Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Brian Williams: Football Uber Alles

It's hard to imagine a more shameless and grotesque display than the one put on by Brian Williams during Tuesday's Nightly News. Beginning at minute nine (before the first commercial break, which is considered prime news space), Brian spent an incredible 5:45 talking about that night's Eagles-Vikings game--first with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (nattily attired in a Comcast jacket) and then with NBC Sports commentator Bob Costas. Obviously, the only reason for this segment was to promote NBC's coverage of the game, which would air later that night. (A similar Rendell interview had already aired on Monday.) Is this news? Does anyone in the world really believe that Brian would have spent even ten seconds talking about the Eagles and Vikings if the game was airing on a different network? Sadly, this sort of shameless promotion for NBC's football coverage has been going on for months, ever since Sept. 9, when Brian moved his entire broadcast to New Orleans for the sole purpose of promoting that night's Saints-Vikings game on NBC. Actually, it's been going on a lot longer than that. Remember the 160 minutes that Nightly News devoted to covering last February's Vancouver Olympics? That's the equivalent of seven entire broadcasts. Using a newscast to relentlessly promote a network's sports coverage is beyond shameless. It's a betrayal of the viewers' trust. People expect Nightly News to bring us actual news, not shameless promotions for NBC's football coverage. When you factor out commercials, the 5:45 that Brian spent promoting the Eagles-Vikings game represents 25% of the entire broadcast.

Shorter, but no less shameless, was Brian's 30-second commercial for Frito-Lay that came at the 22-minute mark of Tuesday's broadcast. Here's how Brian began his pitch: "Coming soon to grocery store shelves near you, snacks we've always considered junk food with a new label saying 'All Natural'. It's the work of Frito-Lay--they're removing chemical additives from some Tostitos, Sun Chips, Lays, Rold Gold pretzels." (Extra credit goes to Brian for mentioning four specific Frito-Lay brands.) As Brian narrated this commercial, the Frito-Lay logo was prominently displayed over his left shoulder. But it wasn't just the Frito-Lay logo. Below the logo were the words "Good Fun!" and "ALL NATURAL". Did the Frito-Lay advertising department write Brian's copy? I guess it never occurred to Brian to mention the fact that sodium, fat, and cholesterol are "natural" ingredients, and thus will continue to be found in Frito-Lay products. Of course, it's no surprise to find Brian Williams using his anchor chair to promote a product that advertises heavily on NBC. Over the years, Brian and other Nightly News correspondents have plugged products or companies such as Boniva, Kraft, McDonald's, Starbucks, Bayer (and their other brands like Aleve and Alka-Seltzer), Requip, Microsoft, Heinz, Cheerios, Chrysler, Chevy, Scott Paper and Spam (the luncheon meat, not the internet annoyance). And Nightly News viewers are certainly familiar with the way in which Brian and Robert Bazell constantly promote GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer products (and also protect them from negative publicity). My only question is: Did Frito-Lay pay NBC for this 30-second commercial, or was it a gift from NBC to one of their most valued sponsors? There's no doubt that NBC earned a tremendous amount of good will from Pepsi (Frito-Lay's owner) by running this commercial-masquerading-as-news.

At the beginning of Monday's "special coverage of the Blizzard of 2010" (those were Brian's words describing the thirteen minutes that he apparently felt were necessary to report on a winter snowstorm in New York), a Nightly News graphic informed us that 6,000 airline flights in the New York area had been "Canceled". Five minutes later, an additional set of graphics told us exactly how many Delta, US Airways and American Airlines flights had been "Cancelled". In the space of five minutes, Nightly News managed to spell the same word two different ways. Bravo, Nightly News producers. Well done.

As part of Wednesday's "Blizzard 2010" coverage, Jeff Rossen told us that, "Unable to leave home, a (Brooklyn) woman gave birth in the lobby of her building. It took paramedics nine hours to show up and her newborn died." Not exactly. This didn't happen in the lobby of her building. The woman left her home and attempted to walk to the hospital to deliver her baby, but because the streets were so filled with snow, she was forced to seek refuge in the lobby of a building she was passing by. That's where the events took place. Not in her building. Does anyone at Nightly News bother to check the facts?

Finally, I would like to thank Brian for the twenty seconds of footage he showed us on Monday of him walking back into the 30 Rock studios after anchoring the first part of the broadcast outside. Nightly News still hasn't run a single story about the continuing election dispute currently going on in Ivory Coast, but twenty seconds of Brian walking into 30 Rock is deemed newsworthy. Here are a few other stories that the Nightly News producers thought were more important than what's going on in Ivory Coast: Will and Kate won't have any servants in their home after they are married (25 seconds) and a video of a dancing penguin (20 seconds). This is why I love Nightly News.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Very, Very Special Nightly News Broadcast

Monday's Nightly News broadcast was special. How do we know that? Because Brian Williams told us so. He began the report by saying, "Tonight, special coverage of the blizzard of 2010...." By "special", I guess Brian meant overlong and unnecessary. Of course, Brian did find it necessary to report on the blizzard from outside the studio. Why? Because he obviously thought that stunt would help his ratings. In Brian's world, everything is about the ratings. There was absolutely no journalistic reason for him to be outside. The story could have been reported exactly the same way from inside the studio. But there he was standing in front of a giant snowdrift. Or was that his giant ego? It was hard to tell--they look similar. The first thing Brian did was to direct our attention to the "world-famous 30 Rock Christmas tree". World-famous? I wonder what people in Belgium or Kenya or Turkmenistan would think about that. I hope they don't feel inadequate for not knowing about America's most famous landmark. Two minutes into the broadcast, a Nightly News graphic informed us that 6,000 airline flights were "Canceled." Five minutes later, additional graphics inform us that flights from Delta, US Airways and American Airlines had been "Cancelled". So within five minutes, Nightly News managed to spell the same word two different ways. This is incredible. Not to mention appalling. Is anyone at Nightly News paying attention?

But enough small talk. Next, it was time for Brian to talk about something really important. For the next two minutes, Brian and Michelle Kosinski talked about the cancellation of Sunday's Eagles-Vikings game. Why would they spend that much time on something so unimportant? Because the game was supposed to air on NBC. And--more importantly--because the game was rescheduled for Tuesday night. On NBC. So Brian had to make sure to plug the game. For two minutes. Never mind that Lester Holt had already told us earlier that the game was rescheduled for Tuesday. That obviously wasn't adequate. Brian needed to make the point himself. Here's how he started the segment: "We mentioned this other casualty of this storm and if you're an NFL fan like our household, it was a big deal...." Casualty? Does Brian understand that people may have actually lost their lives in this blizzard? Those are the casualties. Not a football game. He and Kosinski tried to manufacture some sort of controversy over the game's cancellation. I don't think anyone really bought that. Does anyone actually believe that Brian would spend more than ten seconds talking about a football game's cancellation if it was airing on another network? Of course not. Brian's #1 rule is : promote, promote, promote. The FCC should require Nightly News to put the word "PROMOTION" on the screen in big flashing red letters whenever Brian is using Nightly News airtime to promote an NBC show.

