On March 17, Nightly News did a story about congressional outrage over the AIG bonus payments. Several senators and representatives were shown expressing their outrage over the bonuses. One clip showed Rep. Carolyn McCarthy saying, "We can legislate all we want. Unfortunately, we cannot legislate morality. And that is really a shame." What's really a shame is that Rep. McCarthy was identified on-screen as Rep. Carolyn Maloney. Apparently the Nightly News producers figured it was no big deal. After all--both congresswomen share the same first name. Their districts are just a few miles apart. They're both 60-ish and blond. I guess they're interchangeable as far as the Nightly News producers are concerned. The saddest part of this mix-up is that some of the Nightly News producers probably live in McCarthy's or Maloney's district. And this is no isolated incident. The very next night, an on-screen graphic identified Rep. Barney Frank as Rep. Paul Kanjorski. Barney Frank is one of the most recognizable members of the U.S. House, but Nightly News couldn't even properly identify him. This is shameful. But wait. It gets better.
During the same Nightly News broadcast that contained the McCarthy-Maloney mix-up, NBC aired a 20 second promo spot. In this spot, the camera pans across photos of Brian Williams, Matt Lauer & Meredith Vieira, Ann Curry, Al Roker, David Gregory and Lester Holt. Also seen are images of Pres. Obama, an American Flag, a store with a going-out-of-business sign, and a flag-draped military coffin. The words "extraordinary" and "hope" appear on-screen. The voice-over (read by Brian in his most earnest intonation) states, "We live in extraordinary times. Our nation's in crisis. And yet there's that uniquely American feeling of hope. This is the story of our nation. You rely on us to get it right. Every time. This is the tradition of NBC News." A few minutes later (after I stopped laughing) some thoughts occurred to me. First, does Brian understand the definition of "uniquely"? The Scribner-Bantam English Dictionary defines it as "limited to a region, class or time". So if hope is uniquely American, does that mean that the people of Japan, Sweden, Greece, Kenya or Latvia have no hope? And what about Canada or Argentina? Is hope unique to all of the Americas (both North and South), just to North America or just to the United States of America? I'd really like to know. But the most galling statement Brian made was "You rely on us to get it right. Every time." Does mis-identifying two U.S. Representatives in two days constitute getting it right? How about the constant misspelling of names by NBC News? Arnold Schwarzenegger? Chesley Sullenberger? Kay Hagan? Steven Spielberg? Was Nightly News getting it right when they misspelled those names? I must admit, I admire Brian's Clintonian parsing of words. Brian didn't say that NBC actually succeeds in getting it right. He merely said that we rely on NBC to get it right. That's absolutely true. It's also true that people relied on Bernie Madoff to invest their money wisely. It doesn't mean that he actually did so. This promo spot was hilarious, but it was also sobering, considering that it ran during the same broadcast in which Nightly News blatantly mis-identified a member of congress. The words "extraordinary" and "hope" seem important to Nightly News. I think it's EXTRAORDINARY that Nightly News makes these mistakes, and I HOPE they soon figure out a way to stop them.