Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Boyle-ing Point

On Monday, Nightly News aired yet another "news story" about Susan Boyle. This was the seventh Susan Boyle story they've aired in the past six weeks. Altogether, Nightly News has devoted more than fourteen minutes of valuable news time to Susan Boyle. That's the equivalent of more than half of an entire Nightly News broadcast. All for a story that even by the widest possible definition doesn't qualify as news . This is disappointing, but certainly not surprising. We all know that the goal of Brian Williams and the Nightly News producers is to attract the most viewers by pandering to the widest possible audience. Instead of airing actual news, they air easily digestible feel-good stories that people can watch without thinking too much. That way, Nightly News can achieve the highest ratings and therefore charge the highest ad rates. And that's really what it's all about for Nightly News: money. So in keeping with that formula, Monday's Susan Boyle story was just more sugar-coated fluff. It was comprised mostly of hearsay and unproven accusations. Here are some excerpts from Dawna Friesen's story:

> "But as quickly as she shot to fame came reports she was cracking."
> "So on the night of the final of 'Britain's Got Talent', many wondered if she could hold it together."
> "Boyle seemed gracious in defeat, but there were reports she collapsed in tears backstage."
> "It's reported Boyle then threw a glass of water on a floor manager and shouted, 'I hate this show!'"
> "Then last night after reportedly acting strangely in her hotel, the police and paramedics were called..."
> "She's said to be exhausted and emotionally drained."

"Came reports". "Many wondered". "But there were reports". "It's reported". "After reportedly acting strangely". "She's said to be exhausted". This is what passes for reporting on NBC? Unsubstantiated rumors and unattributed allegations? That's just shameful. Friesen ended her story by telling us that perhaps the producers shouldn't have allowed Boyle to go on because, "She's a vulnerable woman who was exploited for the sake of ratings." Is Friesen kidding us? That's exactly what Nightly News has been doing--exploiting Boyle for the sake of ratings! Talk about people in glass houses throwing stones! Brian Williams' closing comment to this story was "Poignant ending." Ending? I doubt it. I'm pretty sure that we'll be seeing plenty more of Susan Boyle on NBC. After all, she'll be releasing a record and going on tour soon. And Nightly News will be there to cover all of it.

Last October, NBC aired a 30-second infomercial for Nightly News. It started off with Brian (in his most earnest voice-over) saying, "We've got a big job in explaining some big issues. This is one of the few places left where you're gonna find journalism and journalists." Yes sir, Brian. You prove that every night.

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