Altogether, Brian spent thirteen minutes reporting on the blizzard. Half of that would have sufficed. And after the first commercial break, Brian spent twenty seconds narrating footage that showed him walking back into the studio from the snowdrift. Brian considers footage of himself entering the NBC Studios to be news. That is beyond belief. Except for people familiar with Brian and his massive ego. In that case, it's to be expected. We then saw yet another story about holiday shopping followed by more commercials. After the break, there was a 25-second story about the Obama family in Hawaii and a 47-second story about a conversation that Pres. Obama had with Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie. About Michael Vick. Of the Eagles. The same team whose game was cancelled and who will be playing on Tuesday. On NBC. So this was just another shameless 45-second promotion for Tuesday's Eagles-Vikings game. Again, there is not a chance in hell that Brian would have mentioned the Obama-Lurie conversation if it was not useful in promoting Tuesday's football game. On NBC.

The broadcast's final segment had to be seen to be believed. It was a bloated, sappy tribute to (as Brian tells us) "the staggering toll of notable names who departed from all of our lives this past year." This was so ridiculous for so many reasons. First of all, each one of these people already had an obituary on Nightly News during the past year. There was absolutely no reason to repeat their obits. Second, it's obvious from this segment that Brian fantasizes about hosting the Oscars. This is his version of the Oscars' annual tribute to actors who passed away during the previous year. And it's notable that this segment spent roughly twice as much time on entertainers and sports figures as it did on political, journalism and literary figures. That makes sense, since Nightly News makes a point of spending way too much time "reporting" stories about singers, actors and sports figures. Of course, that's the way Brian wants it. He chooses which stories and obituaries to report, so the broadcast's emphasis on entertainment is simply a reflection of his own personal tastes. Everyone knows that Brian spends most of his broadcast reporting on things he likes, rather than reporting on things that are newsworthy.

So let's recap. Thirteen minutes on the blizzard (including the time spent promoting the football game). About 3:30 on the shopping story, the Obama family story and the Michael Vick story. And 4:50 on the tribute to dead people. Not a shred of actual news on the entire broadcast. Yes, Monday's Nightly News was certainly one for the ages. NBC should submit it to the Peabody Awards evaluation committee.

NBC News--Covering The Country From Juneau To Natick

On Saturday's Nightly News story about the next generation of air traffic control (satellite and GPS tracking), a map of Alaska misspelled Juneau as "Juno". This is appalling under any circumstances, but even more so considering that Juneau is the state capital. Do the Nightly News producers get all their information from movie titles? Does anyone at Nightly News know how to use Google? Does anyone there even care anymore?

On Sunday's broadcast, Lester Holt introduced a report from Natick (Massachusetts) by pronouncing the town's name as if it rhymes with "static", when it's actually supposed to be pronounced as NAY-tick. During the report, someone must have informed Lester about the correct pronunciation, because after the report ended, he pronounced the name correctly. So if someone knew enough to correct Lester during the report, why couldn't they have given him that information before the report?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--Dec. 21-Dec. 24

Here's what happened on Nightly News this week:

Tuesday--According to a newly released study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, heartburn drugs classified as proton pump inhibitors can increase the risk of pneumonia by 25%. But Nightly News did not report this story because they wanted to protect the PPIs (such as Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid) that advertise on the broadcast.
* In a story about the results of the 2010 census, a list of states that will gain or lose seats in the House of Representatives is scrolled alphabetically down the screen. For some reason, Texas comes after Utah and Washington.
* During a story about student debt (excerpted from a CNBC special), Scott Cohn tells us that the University of Phoenix is "the largest university in the country" with "$3.8 billion in revenue in 2009". As he says this, this figure appears on screen: $3,775,491.90. That's not $3.8 billion, that's $3.8 million. Can someone please tell Cohn and his producers the difference between billions and millions. Naturally, the story was followed by a promo spot for the CNBC special airing later that night.
* In his obituary for Steve Landesberg, Brian Williams tells us that Landesberg "...made his comedy debut on NBC's 'Tonight Show'." But when Brian mentioned "Barney Miller", the show that Landesberg was most closely associated with, he refused to say that the show had aired on ABC. This is not an accidental omission or an oversight. Brian will not mention CBS or ABC because he thinks that mentioning those networks will take viewers away from NBC shows (especially his own broadcast). Remember Brian's interview with Sally Field on May 15? He listed all her best known television work--"Gidget", "The Flying Nun", "Sybil"--but he refused to mention her current starring role on ABC's "Brothers & Sisters", despite the fact that she won an Emmy Award for that role in 2007. This is beyond absurd. It is without a doubt the pettiest display imaginable from a supposedly professional network news anchor.
Wednesday--In his obituary for Fred Foy (announcer for "The Lone Ranger"), Brian refuses to mention that Foy worked as an announcer for ABC radio and television for 25 years, more than twice as long as he spent announcing "The Lone Ranger". Again, Brian will not mention ABC.
All this week, Nightly News has ignored the disputed election in Ivory Coast. However, they managed to find time to air reports about Christmas shopping, babies using sign language, a Florida school with no rules, a 70-year-old woman who robbed a bank in Minnesota, the UConn women's basketball team, a new coin commemorating the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and five "Making A Difference" stories that contained no news value whatsoever. But they couldn't find thirty seconds to talk about what's going on in Ivory Coast. Of course, it's not surprising that Nightly News has ignored this story. Nightly News only covers Africa when George Clooney goes there.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--Dec. 18-Dec. 20

Here's what you missed if you didn't see Nightly News this weekend:

Saturday--During a story about the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", a Nightly News graphic misspelled Sen. Lindsey Graham's first name as "Lindsay". Funny thing--Nightly News never misspells Lindsay Lohan's first name.
* Footage of Barack Obama from the 2008 presidential campaign was accompanied by a Bruce Springsteen song. Springsteen is shoehorned into several Nightly News stories each week because Brian Williams idolizes him. Credibility? Who cares about that?
* A story about Amelia Earhart included 20 seconds of footage from last year's "Amelia" movie (starring Hilary Swank). Although there is no shortage of film of the actual Amelia Earhart, the producers included the movie footage because Nightly News is trying to be more of an entertainment show than a news show.
* In yet another story about Prince William and Kate Middleton, Lester Holt described in detail what Kate was wearing on a night out--her dress ("a black and white dress with a fancy neckline"), jacket, shoes ("black pumps")--even her clutch. They should have attached a "breaking news" tag to that story. Meanwhile, Lester said nothing about what William was wearing. That is extremely sexist.

