Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Stepfather and the Gov

On Thursday's Nightly News story about Jaycee Dugard, her stepfather Carl Probyn was described in an on-screen graphic as "Stepfather of Jaycee Dugard". On the following night's broadcast, he was described as "Jaycee's Step-Father". Why did the Nightly News producers suddenly change their description of Probyn? Is Friday's description measurably better than Thursday's? Pick one description and go with it. And is he Jaycee's Stepfather or Step-Father? I guess it depends what day of the week it is. Maybe next week he'll be her Step Father. Do the Nightly News producers actually pay any attention to what they put up on the screen?

Also on Thursday's broadcast we saw a 10-second clip of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick stating that he should have the authority to pick Ted Kennedy's successor. But Gov. Patrick was never identified, either by Kelly O'Donnell or by an on-screen graphic. Do the producers just assume that every viewer can recognize Gov. Patrick? Do they assume we can recognize the governor of every state? So the stepfather gets two different descriptions and the governor gets none? I'd like to hear the logic behind that decision.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Greens Equals Green For NBC

Yet again, NBC has determined that golf is more important than news. Last Sunday, east coast viewers did not see Nightly News because golf was on. But here's the catch: the golf tournament actually ended before 6:00 PM. At that time, NBC decided to air an extra half-hour of gratuitous golf interviews and highlights. At 6:30, New York's local NBC affiliate naturally opted to air their local news (because they keep most of the ad revenue from that broadcast), so Nightly News got squeezed out. The reason for NBC's decision is obvious: The golf audience is larger and younger than the news audience, so for NBC this was a no-brainer. They earn more ad revenue from a half-hour of golf than they do from a half-hour of Nightly News. I'm sure the NBC execs had already decided beforehand that even if the tournament ended on time, they would add on 30 extra minutes of gratuitous golf programming. Although local news was scheduled to air at 6:00 and Nightly News was scheduled to air at 6:30, NBC had no intention of sticking to their schedule. For NBC, it's all about the greens. And the green.

I wonder why NBC even bothers to air a weekend newscast, anyway. Their weekend broadcasts are comprised largely of re-run stories and additional footage taken from interviews that already aired the previous week. Look--there's Diane Swonk again. And Dana Telsey. And they're always wearing the same clothes as they were on Thursday or Friday. Maybe these women need to do laundry more often, but it's more likely that Nightly News is recycling their interviews. (I guess recycling interviews is part of NBC's mandate to go green.) This past Saturday, Nightly News recycled almost all of Anne Thompson's Friday story about the upcoming Presidential vacation on Martha's Vineyard. On Friday, Thompson said, "Even the Island's famous black dog knows there's a new dog in town." (Cut to a picture of Bo.) On Saturday, she said, "Though the black dog rules this island, even Bo has his own t-shirt." (Cut to a Bo t-shirt.) Interviews with Sam Bungey of the Vineyard Gazette and Phil McAndrews of the Offshore Ale Company were used on both days. But amid all the repetition, Thompson nevertheless managed to fulfill one of NBC's primary mandates--major name dropping. "And the streets are rife with rumors about celebrities who may join the first family. Will Oprah show up? How about Tiger?" On both nights, we saw plenty of videos and photos of Oprah, Tiger, James Taylor, Spike Lee, Bill & Hillary, Carly Simon, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen. (Too bad the producers couldn't figure out a way to start a rumor that Sarah Palin was going to visit the Obamas--she's a hot property right now.) This was a story that didn't deserve to air once, but Nightly News stretched it to five minutes over two nights. And I'll bet that if Nightly News had actually aired on Sunday, we would have seen a third night of "Anne Thompson's Martha's Vineyard's Name Dropping Celebrity Obamathon" (also known as "The Vineyard's Got Talent"). Well done, NBC. They just keep making Nightly News more and more indistinguishable from Extra and Access Hollywood, the shows that follow Nightly News in New York. Maybe those three shows should just combine for one big 90-minute celebrity lovefest. I only hope that Miley and Britney and Lindsay bring a change of clothes to their Nightly News interviews so that they don't appear to be wearing the same outfit on two consecutive nights.

