers during the war. But the real growth has been on the cable news channels. During the first three weeks of the war, MSNBC vastly increased its normal average audience, which had been a minuscule 300,000 viewers a day. MSNBC showed the biggest percentage increase in viewers during the period, growing by more than 350 percent to more than 1.4 million viewers. CNN's ratings jumped more than 300 percent, while the cable news leader, Fox News, increased its viewership by nearly 300 percent.

What happens to all those additional viewers once the war coverage fades away will become a crucial economic question for the broadcast networks, which will try to convince advertisers that when news events become closer to normal, so too will viewing habits.

"I think you have to be careful about making grandiose claims for the cable news networks," Mr. Heyward said. "Remember, after the gulf war CNN seemed poised to soar, because everyone thought they had done so well on that story. We all have seen the issues and problems they've had since then. I think you'll see cable settle back into a more normal pattern."


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Front Page News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: abc; abccbs; abcnews; cablenews; cablenewsnetwork; cbs; cbsnews; ccrm; cnn; fnc; foxnews; foxnewschannel; foxnewsratings; lamestreammedia; liberalbias; liberalmedia; mediabias; msdnc; msnbc; nbc; nbcnews; networknews; seebs; televisedwar

1 posted on 04/13/2003 7:14:50 PM PDT by Timesink
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To: Timesink
History of Free Republic

2 posted on 04/13/2003 7:15:06 PM PDT by Bradís Gramma (Become a Monthly Donor to Free Republic! Please?)
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To: Timesink
bump
3 posted on 04/13/2003 7:15:51 PM PDT by KSCITYBOY
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To: Brad's Gramma
Uh ... what about the history of FR?
4 posted on 04/13/2003 7:17:14 PM PDT by Timesink
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To: Timesink
(I'm trying to hurry along the fund-raiser. Don't tell anyone)
5 posted on 04/13/2003 7:17:54 PM PDT by Bradís Gramma (Become a Monthly Donor to Free Republic! Please?)
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To: All

Donate Here By Secure Server

Or mail checks to
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Become A Monthly Donor
STOP BY AND BUMP THE FUNDRAISER THREAD-
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Thanks Registered

6 posted on 04/13/2003 7:18:18 PM PDT by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: *CCRM; MEDIANEWS; *Lamestream Media
bump for bump lists
7 posted on 04/13/2003 7:19:07 PM PDT by Timesink
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To: Timesink
The author deftly tiptoed around FOX like it was a minefield, didn't he?

The three alphabet nets with their over-the-hill anchors will never recover viewers who've switched to the cables simply because they're more lively. And.....in particular, FOX, because in the truth business, it has more gravitas.

Leni

8 posted on 04/13/2003 7:21:47 PM PDT by MinuteGal (THIS JUST IN ! Astonishing fare reduction for FReeps Ahoy Cruise! Check it out, pronto!)
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To: Timesink
I "don't" have the money, I honestly don't...but somehow I'm going to get enough put together to buy a video card (?) for my computer. I saw one on someone's computer at work, the first day that we REALLY started bombing.

It was called WinTV? I think.

ANYWAY! We don't have cable here, I personally HATE TV...and the news we get is so incredibly biased, I'm MORE THAN DELIGHTED they're taking a hit. I hope CNN goes down, too, big time for what they pulled.
9 posted on 04/13/2003 7:25:11 PM PDT by Bradís Gramma (Become a Monthly Donor to Free Republic! Please?)
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To: Timesink
And from this article, check out what they say about PBS.
http://www.current.org/news/news0307friday.html

"Like it or not, we lost a whole group of people to Fox, and I don't know if Bill [Moyers] is the problem," said David LeRoy, co-director of the public TV research firm TRAC Media Services. Older men who regularly watched PBS went to the Fox News Channel immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and never came back, he added.

As it's pledge week on some NPR stations, might I suggest that people who enjoy FreeRepublic click on the link and pledge here. Give what you can. NPR suggests $5 per month.