Monday--Brian spent all of 20 seconds reporting on the latest terrorist plot in Great Britain. That's the same amount of time he spent reporting on Tracy Morgan's kidney transplant. Of course, reporting on Tracy Morgan allowed Brian to plug SNL and "30 Rock" (twice). Brian then spent 50 seconds on the Vikings-Bears game to be played Monday night. Brian frequently reports on football stories, because any football story helps to promote NBC's Sunday Night Football coverage.
* Yet again Robert Bazell helped to promote a Bayer product. On Dec. 6, Bazell did a story about the health benefits of aspirin. But the only name brand aspirin Bazell included in the story was Bayer. On June 8, he did a story about how Aleve (a Bayer product) can reduce the risk of heart attacks. And tonight, he did a story debunking the herbal supplement Echinacea as a cure for the common cold. Six minutes after that story, we saw a commercial for Alka-Seltzer Plus cold medicine--manufactured by Bayer. Clearly, the point of Bazell's story was to discourage people from using Echinacea so they would buy Alka-Seltzer Plus. Of course, Bayer isn't the only product Bazell promotes in his "news stories". In the past, he has done stories favorable to Cheerios and Avodart (from GlaxoSmithKline)--heavy Nightly News sponsors. And Bazell is equally happy to discredit a drug to benefit a Nightly News sponsor (as he did with Echinacea). On Sept. 15, he trashed the diet drug Meridia in a "Lifeline" story sponsored by Toviaz (a Pfizer product). The purpose of this story was to benefit Pfizer at the expense of Meridia. And by the way, it was completely unethical of Nightly News to allow Pfizer to sponsor a story about the pharmaceutical industry--an industry in which they are a major player. But that's just business as usual at Nightly News.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--Dec. 14-Dec. 17

If you didn't watch Nightly News this week, here are some things you may have missed:

Tuesday--Kerry Sanders reported on the weather from the Universal Orlando theme park in Florida, which is owned by NBC's parent company. Sanders made sure to specifically plug The Wizarding World of Harry Potter--one of the main attractions at Universal's Islands of Adventure. This "news" segment was just a cheap and crass commercial for Universal Orlando.
* Brian Williams spent thirty seconds reporting on the Golden Globe Award nominations, which will be televised on NBC in January. Does anyone really believe that Brian would have bothered with this story if the Golden Globes was being shown on another network?
* A 2:30 story about holiday music is devoted mostly to Susan Boyle and Jackie Evancho. Over the past 20 months, Nightly News has devoted nearly 20 minutes of news time to Susan Boyle in order to pander to the viewers' thirst for feel-good entertainment stories. And most of the Jackie Evancho clips came from her appearances on "America's Got Talent"--which allowed Nightly News to plug that NBC show. And Evancho was scheduled to appear on The Tonight Show the next day, so this was, of course, just a plug for her appearance with Jay. Why is a network news broadcast wasting our time with this garbage?
Wednesday--For the second consecutive night, Nightly News spent the first five minutes of the broadcast showing the wintry weather around the country, as if cold and snow in December is breaking news. By contrast, The CBS Evening News spent 15 seconds reporting on the weather. Because NBC Universal spent $3.5 billion for The Weather Channel, they feel obligated to devote up to a quarter of their Nightly News broadcast to the weather.
Thursday--The "Making A Difference" segment was a 2:50 story on people who take care of baby elephants in Kenya. The story was reported by Maria Menounos, who is best known as a "reporter" for the celebrity gossip show Access Hollywood. Menounos's final line was, "Turns out the biggest lesson learned is that elephants are as human as the rest of us." This is what passes for news on NBC? A gossip reporter telling us that elephants are human? John Chancellor is turning over in his grave.
Friday--A story on McDonald's happy meals is nothing more than a 2:30 commercial for one of NBC's biggest advertisers. This "news story" includes 15 seconds of actual McDonald's commercials.
* Brian reports the death of another Medal of Honor winner. This isn't surprising, since Brian serves on the board of directors for the Medal of Honor Foundation. Reporting about an organization on whose board he sits is a huge conflict of interest for a news anchor. Brian doesn't care.
* The night's final story is a five-minute-long "Making A Difference" segment about a Minnesota man who left $3 million to various charities after he died. Does Nightly News report any actual news anymore?

An Apology To Brian Williams

I owe Brian Williams an apology. Earlier this week, I accused Brian of announcing a Rolaids recall on Dec. 9 solely to benefit Prevacid, whose ad appeared shortly after the Rolaids story. That accusation was inappropriate and I shouldn't have made it. After careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that Brian announced the Rolaids recall to benefit Tums, rather than Prevacid. While Tums and Prevacid are both competitors of Rolaids, Tums is a much more direct competitor. And like Prevacid, Tums is also a regular Nightly News advertiser. But the big difference is that Tums has sponsored four "Making A Difference" segments in the past two months, while Prevacid has never sponsored a MAD segment. As such, Tums is a much more valuable Nightly News sponsor than Prevacid. Clearly, Brian meant to help Tums, not Prevacid, by announcing the Rolaids recall. I sincerely regret any damage to Brian's reputation that may have resulted from my accusation.

R.I.P. Accuracy

In his 1/27/10 Daily Nightly blog post, Brian Williams bragged incessantly about personally writing the obituaries that appear on Nightly News: "I think it's safe to claim that of the three network evening broadcasts in our time slot, we air the most obituaries. To me, it's a source of enormous pride...In our newsroom, it's well known that I write the obituaries. I put as much care into writing them as I do the items at the very top of the broadcast, where wording and tone and facts are absolutely critical...When I write an obituary for the broadcast, I always have the family in mind. It's not why we do them, but they are an important audience. I try to envision people I don't know, dealing with the raw, initial sadness of loss...and I try to imagine how it must feel to hear of a family member's life and legacy—in the hands of a journalist who didn't know their loved one personally."