(Not) Making The Grade

On Monday, Nightly News began a "special series of reports on education" called "Making The Grade". Apparently, the purpose of these reports is to evaluate the state of education in the U.S. Meanwhile, ten minutes earlier, during Andrea Mitchell's story about CIA torture techniques, the phrase "sexual humilation" (sic) was put up on the screen. (The correct spelling is "humiliation".) Does anyone else see the irony in misspelling a word on the same broadcast as a report on education? Clearly, the Nightly news editors and producers are not making the grade.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Brian's Lie

On the Jan. 5 Nightly News, Brian Williams showed a clip of John Chancellor from 1976 pledging not to air stories about Amy Carter unless there is a compelling reason to do so. Brian then said that's "pretty much the way we all feel about the Obama daughters." Well, that didn't last long. Monday's Nightly News story titled "Excellent Adventure" (as in "Bill & Ted's" or "Sasha & Malia's") was all about--the Obama daughters. This is from Ann Curry's introduction: "The Obamas haven't exactly been loading up the station wagon, but for Sasha and Malia, it's been an opportunity to see the beauty of this country nevertheless." Then we see a clip of Sasha and Malia in an ice cream store. There they are whitewater rafting. And at Yellowstone watching Old Faithful erupt. And at the Grand Canyon. Now they're disembarking from Marine 1. And entering Air Force 1. We see still photos of the girls in Paris, Moscow, London and Ghana. We're told that their next stop is Martha's Vineyard. So what exactly is the "compelling reason" for NBC to show the Obama girls on their summer vacation? Obviously, there isn't one. It was just a gratuitous story about the presidential daughters--the same presidential daughters that Brian pledged not to cover without good reason. The "good reason" was that Brian and the Nightly News producers know that Sasha and Malia equal good ratings. I guess Brian figured that seven months later, no one would remember his pledge. Well, obviously pledges go out the window when good ratings are at stake. Anyway, what's a little lie between friends, right Brian?

U2, Fletch?

Martin Fletcher could use a lesson or two in the Ethics of Journalism. Journalists are supposed to report the news, not influence it or become part of it. On April 8, Fletcher was the reporter (and the star) of a story about his efforts to help a California family track down their relatives in L'Aquila, Italy after the earthquake. On April 10, Fletcher searched for a different family's home in L'Aquila to see if it was intact. It is not a journalist's job to involve himself in news stories. Unless it is a matter of life and death, a reporter is supposed to be an impartial observer, not a participant. Now Fletcher is at it again. On Monday, he arranged for a Sarajevan woman to reunite in Zagreb with the members of U2, whom she had first met when they played in her home town over a decade ago. At one point, Fletcher asks her, "Will you meet them again tonight?" She says, "Hopefully." It's obvious that Fletcher asked the question knowing that NBC was in the process of arranging (or had already arranged) the reunion. Fletcher ends the story by saying, "But it wasn't the birthday boy who got the best present--it was Alma--with a little pull from NBC." Indeed. Fletcher and the producers clearly manipulated the story to build suspense, even though they already knew what the outcome would be. Shame on Fletcher and NBC News. This was more like an MTV reality show than a news story. It's really sad what's happened to Fletcher. He used to be a top-notch reporter when he was stationed in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Now he's reduced to doing "fan-meets-idols" type stories. Even worse, he's manipulating the story, rather than merely reporting it. And that is grossly unethical.

Of course, it's no surprise that Nightly News did yet another story featuring U2. Bono and the band have been FOB's (Friends of Brian) for many years. They are featured in Nightly News stories several times a year for no reason other than to provide high-recognition entertainment value. After all, Brian and the producers know that stories about celebrities--even stories devoid of news value--are very popular with viewers. And attracting viewers means high ratings and high ad rates. Well done, NBC.

