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.

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