Give me a break. What a load of crap. Pride? Care? What about accuracy? On Thursday, Brian read obituaries for director Blake Edwards and pitcher Bob Feller. In the Edwards obit, Brian said, "He gave the world its first glimpse of Bo Derek in the movie '10'". Wrong. Bo Derek made her film debut two years earlier in the 1977 movie "Orca". During the Feller obit, Brian said, "He played almost his entire career...with the Indians." Actually, there's no "almost" involved. Feller spent his entire career with the Indians--he did not pitch an inning for any other team, either major league or minor league. Is this what Brian meant by putting care into writing obituaries? He doesn't even care enough to get the facts straight. I hope that whoever writes Brian's obituary pays more attention to detail than Brian does.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--Dec. 9-Dec. 12

If you didn't see Nightly News last week, here's what you missed:

Thursday--During a story about women's health, Nancy Snyderman told us that 12 states were "considered outright failures, getting a grade of F." Meanwhile, on the accompanying map, 13 states were highlighted.
* Yet again, Rep. James Clyburn was identified on-screen only as a Democrat from South Carolina, and not as the House Majority Whip. Nightly News routinely identifies white congressional leaders by their leadership posts, but never does so for Clyburn, an African American.
* Brian Williams announced a recall for Rolaids only seconds before an ad for Prevacid. It's obvious that Brian planned the timing of the Rolaids story to give the maximum promotional value to Prevacid.
Friday--A story about newly released Nixon tapes includes derogatory comments Nixon made about Jews. In June of 2009, during a speech at the Nantucket Film Festival, Brian Williams said, "Welcome to the Nantucket Film Festival--where Jews come to be honored. Nantucket is actually a Yiddish word meaning where the WASPS live." I guess Nixon isn't the only one who thinks it's okay to make inappropriate comments about Jews.
Saturday--The night's final story about the Jimmy Stewart museum in Indiana, PA included 67 seconds of clips and stills from "It's A Wonderful Life". Not coincidentally, that movie aired on NBC later that night. So the Jimmy Stewart story was just a shameless 2:20 promo for the movie.
Sunday--A ten-second clip of White House economic advisor Austan Goolsbee from "Meet the Press" did not even bother to identify him.
* A story on legal marijuana sales in Colorado is followed by a promo for a CNBC special airing later that night. The "news story" is simply a way to promote the CNBC special.
* A 2:20 story about actors who gain and lose weight for roles contains 1:57 of movie clips. This "news story" is just an excuse to pander to the viewers by showing scenes from popular movies. In the story, Lee Cowan calls Tom Hanks "the king of the weight yo-yo" because Hanks lost 55 pounds for his role in "Castaway". Meanwhile, Cowan did not even mention Robert De Niro, who famously gained and lost 60 pounds for his Oscar-winning performance in "Raging Bull". Has Cowan even seen this movie? Can someone please buy Cowan a subscription to Netflix?

Brian Williams--Working Class Zero

Where did Brian Williams find the audacity to give Bruce Springsteen thirty seconds of air time during last Wednesday's story about John Lennon? That would be like including George W. Bush in a tribute to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Or featuring Tori Spelling in a tribute to Meryl Streep. Or allowing Brian Williams to participate in a panel discussion about Walter Cronkite. Lennon was one of the best known and best loved musicians, songwriters and peace activists of his or any other generation. He is one of the greatest icons of the twentieth century. John Lennon was a true working class hero. Springsteen, on the other hand, just pretends to be one with his ridiculous songs about punching time clocks and working in factories. When is the last time Springsteen punched a time clock? Springsteen is a relic of the past, a purveyor of greatest hits. He's an 80's act like Billy Squier or Rick Springfield. In his heyday, 25 years ago, Springsteen had some good songs. But it's an embarrassment to include him in a story about John Lennon. Lennon had more talent in his little finger than Springsteen has in his entire body. Let's be honest--Springsteen pales by comparison.

Of course, it's not Springsteen's fault. He didn't ask to be in the story. He never intended for this comparison to be made. Brian Williams is the one who made a point of awkwardly forcing Springsteen into the story. Why? Because Lennon briefly mentioned Springsteen once in passing during a recorded interview? That's a reason to show thirty seconds of Springsteen photos and to play "Hungry Heart" during a story about John Lennon? Does Brian have a shred of credibility left? Does he have any self-respect? Almost every week, Brian finds some ridiculous excuse to squeeze Springsteen into a news story. But Springsteen's inclusion rarely has any relevance to the actual story--it's simply a gratuitous way for Brian to mention his idol on the air--again and again and again. It's a joke. This is journalistic malpractice. We tune in expecting news, but instead we get stories on stuff Brian likes. During a Nov. 23 story about the demolition of the Philadelphia Spectrum, Brian made sure to insert a photo of Springsteen because he had played there. Hundreds of musical acts had played there, but only Springsteen got a mention. On Oct. 6 & 7, Brian aired a two-part five-minute"news story" about Springsteen (funny thing--he didn't include John Lennon in that story). Part one was Springsteen talking about the economy, as if he's some sort of expert on the subject. Part two consisted of Brian fawningly describing how he used to follow Springsteen around New Jersey in the 1970's. This is a newscast? What are viewers supposed to think about a news anchor whose criteria for airing stories is based not on relevance, but rather on favoritism? Like Springsteen, Brian is a multi-millionaire who enjoys pretending that he is a regular blue-collar guy. A regular blue-collar guy with an 8-figure salary, that is. Brian may have actually deluded himself into thinking that he's a working class hero. Working class zero is more like it.

And of course, Wednesday's Lennon story had the usual inaccuracies that are par for the course at Nightly News. Before the last commercial break, Brian said, "Tonight, words from John Lennon never heard until our broadcast tonight." But most of what Lennon said in the story had already aired on other networks in the previous 48 hours. And at one point in the story, Lennon clearly says, "I only put out songs and answer questions...." But the accompanying Nightly News transcript at the bottom of the screen has Lennon saying, "I only put our songs and answer questions...." I guess Brian and his producers were too busy looking for ways to fit Springsteen into the story to bother with accuracy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Robert Bazell Has No Credibility

It's official. NBC News Chief Science Correspondent Robert Bazell is a shill. A snake oil salesman. He has no credibility. Whenever one of Bazell's "news reports" appears on Nightly News, the viewers need to ask themselves, "What is his ulterior motive for reporting this story? What product is he trying to promote?" On Monday, the answer was obvious. Bazell's story about the benefits of aspirin was little more than a 2:15 commercial for Bayer. The "news report" began with a five second clip from a Bayer commercial. Then there were three close-ups of Bayer aspirin: A box on a shelf in a Walgreens, a pill in someone's palm and a bottle of Bayer. No other name brand was shown in the story (the only other aspirin bottles/packages shown were generic and store brands). Even an animated graphic of a bottle simply labeled "aspirin" was brown and yellow--Bayer's traditional colors on their aspirin bottles (some Bayer varieties still use those colors) and the main colors on their website! This is beyond blatant. So why would Bazell and his producers do a story that promotes Bayer? Because Bayer is one of Nightly News's best advertisers. Their commercials run almost every night (Bayer's Aleve brand advertises nightly as well). This is brazen, appalling and deceitful. Bazell is supposed to be reporting on matters of health and science, not endorsing a particular product. And this isn't even the first time Bazell has used a news story to promote a Bayer product. On June 8, Bazell spent two-and-a-half minutes reporting about an obscure Danish medical study that concluded that Aleve can reduce heart attacks. This is way past inappropriate. This is sleazy. Believe it or not, some people actually rely on the evening news for information about health matters. But on Nightly News they don't get unbiased information, they get contrived "news reports" specifically designed to promote NBC's best advertisers. When is the FCC finally going to revoke NBC's license to air a newscast?