I Hate Time Warner Cable

I am absolutely furious at Time Warner Cable. Last Thursday, I received an "upgrade" from the passport system to the mystro/navigator system. I did not ask for this upgrade--I woke up and found that it had been implemented. First of all, this changeover damaged my cable box and it isn't working properly. For one thing, every time I change my main channel, my secondary channel (picture in picture) also changes. And sometimes, a channel won't rewind all the way to the beginning of a show even when I tuned into that channel before the program began. If I swap out my cable box for a new one, then I will lose the 50-60 hours of saved DVR movies and shows that I have been accumulating for the past few years. And I'm not going to do that. It's obvious that TWC doesn't care about their customers. If they did, they would provide a way for us to transfer our DVR shows from one box to another. This isn't rocket science. Some systems have a removable card in the back of the box that can transfer information from one box to another. Many cable providers already offer this service. But I guess those are the providers that actually care about their customers. TWC is not in that category. Aside from the fact that my cable box has not worked properly since the changeover, I cannot express how angry I am with the new "upgraded" service. In truth, this isn't an upgrade--it's a downgrade. The old system was far superior to the new one. Here are just a few examples of why the new system is not nearly as good:
*My picture-in-picture has only one size. Under the old system, it had two sizes.
*The fast-forward and rewind speeds for DVR viewing are noticeably slower than before. Obviously TWC did this intentionally as a concession to the TV networks and the advertising industry because advertisers don't like people scanning through commercials at high speed.
*The program guide is much less user-friendly now. With the old system, it was easy for me to find out if a particular program was playing again that week. All I had to do was locate that program on the guide and press the red "C" button to find all future showings of that program. But the "C" button has been eliminated from the new system. Now, all shows have to be searched for manually by typing them in on the search keyboard. This is much more time consuming. TWC has eliminated a very important feature from the search mechanism. Why?
*With the old system, I could search for an actor, a country or any word (like "Woodstock" or "basketball") and get a list of all the week's shows containing that word. Now, there is no more word search capability. Shows can only be searched for by title. That is absolutely horrible. What if I want to find all the movies with Cary Grant or Barbara Stanwyck? I can't search for them by name. How could TWC have possibly thought it was a good idea to eliminate this feature?
*The guide itself gives much less information than before. The old guide would list 3, 4 or 5 actors in each film, along with the director, the country of origin (if other than the U.S.) and a decent description of the show. The new guide lists only 1 or 2 actors (often none), no director and no country of origin. The film description is poor and doesn't provide me with enough information to decide if I want to watch the film. Also, under the old guide, we were given the actual lengths of movies. Now, the guide only indicates how much time is allotted for the film. For example, if a 1:48 movie is allotted 2 hours by HBO, the guide lists the time as 2 hours. That is not acceptable. And the new guide doesn't even tell us if a movie is a comedy, drama, romance, etc. We used to be given this information with the old guide.
*Other listings are incomplete. For example, live Yankee games (and other live sporting events) are listed as "new", not "live". The rebroadcasts are also listed as "new". Considering that the YES network often shows repeats of Yankee games, how are we supposed to know which games are live and which are rebroadcasts? It's clear that TWC came up with the "live" designation as a favor to their friends at the networks. By not listing a show as "live", they don't have to later list it as a repeat. The networks hate seeing their shows listed as "repeat" or "rebroadcast", so TWC is once again helping their buddies at the networks, while screwing over their customers.
*The digital clock on the guide shows only hours and minutes. Under the old guide, it displayed hours/minutes/seconds. Displaying seconds is very valuable in many cases, but obviously TWC doesn't care what the customers want.
*On Demand programs no longer tell us until what date they will be playing. HBO and other pay-cable networks only place shows on demand for a limited time (usually about a month, but times vary). If I want to watch 10 episodes of "The Sopranos" on HBO On Demand, it's important for me to know how many weeks I have to watch them. If I watch 7 episodes and then HBO changes their OD lineup, I'm screwed. Obviously, TWC isn't concerned with this.
*The status bar that pops up when I press "info" has much less information than before. Previously, when I was watching a live show on a DVR delay, the status bar would tell me where the show was relative to live time. For example, if it was 7:00 PM and I was watching on a 30-minute delay, the indicator arrow would read "6:30" so I knew I was on a half-hour delay. Now there is no indication of where I am in relation to live time. Doesn't TWC understand how valuable that information was? If I don't know how much of a delay I'm on, how can I plan my activities? If I'm on a 30-minute delay, I have time to pause the show and go out to Starbucks. If I'm only on a 15-minute delay, I don't have enough time for Starbucks (surprising, since they're on every corner). How can I know how much delay time I have if there is no indicator on the status bar? What were they thinking when they eliminated that feature?