10 posted on 04/13/2003 7:28:20 PM PDT by Drango (Two wrongs don't make a right...but three lefts do!)
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To: Timesink
The problem with the Big Three Talking Heads news shows is that they hardly give you any news. I stopped watching TV news even before I stopped watching TV. You sit there for half an hour, get ten minutes of ads, a bunch of "human interest" and spin, and hardly any news at all.

The only reason I can possibly think of for watching any of these fellows is if you like their hairdos. I don't.
11 posted on 04/13/2003 7:28:52 PM PDT by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: Timesink
"After 9-11, viewers looked to the network anchormen to help knit the fabric of the nation back together," Mr. Heyward said.

As more people realize that 'knitting the fabric of the nation back together' means massaging the news so that no one's feelings get hurt, they will continue the trend toward preferring a little more truth in their pablum.
Of course, there will always be perfectly good adults who refer to cursing as 'potty mouth.'
12 posted on 04/13/2003 7:31:01 PM PDT by gcruse (If they truly are God's laws, he can enforce them himself.)
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To: Timesink
Propaganda is being swept aside in The Age of Interactive /Information. Propaganda is one way...or in its more sinister form...set up as a false dichotomy.Those who DO NOT INTERACT with their audience are history. Freedom loving information seekers realize that LIFE IS SHORT, and FREEDOM/TRUTH are different sides of the coin of LIFE.
13 posted on 04/13/2003 7:34:40 PM PDT by PGalt
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To: Timesink
the CBS liberal B*tches are getting the "next channel" treatment by their viewers..it is about time...I'll watch cbs news again if they put a flaming tire around dan blather's neck..

ever wonder why the two most glum newscasters of this war seeing the ratings drop...

is there ever anything go right in this war for baghdad pete or how about basra dan...

america has voted, get off the anti-america island while you can..i heard the frechies, the germans are hiring..get out while you can baghdad pete and basra dan!!
14 posted on 04/13/2003 7:36:11 PM PDT by FRgal4u
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To: Timesink
HA HA HA

TAKE THAT ABC CBS and NBC and don't forget CNN

YOU LOSERS


WAR FOX NEWS
15 posted on 04/13/2003 7:39:10 PM PDT by SevenofNine (Not everybody in it for truth, justice, and the American way=Det Lennie Briscoe)
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To: Timesink
Memo to the big three - send brokenjaw, peetah, and blather over as latrine specialists, and I'll tune into the 6:30 broadcast for details.

Other than that, cable rules!

16 posted on 04/13/2003 7:43:24 PM PDT by mombonn
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To: Timesink
Who watches cbsnbcmsnbcabcpbscnn et al?.....they are all

WANKERS

17 posted on 04/13/2003 7:54:42 PM PDT by goodnesswins (CNN...the MOST TRUSTED in News......by CRIMINALS!)
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To: MinuteGal
The author deftly tiptoed around FOX like it was a minefield, didn't he?

I was thinking the very same thing. Not much mention about Fox and no real effort to go beyond grabbing for the first explanation that comes along, an explanation that doesn't really explain much.

18 posted on 04/13/2003 8:00:44 PM PDT by Mr. Mulliner ("I could be a really good Christian if other people didn't mess me up all the time.")
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To: Timesink
"After 9-11, viewers looked to the network anchormen to help knit the fabric of the nation back together," Mr. Heyward said."

Whatever this pathetic clone is smoking, Dan Blather would love some. What viewers??? Which anchoroids???? No one I know admits to having watched any of the drooling lobotomite anchoroids for the last 20 years. The last time I saw a network anchoroid was when a bunch of sand goblins killed the Israeli wrestlers in Munich - the name Frank Reynolds echoes faintly. Blather, Broken and the Quisling Canadian Pillowbiter are not about knitting "the fabric" of this republic, they are and always have been hell bent on its slow destruction. Anchoroid, chancroid, totally indistinguishable.

19 posted on 04/13/2003 8:02:27 PM PDT by Bedford Forrest (Roger, Contact, Judy, Out. Fox One. Splash one.)
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To: Timesink
>> viewers are increasingly tuning out the broadcast networks' evening newscasts

Once viewers realize that Baghdad Bob is far more honest than Rather, Jennings and Brokaw -- which takes less than five minutes -- they abandon the networks... never to return, I trust.