By the way, during Bazell's story, we saw an interview with Dr. Charles Fuchs, who was described in a Nightly News graphic as being from the "Dana Farber Cancer Institute". Meanwhile, behind Dr. Fuchs's right shoulder was a plaque that clearly read "Dana-Farber Cancer Institute". Obviously, Bazell and his producers were too busy orchestrating Bayer product placements to care about the hyphen.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--Week Of Nov. 29

Here's what happened on NBC Nightly News this week:

Tuesday--For the second consecutive day, Nightly News did a story about the new Spider-Man play on Broadway. Together, these two stories provided three minutes of free publicity for the show. The main purpose of these stories, of course, was to plug the Spider-Man 3-D ride at Universal Studios in Orlando (owned by NBC Universal). And also to give more air time to Brian's pals Bono and The Edge (who wrote the play's music and lyrics). Meanwhile, at one point during the story, Anne Thompson stood in the middle of Broadway with some passersby singing the song from the old Spider-Man cartoon. I guess this is what passes for journalism at Nightly News. I'm surprised the producers didn't put a "breaking news" tag on the story.
* Brian did yet another story about a military father home from Iraq or Afghanistan who surprises his son by showing up unannounced at the son's school. Over the past few years, Nightly News has done at least ten of these stories. And they're all exactly the same. Dad surprises son at school. How many more of these will we have to endure? And how much real news did Brian ignore in order to bring us this "news story"?
* Brian informed us that the Saints' Drew Brees was selected as the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. Apparently, Brian feels some sort of proprietary obligation to report any story that is even peripherally connected to New Orleans because he wants to appear as if he has some sort of special fondness for that city. Meanwhile, Brian didn't report that Brees chose Katie Couric to introduce him at the SI awards banquet. Obviously, Brian is devastated by the fact that Brees likes Katie more than him. And the greatest irony is that Katie didn't even bother to report this story on the CBS Evening News--because she understood that it isn't really news (and also because she's not narcissistic like Brian, who always makes sure to tell us when he's presenting an award). But any story that involves New Orleans makes it onto Brian's broadcast. Someone should tell Brian that Brees was born and raised in Austin, Texas, played college football at Purdue and played for the San Diego Chargers before the Saints.

Wednesday--In a story about unemployment benefits, Kevin Tibbles told us that four million people will lose their benefits at the end of 2011. To illustrate this point, we were shown a calendar of December 2011, with a big red "31" popping up at the end of the month. Unfortunately, the big red "31" pops up on the 30th, not the 31st. Well, at least they were close.
* In a "Making A Difference Story" about a woman who collects and distributes dresses for needy children around the world, Chris Jansing told us that, "Three years after scribbling in her journal, Rachel O'Neill looks around and is amazed." But a few moments earlier, a close-up of O'Neill's journal clearly showed the date of 11/22/06--which was four years earlier, not three. Perhaps Jansing needs to brush up on her math skills. But there may be another explanation for this discrepancy. It's possible that this story was produced a year ago and sat on the shelf since then. When it finally aired on Wednesday, the producers neglected to update Jansing's voice-over.
* Twice during this broadcast, Brian told us about the "world famous Christmas tree" at Rockefeller Center (he also mentioned it twice on his blog this week). Okay, we get it. There's a tree at 30 Rock. I guess Brian is hoping to get some sort of award from the NYC Department of Tourism.

Thursday--On his Daily Nightly blog, Robert Bazell wrote about a type of gastric weight loss surgery called "Lap-Band" (a copyrighted brand of the Allergan company), which reduces food intake. Bazell referred to it as "Lap Band" (without the hyphen). Detail is important in journalism.

Friday--During his obituary for Ron Santo, the Chicago Cubs' All-Star third baseman in the 1960's and 1970's, Brian told us that Santo was "a five-time golden glover". Someone should inform Brian that the Golden Gloves is a boxing tournament. The award Rawlings presents to the outstanding major league fielder at each position is called the Gold Glove Award.
* How ironic that Brian should report on President Obama's trip to Afghanistan (which was almost certainly done to prop up the President's sagging poll numbers). Like the president, Brian's trips to Afghanistan are for the sole purpose of improving his Nielsen ratings.

Bonus Flashback--On Nov. 23, Brian reported a story about the demolition of the Philadelphia Spectrum, the long-time home of the Flyers and 76ers. This was a mundane event that was hardly newsworthy. However, the Spectrum was owned by Comcast, NBC's soon-to-be owner, which explains why Brian included this story on the broadcast. It also gave Brian an excuse to show a photo of his idol Bruce Springsteen, who had played the Spectrum. Never mind the fact that Cream, The Doors, Yes, Pink Floyd, The Who and The Grateful Dead also played there (the Dead played there 53 times, more than any other act). For Brian, it's only about Springsteen.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Anchor's (Tiresome) Speech

In his Nov. 8 Daily Nightly blog, Brian Williams raved about a new movie he had seen called "The King's Speech" about King George VI, Queen Elizabeth's father (of course, he made sure we knew it was a VIP sneak preview). Brian wrote, " may be the best film I've seen in years." He predicted Oscar nominations for Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. "It is superbly written, directed, shot and acted--and I can't recommend it highly enough. You'll be seeing a lot of advance publicity...." Maybe so, but I had no idea that the advance publicity would come on Nightly News. Lo and behold, Monday's broadcast featured a 2:40 story all about the movie. Gee, it must be great to be a news anchor. See a film, like a film, put the film on your broadcast. I guess it was easy enough to cut out some of that boring WikiLeaks story to make room for the piece on "The King's Speech". So when is Brian going to do a story about Dwayne ("The Rock") Johnson's new film, "Faster"?

In fact, the entire final third of Monday's broadcast was devoted to the entertainment industry. There was a story about problems with the new "Spider-Man" show on Broadway. The obvious reason Brian chose to report this story was because it allowed him to mention his pals Bono and the Edge, who wrote the show's music and lyrics. The not-so-obvious reason was because Universal Studios Orlando (owned by NBC's parent company) features a Spider-Man ride. Brian's mention of Spider-Man was just a way to plug the ride at Universal Studios.

After the Spider-Man plug, Brian read a story about next February's Academy Awards show. While telling us that the hosts would be James Franco and Anne Hathaway, Brian could barely mask his disdain and skepticism. He called that "a shocker". He said it goes "against the tradition of having an established comic usually host the awards." He quoted an L.A. Times reporter who called it "incredulous". It's pretty clear what's going on here. Since the Academy Awards will be shown on ABC, Brian is doing everything he can to deter people from watching. (He even refused to mention ABC in his story, lest he give then an inadvertent plug.) Shocker. Incredulous. Against tradition. I'm surprised he didn't tell us that the Irving G. Thalberg award would be presented to Bernie Madoff. Of course, if February's Oscars was going to be shown on NBC, Brian would be hailing Franco and Hathaway as inspired choices who will bring a young, fresh perspective to the ceremony. And he'd end the story with a plug for the show.