This is only a partial listing of why the new system is MUCH, MUCH WORSE than the old system. Since I've only had mystro for a few days, I'm sure I haven't discovered all the reasons the passport system was better. So in reality, this "upgrade" is a "downgrade". I'm paying almost $100 a month for my cable, and they have the nerve to do this to me? I can't wait to find an alternative to Time Warner.

UPDATE (3/16/10)--In January, Time Warner raised their rates by 7%! So in the space of six months, they downgraded service AND raised their rates.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Too Much AC

Why do the Nightly News producers continue to use Ann Curry as a fill-in for Brian Williams? She's not a reporter or an anchor--she's a "television personality" like Rachael Ray or Kelly Ripa. She talks so fast that she constantly slurs and mispronounces her words. She also combines words to create new ones (such as "Obaministration"). Her gush of "thank you"s after each report are uncomfortably out of place on an evening newscast. And it doesn't appear that she's even paying attention to what she's doing. On Thursday, Curry referred to correspondent Ron Allen as "Ron Paul". Come on--this isn't rocket science. News reader. Read the news. The words appear on the teleprompter and the reader reads them. Simple enough. NBC has plenty of competent people to fill in for Brian (Carl Quintanilla and Amy Robach come to mind). Why use someone who can't manage to fulfill the job requirements? Here's an idea: Why not use Jay Leno as fill-in anchor? It would be great promotion for his upcoming show. And let's face it--promoting other NBC properties is one of the main goals of Nightly News.

Monday, August 10, 2009

His Royal Highness

I was relieved to learn from Monday's Nightly News that guests meeting with Queen Elizabeth are no longer required to exit the room walking backwards. No word yet on whether that practice will be abolished for NBC interns exiting the room after meeting with Brian Williams.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Meat The Press

Now that ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" beat NBC's "Meet The Press" in the ratings for Aug. 2 (in both total viewers and viewers aged 25-54), I'm wondering how NBC is going to fudge the numbers to make sure that doesn't happen again. When the Nightly News producers suspect that a broadcast will have low ratings, they submit it to Nielsen as "Nitely News" so it won't be counted as part of the week's Nightly News ratings. Maybe the "Meet The Press" producers should start submitting their show to Nielsen as "Meat The Press" or "Mete The Press" or maybe as "Meet The Presss". That way, "This Week" couldn't possibly earn higher ratings than "Meet The Press".

Here are some other suggestions on how the MTP producers can keep their show at #1:

>Sponsor a health care debate between Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston
>New moderator: Jay Leno
>Each week, Tina Fey dresses up as Sarah Palin and questions guests
>More stories about puppies and kitties. Everyone loves puppies and kitties!
>Each show ends with Susan Boyle singing "I Dreamed A Dream"
>Instead of "If It's Sunday, It's Meet The Press", new catch phrase becomes "Holy Cannoli!"
>Each week, one guest gets voted off the panel
>New glass studio windows allow fans to appear in the background holding signs reading "We love you, David!"
>Each guest gets an on-camera swine flu vaccine from Dr. Nancy Snyderman
>Bob Uecker moderates debate on "tastes great" vs. "less filling"
>In new lightning round, cash values are doubled
>Five minute sports update each week with Len Berman
>Cute animated characters help David Gregory interrogate guests
>Six month ban for any guest testing positive for steroids


