Saturday, October 10, 2009

Brian's Bad Hair Day

Brian Williams devoted three minutes and forty seconds of Thursday's Nightly News broadcast to a discussion with Chris Rock and Nia Long about hair care products for African-American women.

This is from Brian's Friday Daily Nightly blog: "I was disturbed to see that we received several negative emails overnight regarding last night's segment with Chris Rock."

What a joke. Brian should win an Emmy award for this performance--pretending that he was disturbed by all the viewers who were angry at the amount of time he devoted to his Chris Rock interview. I don't believe for a second that Brian was disturbed about the emails. I really don't believe he cares at all. Brian knows exactly what his broadcast is because he and his producers have spent years shaping it into its present form. I'm reminded of the scene in Howard Stern's movie "Private Parts" where the research director tells Howard that people who like him tune in to hear what he'll say next--and people who don't like him also tune in to hear what he'll say next. Brian doesn't care what viewers think of Nightly News, as long as they continue to watch. The ratings are all that matter. Brian presides over a broadcast that makes an intentional point of offering stories with no news value, because that's what attracts viewers. Remember the skateboarding bulldogs and the little girl who threw back a foul ball at a Phillies game? That's the Nightly News Brian and his producers want us to see.

Brian continues, "Some people just don't like Chris Rock, others felt that we used precious network news time for what I like to call an 'elective' feature topic–not among the most compelling events of our day. Actually, I feel (and have always felt) that we have the time, the room and the flexibility to offer such electives—whether it's highlighting our 'Making A Difference' stories—or generally bringing our attention to a topic we would normally not dial into."

Brian feels that he has the time to present such stories? That's a load of number two (as Brian so eloquently phrased it is his Wednesday breaking news story about what Bo left on Air Force One). A newscast of 22-24 minutes a night does not have a second to waste on these so-called electives. With so much going on in our country and around the world, even a full hour would not be enough. Brian and his producers simply choose to ignore important stories in favor of fluff pieces because those are the stories that bring in viewers. The same night that Brian devoted 3:40 to Chris Rock, he spent all of 20 seconds on a story about a car bomb in Kabul that killed 17 people. I guess Chris Rock is 11 times more important than the lives of those 17 people. Why won't Brian just admit that his broadcast panders for ratings by presenting a steady diet of celebrities and non-news stories? Brian's claim that Nightly News is a serious journalistic broadcast is like a troubled family that refuses to admit there's a problem. It's dysfunctional. Everyone will be better off if Brian just comes clean and fesses up. "My name is Brian and I pad my newscast with fluff." The viewers already know. The truth will set him free.

Brian concludes his blog with, "But it’s a conversation we will continue..."

No it isn't. Brian rarely acknowledges negative viewer comments. In fact, his Daily Nightly blog often refuses to print them. The first rule of public relations is "say nothing unless you absolutely have to". Nightly News is #1 in the ratings. So Brian and his producers aren't going to change a thing about their broadcast, and we shouldn't expect to hear Brian say anything else about the subject. Unless, of course, Bruce or Bono tell him to.

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