Next, were treated to a 1:50 obit for Leslie Nielsen. (Brian must have mistakenly thought that reporting this story would somehow improve his ratings with the Nielsen television people.) Nielsen was an okay actor who had a few successes. He was certainly no Red Skelton or Jack Lemmon. But again, it's great to be a news anchor. Since Brian liked him, he got a nice-sized obit. And that was followed by the story about "The King's Speech". By devoting a third of the broadcast to the entertainment industry, it's obvious that Brian and his producers are continuing their efforts to make Nightly News indistinguishable from the shows that follow it--Extra and Access Hollywood.

Nightly News Violates The Viewers' Trust

Once again, the last three minutes of Sunday's Nightly News was devoted to a "news story" whose only purpose was to promote NBC's Sunday Night Football coverage that followed the broadcast. And not surprisingly, the story was about one of the teams playing that night--the San Diego Chargers. Here's how anchor Natalie Morales previewed the story: "Coming up next--how some NFL stars in tonight's big game are fostering hope and making a difference." In the first sentence of his story, Lee Cowan also used the phrase "tonight's big game". Clearly, this is no coincidence. This phrase was strategically inserted into the broadcast to make viewers think that it actually was a "big game". It's like when different politicians all use the same phrase and try to pretend that it's extemporaneous, rather than pre-planned. If two people say it's a big game, then it must be true.

Of course, this isn't the first time the Nightly News producers have used valuable news time to plug NBC's Sunday Night Football coverage. On Sept. 8, Nightly News ran a story about the Vikings' Madieu Williams. And the following night, Brian Williams actually anchored the broadcast from New Orleans just so he could promote that night's Saints-Vikings season opener on NBC. On Sept. 19, Nightly News did a story on Eli and Peyton Manning--right before NBC's Giants-Colts game. On Sept. 26, there was a story about how the NFL recruits young fans. On Oct. 17, we saw a Nightly News story about how members of the Washington Redskins were raising awareness about breast cancer--immediately followed by the Redskins-Colts game. On Oct. 24, the story was about a college football coach who was recalled to active duty in the navy reserve. (On Nov. 14 there was no football story--the story was about the Manny Pacquiao fight. Nightly News was promoting the fight because it would financially benefit Comcast, NBC's soon-to-be owner.) And then there was last Sunday's story about the Chargers.

Is the FCC aware that the sleazebags at NBC are deceiving the viewers by using valuable news time to advertise their football coverage? I hope they are aware and I hope they refuse to allow the Comcast-NBC deal to be finalized until all parties involved agree to stop using Nightly News as a promotional vehicle for NBC's sports coverage. This is an egregious violation of the viewers' trust. We expect the Nightly News producers to fill their broadcast with the most important news stories of the day, not with contrived news stories whose only purpose is to plug NBC's football coverage. It would be nice if Nightly News became a news broadcast once again, instead of the fifth hour of "The Today Show".

Saturday, November 27, 2010

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--Week Of Nov. 22

If you didn't watch Nightly News this week, here's some of what you missed:

Wednesday--During Pete Williams's story about Tom DeLay's conviction on money laundering charges, a Nightly News graphic informed us that Williams was reporting from "Reagan National Airport", despite the fact that he was clearly sitting in the NBC News Washington studio. (In a previous story, Tom Costello was reporting from Reagan National Airport.)
* During Andrea Mitchell's report on the conflict between North and South Korea, a clip of Adm. Mike Mullen (from "The View") identified Mullen as being a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is, in fact, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Moments later, a Nightly News graphic identified David Albright (founder and president of the Institute for Science and International Security) as Adm. Mullen. (Albright was never correctly identified.)
* A "news story" about Thursday's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was really just a promo for NBC's parade coverage, with (as Lester Holt told us) "Matt, Meredith and Al".
* A story about holiday shopping included lots of gratuitous plugs for retail stores such as JC Penney, Sears and Best Buy. (Lee Cowan actually reported the story from inside a Best Buy.)

Thursday--Lester Holt's story about U.S. military personnel serving at Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan identified one woman as "Sergeant Kanessa Galloway U.S. Navy". The U.S. Navy does not have sergeants. The equivalent Naval rank (or rating) would be Petty Officer.

Friday--At the top of the broadcast, Brian Williams used the phrase "wounded warriors" during his intro to a story about an organization that builds homes for wounded veterans. Brian often uses this phrase (and its companion phrase "fallen heroes") in news stories. These are loaded, subjective phrases and they have no place in a newscast that is supposed to be objective.
* In his intro to a story on the Korea conflict, Brian said, "And while it's easy to think about shopping, football, family and relaxation during this holiday weekend...." Another plug for Sunday Night Football on NBC.
* Ian Williams's report from South Korea was comprised mostly of the same footage he used in his Thursday report.

Saturday--During a story about hidden bank fees, Lisa Myers said, "And when he used another bank's ATM, he sometimes paid $6 or $7 to get $40 in cash." As she said this, the accompanying on-screen graphic read "Other Banks ATM". They forgot the apostrophe. But still, it was nice to see Brian's old friend "Samantha" Guthrie (as he referred to Savannah Guthrie on Oct. 8) anchoring the broadcast on Saturday.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Brian Williams's 10 Most Fascinating "Poeple"

What a great Nightly News broadcast we saw on Monday. First, there was the story on Velma Hart, who got her fifteen minutes of fame when she asked Pres. Obama a question at a Town Hall Meeting on Sept. 20. (I think she was given fourteen minutes too many.) Now, Nightly News is extending her to a sixteenth minute, and maybe even more. Of course, the story was just a way to promote Hart's appearance on CNBC's "Power Lunch" on Tuesday.

Then there was Tom Brokaw's seemingly endless report about Facebook. I think the recent movie about Facebook was shorter than Tom's report. The entire story could have been distilled down to ten seconds: Older people are now using Facebook with increasing frequency. That's it. That's what Tom Brokaw took all that time to tell us. I like Tom, but a little editing can be a good thing.

And there was Andrea Mitchell's report on Sarah Palin. How many of these are we going to see in the next two years? Nightly News isn't reporting on Palin because she's a potential presidential candidate, they're reporting on her because she's a pop culture personality and stories about her generate good ratings. During the clip of Palin being interviewed by Barbara Walters, the on-screen credit read, "ABC/Barbara Walters' 10 Most Fascinating Poeple (sic)". That's great. And in a related story, Palin was recently bumped from the cover of "Poeple Magazine" in favor of Kim Kardashian. Too bad. But I bet that Kardashian can't field dress a moose.