It's now been four days since it was announced that General Electric (NBC's parent company) was fined $50 million by the SEC for using improper accounting practices. Brian Williams hasn't mentioned this story on Nightly News, and apparently he has no intention of ever doing so. That's not surprising. One of Brian's main responsibilities as Nightly News anchor is to promote (and when necessary, protect) NBC/Universal and GE properties. Nightly News viewers may remember last March 4 when Brian spent two shameless minutes on Nightly News (with CNBC's David Faber) desperately trying to prop up GE's falling stock price. This was part of Brian's discourse: "Founded by Thomas Edison--why is it important in modern-day America as the last surviving member of the original Dow--and was it the victim of a feeding frenzy the past few days?" Faber responded by saying, "GE says we have more than enough capital--more than enough financial flexibility--we are simply the victim at this point of a feeding frenzy." (I guess "feeding frenzy" is the operative phrase here.) That exchange sounded like it was part of an infomercial. Now once again, Brian is fiercely protecting his parent company by keeping mum about the GE accounting scandal. In his blog, Brian is fond of providing links to New York Times articles. Well, here's a link to a very interesting column by Floyd Norris that ran on the front page of the Times's Aug. 7 Business Section. The column is called "Inside G.E., A Little Bit Of Enron" (it can also be accessed through the Times's website). According to Norris, "Some of the details (of this case) are eerily reminiscent of Enron." The article offers some keen insight into GE's corporate practices and ethics. It's a good bet that Brian won't be linking to this article.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Details, Shmetails

From Brian Williams's Aug. 3 Daily Nightly Blog: "While I am not now -- nor have I ever been -- a member of the U.S. Military, I finally saw the feature film 'The Hurt Locker' yesterday. While I found it a suspenseful, troubling, compelling story, I found a slew of technical inaccuracies based only on my few trips to Iraq during the height of the conflict. Seeing the movie made me go back over many of the positive reviews I read after its release...and it is now clear none of them was written by anyone who had spent any time with U.S. armed forces in Iraq." Brian then goes on to painstakingly detail all the inaccuracies he believes appear in the film.

Note to Brian: Anchors in glass studios shouldn't launch improvised explosive devices. Nightly News broadcasts frequently contain errors, misprints, inconsistencies and inaccuracies. Here are a few recent examples:

>During an Aug. 3 Nightly News story about possible cutbacks by the U.S. Postal Service, we see a clip of Sen. Susan Collins stating that any postal cutbacks would be shortsighted. But Collins is never identified, either by Lisa Myers or by an on-screen graphic. Perhaps we're supposed to play "guess the senator". Then again, considering recent Nightly News misidentifications of Sen. Harry Reid and Reps. Barney Frank and Carolyn McCarthy (and the misspelling of Kay Hagan's name when she was running for U.S. Senate), it may have been prudent for the producers not to even attempt to identify Sen. Collins.

>During an Aug. 2 Nightly News story about the economy, Christina Romer is identified by an on-screen graphic as the "Council of Economic Advisers Chairwoman". During a July 23 story about the Henry Louis Gates arrest, Vernon Jordan is identified as a "Former Presidential Advisor". During a July 1 story on health care, Nightly News put this sentence on the screen: "Advisers won't rule out a tax on benefits." A June 30 story used the on-screen phrase "Drug Safety Advisory Committee". In a June 27 Nightly News promo for Meet The Press, David Axelrod was identified as a "White House Adviser". The next day, when Nightly News showed a clip from Meet The Press, Axelrod was identified as an "Advisor". A July 6 Nightly News clip of Mark McKinnon identified him as a "Former McCain/Palin Campaign Advisor". Whew! It makes your head spin. Both "adviser" and "advisor" are correct, but it might be nice if the Nightly News producers could pick a spelling and stick with it. By the way, on the Feb. 26 broadcast, Romer was identified as the "Council of Economic Advisors Chairman". The producers should also pick a gender and stick with it.

>During an Aug. 2 story about the possibility of France allowing businesses to open on Sundays, Keith Miller reported the story from Paris (at one point, the Eiffel Tower can be seen behind him). But a Nightly News identification line stated that Miller was reporting from London.

>An Aug. 2 "Making A Difference" story profiles a non-profit organization called Goods For Good that sends school supplies to children in Malawi. At one point, we see one of their vehicles with a "goodsforgood" logo on the side. But in separate interviews with the organization's founder and program director, a Nightly News identification line misstates the organization's name as "Goods4Good".

