Saturday, October 24, 2009

Nightly News Loves Women!

All this week, Nightly News presented a series of stories they called "A Woman's Nation", purportedly about the role of women in American society. Here's what I think about the series: It was a huge waste of time. It was just filler. It didn't teach us anything. The Monday and Tuesday segments consisted of Maria Shriver sitting around a table with a group of people while they talked about themselves. That's not something that belongs on an evening news broadcast. The first of Wednesday's two segments featured Savannah Guthrie's interview with Pres. Obama. His anecdotal thoughts on gender roles were somewhat interesting, but certainly not news. Wednesday's second "A Woman's Nation" segment about women caregivers spent nearly all its time on the story of one particular woman. I can't imagine why the Nightly News producers felt that Helen Zabrowski deserved three minutes of network news time. (But I will say this: Ms. Zabrowski bears a slight resemblance to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Since Nightly News obviously has no intention of covering last month's German elections, viewers watching the segment on Ms. Zabrowski could squint and pretend she was Chancellor Merkel. That's certainly the closest we'll get to seeing Angela Merkel on Nightly News.) Thursday's segment was about gender roles in the workplace. It wasn't particularly enlightening, but it allowed NBC to take care of some important business. Nearly half the story dealt with Jan Fields, the chief operating officer for McDonald's USA. She was given the opportunity to talk about McDonald's "world-famous french fries" and to ruminate on what a great place McDonald's is to work. This was nothing more than a 75 second commercial for McDonald's. Friday's "A Woman's Nation" (which also doubled as a "Making A Difference" segment) was about Bea Stotzer, who offers financial counseling and other services to Latinas. It seems like she's doing good work. But it certainly isn't news.

All together, the six "A Woman's Nation" segments took up more than 20 minutes of Nightly News time. That's almost the equivalent of an entire broadcast. Meanwhile, the actual information in those segments could have been explained in less than two minutes. What an incredible waste of network news time. Imagine all the real news that Nightly News could have covered in those 20 minutes. Writing on his Wednesday Daily Nightly blog, Brian Williams said that he hopes to address some of the criticisms of the "A Woman's Nation" series. I would be very interested in hearing that. But I won't hold my breath.

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