Nightly News Salutes General Mills

On Monday, CBS Evening News reported that due to a price increase for staples such as corn, wheat, sugar and soy beans, companies like General Mills, Kraft and Kellogg's will be increasing prices on some of their products. Of course, you won't see this story on Nightly News. Brian Williams and his producers don't like to report negative stories about their most lucrative sponsors. But when it comes to positive stories about Nightly News sponsors, Brian can't wait to tell us the good news. On 7/18/07, he was happy to report that Requip is great for treating Restless Leg Syndrome. On 11/13/07, he told us how wonderful Chrysler cars and trucks were. On 2/23/09, we learned how thoroughly United Airlines cleans their planes. On 5/5/09, we saw a great story about the launch of McDonald's new gourmet coffees. On 2/4/10, Brian told us about Heinz's awesome new ketchup packages. On 3/17/10, Brian informed us that Kraft will be using 10% less salt in their products. On 5/14/10, we saw Brian interview Sally Field for 90 seconds about her Boniva ads. On 6/8/10, we found out that Aleve can reduce the risk of heart attacks. On 6/10/10, we were treated to a two-minute story about whether or not Chevys should be called Chevrolets. On 9/24/10, we saw a story about American shopping habits that featured a couple shopping for Cheerios. On 10/27/10, Brian told us all about Scott's new tubeless toilet paper. And on 10/31/10, we saw a great news story all about Pontiac. But don't expect Brian to tell us that General Mills, Kraft and Kellogg's are raising their prices. That would just be a downer.

How far will Nightly News go to promote General Mills? All the way to Afghanistan. Last Saturday, Lester Holt reported a story about the top U.S. Marine commander in Afghanistan's Helmand Province--Maj. Gen. Richard Mills. During the story, Lester referred to him as "General Mills". Well done, Lester. Maybe this week, he'll do a story on Gen. Electric.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nightly News Exploits The Royals

This past week, Nightly News devoted a staggering 21:25 to stories about the British Royal Family (12:10 to William and Kate, 9:15 to Prince Charles). That's the equivalent of an entire Nightly News broadcast. And that's even more coverage than the royals got this week on BBC World News America--a British-sponsored hour-long newscast. So why did Nightly News spend so much time on the British Royal Family? Because of their pathetic devotion to pop culture and self-promotion at the expense of actual news. More than any other evening newscast, NBC exploited William and Kate's wedding announcement in the hope of generating ratings. And Brian Williams continued to relentlessly and shamelessly plug his Friday Dateline special on Prince Charles, also for ratings. Friday's Nightly News even included a fawningly self-referential report by Jim Maceda about Brian's interview with Prince Charles. Once again, Nightly News reports on its favorite subject--itself. What's next? Stephanie Gosk's story about Jim Maceda's report about Brian William's interview with Prince Charles?

On Monday and Tuesday, Brian did two separate stories (totalling 5:40) on Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Sal Giunta. By contrast, at CBS, Katie Couric aired a single one-minute story on Sgt. Giunta on Tuesday. What accounts for such a difference in coverage? Simple. Brian serves on the board of directors of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation; Katie does not. Brian has a vested personal interest in promoting the MOH Foundation; Katie does not. Brian obsequiously treats MOH winners as personal heroes and gods; Katie treats them as news stories. Brian is desperate to convince the world that he is a hyper-patriotic supporter of the U.S. military; Katie doesn't feel the need to convince her audience of any such thing.

Can someone please buy Brian an atlas? On Tuesday, he introduced a story on Haiti by saying, "Overseas this evening...." While there is certainly water between Haiti and the U.S. coast, it can hardly be considered overseas. Still, this is better than the July 16 broadcast, when Brian described Mexico as overseas.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Word Up, Ted Koppel

This is an excerpt from Ted Koppel's Op-Ed piece that ran in last Friday's Washington Post (the entire piece can be read at

"Much of the American public used to gather before the electronic hearth every evening, separate but together, while Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Frank Reynolds and Howard K. Smith offered relatively unbiased accounts of information that their respective news organizations believed the public needed to know. The ritual permitted, and perhaps encouraged, shared perceptions and even the possibility of compromise among those who disagreed.

It was an imperfect, untidy little Eden of journalism where reporters were motivated to gather facts about important issues. We didn't know that we could become profit centers. No one had bitten into that apple yet.

The transition of news from a public service to a profitable commodity is irreversible. Legions of new media present a vista of unrelenting competition. Advertisers crave young viewers, and these young viewers are deemed to be uninterested in hard news, especially hard news from abroad. This is felicitous, since covering overseas news is very expensive. On the other hand, the appetite for strongly held, if unsubstantiated, opinion is demonstrably high. And such talk, as they say, is cheap."

Sad but true. Koppel didn't mention NBC Nightly News by name, but then again, he didn't have to.

Nightly News Helps Comcast/Kabletown

At first, I couldn't figure out why Nightly News would air two different stories (Saturday and Sunday) about the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito fight that took place Saturday night. Nightly News wouldn't run a story like this--certainly not on two consecutive nights--unless it provided some sort of benefit to NBC. Then it hit me like a Pacquiao uppercut. This was a favor to NBC's soon-to-be owners at Comcast (or Kabletown, as the company is called on "30 Rock"). Although the bout was shown on HBO Pay-Per-View, the cable operators (like Comcast) that carry HBO PPV also get a cut of the profits. The more people that purchase the fight, the more money Comcast makes. So the Pacquiao stories on this weekend's Nightly News amounted to four minutes of free advertising for the fight--to the benefit of Comcast (the fight was still available for purchase on Sunday for those who may have missed it on Saturday). The Nightly News producers were so eager to please their new bosses at Comcast that they even aired Sunday's Pacquiao story in place of the usual NFL-related story they run most Sundays (to promote NBC's Sunday Night Football). Obviously, this is one of the reasons Comcast is acquiring NBC. Lots of free promotion for Comcast's other properties. Well done, Nightly News producers. I'm sure that Jack Donaghy and everyone at Kabletown appreciate what you did for them.

David Axelrod--Man Of A Thousand Descriptions

On Saturday's Nightly News, two separate promos for "Meet The Press" included graphics that described David Axelrod as a Senior White House "Adviser". On Sunday's and Monday's broadcasts, excerpts from Axelrod's MTP appearance described him as a "White House Senior Advisor". Is he an adviser or an advisor? It is unbelievable (and unbelievably sloppy) that the Nightly News producers continue to use these two spellings interchangeably--sometimes on the same broadcast. For goodness' sake, could they please pick a spelling and stick with it?