>A July 31 Nightly News story featured an interview with Bruce Kasman, chief economist at J.P. Morgan. Despite the fact that Kasman is sitting in front of a video screen that clearly reads "J.P. Morgan", a Nightly News identification line nevertheless misstates the company's name as "JP Morgan". The company's own website identifies itself as "J.P. Morgan".

>A March 3 Nightly News story featured an interview with Efraim Levy, who was identified as a "Standard And Poor's Analyst". During the interview, Mr. Levy was in front of a screen filled with multiple "Standard & Poor's" logos. The most hilarious thing about that gaffe is that every night (including March 3), Nightly News displays stock market information on the screen--including the "S&P 500". Of course, the company's own website also identifies itself as "Standard & Poor's".

>A July 21 "What Works" segment about Monks who sell printer supplies mentions a company that identifies itself as "Brighten Tomorrow's" (we see their logo on the door of their business). A Nightly News identification line later misstates the company's name as "Brighten Tomorrows", without the apostrophe. Although the company's name contains an unnecessary apostrophe, the Nightly News producers had no right to remove the apostrophe when showing the company's name. If Nightly News did a story about the hip hop group Outkast, would they change their name to "Outcast"?

>Another story on the July 21 Nightly News uses the on-screen phrase "out-of pocket". Apparently, someone forgot to include the dash between "of" and "pocket".

>During an Aug. 5 Nightly News story about Russian submarines off the east coast of the U.S., we were shown a clip from the movie "The Hunt For Red October". Unfortunately, the credit line on screen read "The Hunt For Red For October".

>In David Gregory's July 31 Daily Nightly blog entry, he misspelled the name of CNBC correspondent Steve Liesman as "Leisman". On Ann Curry's Aug. 14 blog, she spelled "erode" as "errode". Last December 28, Amy Robach misspelled Barack Obama's first name (as "Barak") on her blog entry. Brian Williams himself has misspelled the names of Condoleezza Rice and Alison Krauss on his blog.

>During the intro to the Aug. 9 Nightly News, we were shown a photo of the mid-air crash between a helicopter and a small plane. The photo was credited to the "Fox New Channel", rather than the "Fox News Channel".

>Also on the Aug. 9 broadcast, we were shown an on-screen statement taken from Sarah Palin's Facebook page. Although the Nightly News producers began and ended the statement with quotation marks, the phrase "death panel" (in quotes) was highlighted in the middle of the statement. Any junior high school student knows that a quote within a quote is set off with single, not double quotation marks, so the phrase should have read 'death panel'. Maybe the producers need to hire some junior high schoolers to help with the editing.

This is just a representative sampling of recent errors by the Nightly News editors and producers. It is by no means exhaustive. (Viewers should feel free to search for their own errors each night. Try it--it's fun!) So the next time Brian gets the urge to point out the inaccuracies in a film, he might want to hold off on doing so until he corrects all the inaccuracies in his own broadcast.

And Brian really should try to curtail his level of wannabe geekdom when it comes to the U.S. military. He's like one of those rabid Star Trek fans who shows up at a convention in full costume speaking fluent Romulan and then complains loudly because some obscure guest panelist (who played a red-shirted security guard on one episode before being vaporized) had the nerve to mispronounce Spock's first name.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Condescending, Patronizong And Superior

When I saw Brian Williams's ridiculous 10-second promo that followed Friday's Nightly News, all I could think was: how condescending. In his most earnest anchor voice, Brian says, "The President has called the economy job number one. People are scared--they're uneasy. But we're all in this together. You want to have someone with you making sense of it all." We're all in this together? Really? So with his 8-figure salary, Brian is just like the rest of us trying to make ends meet? I'm sure. And this isn't the first time Brian has pretended to be just a regular guy struggling to get by during a financial crisis. On the March 12 Nightly News he said, "And if we're all feeling poorer, the Federal Reserve put some actual numbers on that today." Yes, I'm sure Brian is really feeling poorer due to the effects of the economic downturn. I hope he can manage to keep up the mortgage payments on his vacation home in Yarmouth, Maine. Here's some advice for Brian: Don't pretend to be one of the regular "folks" (a word he uses way too often). It makes him come off as patronizing and superior. I mean even more than he usually does.