20 posted on 04/13/2003 8:03:37 PM PDT by T'wit
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To: Cicero
You don't get news off the alphabet soup networks..you get AGENDA plus commercials. I watch the local news then switch off to the History Channel or Discovery. Since I've already gotten 90% of my national/world news from the internet, mostly via FR..why bother with brokjaw, petah whinings, or dan blather..they are biased and irrevelant..just like the Useless Nations.
21 posted on 04/13/2003 8:09:58 PM PDT by GailA (Millington Rally for America after action http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/872519/posts)
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To: Timesink
Socialist Totem Pole


22 posted on 04/13/2003 8:14:40 PM PDT by HighWheeler
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To: Timesink
ABC executives also noted that the network's other news programs, "Good Morning America" and "Nightline" added viewers

Of course, the obvious conclusion that ABC's biggest problem is Peter Jennings will never occur to the pinheads at Disney. Nor the idea that Nightline did better with Koppel not hosting (not to mention, having him actually doing some real reporting for a change).

23 posted on 04/13/2003 8:14:54 PM PDT by LenS
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To: Timesink
It looks like the war has kept MSNBC from going under. There was 'series' talk of pulling the plug on it before the war. Now I think they will hold onto it because the cable/broadcast tandem is so effective when big stories are breaking.
24 posted on 04/13/2003 8:18:35 PM PDT by Ahban
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To: All
You may think you understand media bias, but once you look at what the Media Research Center ferets out, you will begin to truly understand the depth and scope of their subversion of the American public psyche by the liberal media. Take a look at the 30-day archive of MRC cyber-alerts. It's fascinating and frightening reading.
25 posted on 04/13/2003 8:39:52 PM PDT by Vigilant1 (The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.)
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To: HighWheeler
They all look saddened - deeply saddened...
26 posted on 04/13/2003 8:41:38 PM PDT by Noumenon (Don't immanentize the eschaton!)
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To: Timesink
["This was a reporters' war, not an anchor war..."]

Translation: People are much more interested in real-time reporting from the front lines than the bland, biased drivel from the elitists. The decision to embed reporters will go down as a brilliant stroke.

27 posted on 04/13/2003 8:42:07 PM PDT by Mad_Tom_Rackham (Open the pod bay door HAL.)
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To: Cicero
I watch cable news channels, sports events, an occasional cooking show, classic movies, and the History Channel. That's all. Network news? I stopped watching that drivel years ago.
28 posted on 04/13/2003 8:46:04 PM PDT by Mad_Tom_Rackham (Open the pod bay door HAL.)
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To: Ahban
Well, their coverage beats CNN all to heck!!
29 posted on 04/13/2003 9:03:30 PM PDT by CyberAnt ( America - You Are The Greatest!!)
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To: T'wit
Once viewers realize that Baghdad Bob is far more honest than Rather, Jennings and Brokaw -- which takes less than five minutes -- they abandon the networks... never to return, I trust

At least Baghdad Bob was entertaining and made you laugh. Watching the networks is only good for giving you ulcers and high blood pressure. And only a masochist would sit and watch the snide and sneering Petah Jennings. He is poison. He is bitterness in the flesh. I wonder if he'll ever become sick of himself.

30 posted on 04/13/2003 9:12:38 PM PDT by laz17 (Socialism is the religion of the atheist.)
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To: Interesting Times; Skeet; Nick Danger; aminuteman; RightOnline
This article is a must read IMHO.

