Saturday, March 28, 2009

La-Z-Boys And Girls

Without a doubt, NBC News has the laziest producers in the news industry. Nightly News shows the same clips over and over and over again. There's one clip of people waiting on line at a "Work One" center (a job placement office) that Nightly News has used dozens of times in the past few months. Dateline has also used it, and I'm sure the Today Show has used it, too. I think it's time for the producers to find a different clip. I don't want to say that this clip is old, but there's a guy on line wearing a mood ring and holding a pet rock.

But the most obvious example of the laziness of the NBC producers is their regular use of news stories that have been condensed from longer segments on other shows. Several times each week, Nightly News airs stories that are lifted from Dateline reports or from specials that will be appearing on CNBC or MSNBC. These stories serve a dual purpose. First and foremost, they offer the Nightly News producers an easy opportunity to air a ready-made segment that has already been produced. It's like a gift-wrapped present. All the producers need to do is to edit the story down to two or three minutes so it can fit neatly on Nightly News. This takes far less time than actually bothering to dispatch a crew to report on a story from scratch. But these edited versions of stories also serve as promos for the longer versions. They are always followed by full screen ad promos for the show which will inevitably be appearing later that night on CNBC, MSNBC or Dateline. They are, in effect, two or three minute commercials for upcoming NBC shows.

But Friday's Nightly News (March 27) took this practice to a new low. I must admit--Brian Williams did a good job of tricking the viewers into thinking they were about to see a legitimate story. Brian said, "We learned today officially what a lot of people already knew--incomes and wages were down again last month and now consumer debt in America stands at an astonishing $2.5 trillion. That debt has become a big industry--debt collectors are busier than ever...This is a story that dateline NBC is going to take on later this evening--we have a short portion--a preview--the brief story of one victim who happens to be a war veteran." Very clever. He made this sound as if it was an actual news story, then went into the Dateline pitch. We then saw 30 seconds of the story--a man (a war veteran, no less!) harassed by debt collectors and by someone claiming to be a military investigator. The clip ended as we hear a collection message and see a close-up of a phone while Chris Hansen says ominously, "But it turned out the (collection) calls weren't coming from an investigator!" The story then cut back to Brian who told us that we can see the full report on Dateline later that night. A full-screen promo for the show appeared next. This was nothing more than a commercial for Dateline. But this represents a new low in promos. Most other promos masquerading as news stories at least present a story with a beginning, a middle and an ending. There was no ending to this story. It was a cliff-hanger designed to make us tune in to Dateline to discover the shocking finale. Shame on Brian Williams and the lazy Nightly News producers. They are supposed to be presenting news, not airing two minute promos for other NBC shows. I wonder what the Nightly News producers do with all the time they save by using pre-packaged clips from other NBC shows. I imagine they use that extra time to tell Brian how nice his hair looks or how sharp his tie is.

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