No News Is Good News

From David Gregory's July 31 Daily Nightly blog: "I was stuck on an airport tarmac today for three hours so at first I missed the news about signs of recovery for the economy." Forget the so-called leading economic indicators. The surest sign that the economy is recovering is the number of sponsored segments on Nightly News. In July, Nightly News featured 12 segments ("Making A Difference" or "What Works") sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline or Pfizer, and one broadcast that was sponsored entirely by the University of Phoenix. This beats the old record (set this past March) of 11 sponsored segments and one fully sponsored broadcast. By comparison, in July of 2008, Nightly News featured a mere seven sponsored segments, and no fully sponsored broadcasts. So things are definitely looking up. If the economy continues to improve, Nightly News may soon see its first month with 15 sponsored segments. Let's all keep our fingers crossed.

Unfortunately, this does not bode well for viewers who are interested in seeing actual news. "Making A Difference" and "What Works" are manufactured segments. They have no news value. They are created for the specific purpose of attracting viewers and sponsorships. The segments are popular, as Brian is fond of telling us, and viewers tune in to watch these mini-reality shows. And that's the primary goal of Nightly News--to attract viewers, maintain the top rating and charge the highest ad rates. News is an afterthought, which is odd for a broadcast called Nightly News. With the word "news" in the title, you'd think the producers would be more concerned with presenting actual news. But it would seem that their motto is "no news is good news". And by that standard, the July 30 "Making A Difference" was, in all respects, the ideal segment. It was about two Milwaukee firefighters (brothers, no less) who rescued a mother and two children from a burning car and then raised money to pay for their medical care. It was selected not because it was newsworthy, but because of its dramatic, emotional value. But there's so much more going on with that segment. It was about firefighters, and we all know that when it comes to firefighters, Brian is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. The segment also included two prominent mentions of Ronald McDonald House, so Nightly News yet again managed to insert a gratuitous plug for a favorite sponsor. After the segment, Brian informed us that the parents of the injured child would be appearing on Friday's Today show, and it's no secret that plugging Today is one of Brian's main jobs. And as if all that wasn't enough, the segment was sponsored by Glaxo, so they paid NBC to plug McDonald's and Today! Brilliant! That is as close to a perfect MAD segment as the producers could ever hope for. By the way, another story that night, about a 7-year-old boy who took his family car for a joy ride, also ended with a "programming note" (translation: shameless plug) from Brian informing us that the boy and his parents would be appearing on the Today show. And a July 28 story about Michael Phelps ended with a "programming note" telling us that the swimming world championships would be airing the following weekend on NBC. Well done, Brian. He just keeps plugging away.

Just Say No To YES

I can remember a time when the primary goal of the YES network (the network that broadcasts Yankee games in New York) was to show a baseball game. Sadly, that's no longer the case. Now their primary goal, far more important than the game itself, is to insert as many sponsorship ads and product placements as they possibly can. Forget about the pre-game and post-game shows--those are jokes. Those have always been just lame excuses to show non-stop sponsorships and promos, one right after the other. But now the game itself has come to be indistinguishable from the pre-game and post-game shows. It's rare that a minute goes by during a game without some sponsor's name or logo appearing on screen. It's disgusting. We're already subjected to more than an hour's worth of between-inning commercials during an average game (or at least I would be if I wasn't watching on a DVR delay). But now the commercials continue right through the game itself. And let's not forget that we're already paying our cable company for the "privilege" of getting YES. But that's not enough to satisfy the greedy YES executives. They have to fill virtually every second of the game with promos and product placements. But no more. I'm done. I have watched my last Yankee game on YES. If the YES network cares so little about me, why should I continue to watch? The last straw was when the money-grubbing producers decided that every replay in the seventh inning would begin and end with a vodka ad (that's a great lesson for the kids, by the way. Don't do steroids, but drink plenty of vodka.). So instead of watching the Yankees, I'll read about them in the paper. If they make it to the post-season, I'll watch them then since those games will air on another network. But it's such a shame what has happened to YES. I can guarantee that it won't be long before sponsors' logos begin appearing continuously on the screen throughout the entire game. Luckily, I won't be sticking around to see that happen.