Regards,

TS

31 posted on 04/13/2003 9:23:17 PM PDT by The Shrew
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To: laz17
I seriesly believe that watching network news destroys hugh amounts of brain cells.
32 posted on 04/13/2003 9:38:19 PM PDT by T'wit
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To: Timesink
Amazing that they never point out that the 2 lblatantly liberal anchors lost viewers, while the less blatant anchor gained.
33 posted on 04/13/2003 9:40:28 PM PDT by sharktrager
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To: MinuteGal
IMO those network news shows are a colossal waste of time...Haven't watched 'em since I don't know when...FOX is the best!
34 posted on 04/13/2003 9:45:23 PM PDT by Frank_2001
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To: Mr. Mulliner
Although this article has some interesting stats, I agree it lacks any serious analysis. For instance, it does not cover issues such as bias or quality. It automatically assumes that NBC did better because MSNBC is feeding viewers to it, but while some of NBC's success may be due to MSNBC, I would suggest it is because of the quality of the resources they share rather than MSNBC feeding NBC its viewers. If I'm not watching Fox (which is most of the time) the only other channel I watch is MSNBC, which has had some very good reporting by the late David Bloom and Dr. Bob Arnot. Like many, I flipped from Fox from time to time just to catch Bloom's enthusiastic reports. And who can forget the audio of Arnot comforting an Iraqi family in a foxhole as firing raged?

They don't mention the quality of Fox's coverage -- although they used to be considered not as strong on breaking news as CNN, the high quality of Fox's "embeds," combined with their top-drawer military analysts, combined with lots of daytime "face time" for Brit, Tony, Linda, et al., combined with refreshingly candid late-night dialogues between Shep & Rick, etc., has put Fox's coverage head and shoulders above the rest, and I think viewers who are interested in this kind of news just might be smart enough to realize it. :)

Finally, no analysis of how Jennings' very obvious anti-Americanism may have hurt his ratings. ABC needs to wake up and smell the coffee when it comes to Jennings.
35 posted on 04/13/2003 9:48:33 PM PDT by GOPrincess
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To: MinuteGal
The author deftly tiptoed around FOX like it was a minefield, didn't he?

I noticed that too, Leni! NY Slimes... what else can we expect?

36 posted on 04/18/2003 10:57:12 PM PDT by nutmeg
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To: StarFan; Dutchy; Gracey; Alamo-Girl; RottiBiz; lonevoice; bamabaseballmom; FoxGirl; Mr. Bob; ...
FoxFan ping!

Please FReepmail me if you want on or off my infrequent FoxFan list.

37 posted on 04/18/2003 10:58:19 PM PDT by nutmeg
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To: nutmeg
Thanks for the heads up!
38 posted on 04/19/2003 10:01:27 AM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: Timesink
Yes, "Big 3" just keep denying your viewers what they want to watch. Continue asserting that you don't have a liberal slant in your NEWS coverage. Hang on to your views that Fox News Channel is not fair and balanced and you don't need to change your ways. Don't observe the trends and make positive changes like MSNBC is beginning to do. Keep up the in-the-past and unrealistic thinking (i.e., Clintonites make up the majority of the viewing public; Al Gore got more votes in the 2000 election.)

Just because your newsrooms are full of leftists doesn't mean you can emulate Baghdad Bob and insist that what you are reporting is the truth. Go ahead and stay in your Democrap bubble like Saddam in his bunker. Keep it up and your financial bottom line will start looking like a big fat zero.

I worked in a television newsroom for 21 years. I'll never forget the time the station did a study on what viewers want in newscasts. Number One on the resulting list was POSITIVE NEWS. That was totally ignored and they just kept on reporting SCARY NEWS (like what kind of foods will kill you today, the dangers of this or that, fill-in-the-blank is unsafe, digging for dirt on supposedly corrupt (Republican) politicans, blah blah blah) Their ratings didn't improve until they later started reporting in a more positive way and even included a special segment focusing on religious news.

39 posted on 04/19/2003 10:21:49 AM PDT by arasina ("Thank you Mister Bush!" [direct quote from liberated Iraqi man])
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To: Timesink
Looking at these three photographs I can conclude that they have increased Dan's antidepressant medication, Tom is in dyer need of a high colonic, and Peter off on some irrelevant tangent about the unemployed servants of Saddamn Insane and their tragic post-war fate.

Note to all these clymers: Don't eat a lot of cheese with that whine, it'll bind up your bowels, and you guys are full enough of "it" as it is.

40 posted on 04/19/2003 10:41:43 AM PDT by timydnuc (FR)
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