Brian Williams's Conflict Of Interest

On Monday, Brian Williams reported a story about Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta--who is to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Obama on Tuesday. Is he kidding us? Brian Williams serves on the Board of Directors of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation! This is a huge conflict of interest. When you serve on an organization's board of directors, your goal is to promote and protect that organization. And that is in direct conflict with the job of a network anchor and managing editor--to report the news in an objective and unbiased manner. Nightly News frequently reports on the U.S. military. And Brian himself often reports on Medal of Honor winners, as he did Monday. Nightly News's attitude towards the military can be described as reverential, idolatrous, even obsequious. Their stories often resemble recruiting ads for the Army, Navy, Marines or Air Force. Some stories are full blown propaganda pieces, replete with waving flags, soaring eagles, exploding fireworks--everything short of Uncle Sam and Kate Smith singing a duet of "God Bless America". To what extent is this a result of Brian's position on the MOH Foundation board? How can the NBC executives allow Brian to serve on the board of an organization that he reports on? Are we supposed to believe that Brian is completely objective and unbiased in his reporting? If a MOH winner robbed a liquor store or killed someone while driving drunk, would Brian report it? I doubt it. This is no different than if he served on the board of Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, General Mills or Chrysler. Since Nightly News often reports on those companies' products, it would be inappropriate for Brian to serve on any of those boards. And since Brian reports on MOH winners, he should not be allowed to serve on that organization's board, either. A news organization and its anchor must be free not only of conflicts of interest, but of even the appearance of any such conflict. Brian's MOH board membership does not pass the smell test. It leaves open the distinct possibility that his reporting (and the reporting of other NBC correspondents) is tainted by his allegiance to the MOH Foundation, and by extension, the entire U.S. military. NBC must insist that Brian Williams relinquish his position on the MOH board if he is to continue serving as the Nightly News anchor. That is the right thing to do.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Nightly News Exclusive: Taliban Downsizing!

On Thursday's Nightly News, Brian Williams devoted twelve seconds to a story about the Taliban-sponsored car bombing of a police station in Karachi that killed 18 people and injured more than 100. That same night, Brian spent a minute and a half reading viewer comments about this week's "Back to Basics" series (which was about people who are downsizing parts of their lives). Is anything wrong with this picture? I wonder: If the Taliban were paring down their operations and getting "Back to Basics" (i.e. less powerful explosives, smaller caliber weapons, shorter hostage videos, lower ransom demands, across-the-board 10% staff reductions for all terrorists) would Brian Williams have spent more time reporting the car bombing story? Meanwhile, here are a few of the stories that Brian felt deserved more air time this week than the Taliban terrorist attack:

*General Motors is retiring their iconic Mr. Goodwrench program (35 seconds)
*Planters is starting a new ad campaign for Mr. Peanut featuring Robert Downey, Jr. (30 seconds)
*Betty White realized her lifelong dream by being named an honorary forest ranger (25 seconds)
*General Electric (NBC's parent company) plans to buy 25,000 electric cars over the next four years (35 seconds)
*A new video reveals the amazing secret of how cats drink (35 seconds)
*A fifteen-story hotel in China is built in six days (30 seconds)
*The U.S. Post Office is considering selling postage-paid holiday cards (25 seconds)
*Newsweek magazine is merging with The Daily Beast website (25 seconds)
*The name "World Wide Web" celebrated its 20th anniversary (30 seconds)
*This year's Christmas tree was delivered to Rockefeller Center (18 seconds)
*Finally, Brian spent 13 seconds promoting his upcoming interview with Prince Charles. I can certainly understand why these stories were given more air time than a Taliban car bombing that killed 18 people. Mr. Peanut and Mr. Goodwrench--now that's important news. At least Brian has his priorities in order.

Speaking of the "Back to Basics" series--even by Nightly News's appallingly low standards, this has to be one of the biggest wastes of network news time in recent memory. Altogether, the series' four segments took up almost ten minutes of valuable news time. Just think--if Nightly News hadn't reported the "Back to Basics" series, they would have had more time to report real news. Like how cats drink or the arrival of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. (Update: Nightly News did a fifth "Back to Basics" segment on Saturday [11/13], bringing the total time to 11:45.)

Honorary Mention: On Wednesday's broadcast, just minutes after a story about the deficiencies of the American educational system, a Nightly News graphic identified Margaret Hamburg as the "FDA Comissioner" (the correct spelling is "commissioner"). Does anyone else see the irony in this?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sickening--Part II

This is Brian Williams's Daily Nightly blog post from Thursday: "Allow me to share with you a day like today that makes me count my blessings. While I count them every day, this one was exceptional.

I started the day in the midst of a sparkling, crisp morning on New York's Fifth Avenue. The Veterans Day Parade. I soaked in the passing bands and floats, the old cars...and the proud veterans. Miles of men and women who have served. Cadets from West Point. A beautiful, patriotic, proud day. My job today was to call attention to four Medal of Honor Recipients who were there—four out of the 87 alive today. I was able to see and exchange personal insults and wisecracks with my buddy Bruce Crandall, who was played by Greg Kinnear in 'We Were Soldiers' and who, as usual, wore his beautiful Cavalry hat. I love the man, and I love them all. Bud Bucha was there, as was Gary Beikirch and Nick Oresko. I was trying to figure out what it must be like for Nick--on stage, reviewing the parade, looking at this beautiful City on a beautiful day, knowing the medal around his neck was awarded to him after killing 12 Germans in a war long ago and far away. It all seemed rather distant and cloudy on this clear day.

I went from there to studio 8H, where I entered quietly, sat down 10 feet from the edge of the stage, and watched Arcade Fire rehearse for SNL. It was among my best-ever musical experiences, as was talking with Win Butler and his wife (and collaborator) Regine afterwards. I went from our editorial meeting. There was, shall we say, a palpable difference in energy between the two events."

Barf bags are available on request. Is there anyone more pathetically sycophantic towards the U.S. military than Brian Williams? I doubt it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nightly News Ignores Bad News About McDonald's

On Monday, the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity released a study detailing the ways in which the major fast food chains market their unhealthy food to children. The CBS Evening News featured this report as their lead story, giving it more than three-and-a-half minutes. CBS deserves credit for airing this story, since they certainly must have ticked off the fast food companies that advertise on their network. Nightly News, on the other hand, chose to accede to the wishes of the fast food giants and squelched the story. That's not surprising. Nightly News has a history of protecting their sponsors by burying or ignoring negative news stories. And fast food companies like McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Subway are certainly among NBC's most frequent sponsors. Here are some of the highlights from the study that you didn't see on Nightly News (a longer synopsis can be read at

*Out of 3,039 possible kids’ meal combinations, only 12 meet the researchers’ nutrition criteria for preschoolers. Only 15 meet nutrition criteria for older children.
*At least 30% of the calories in menu items purchased by children and teens are from sugar and saturated fat.
*Companies facing increasing pressure about portion sizes are renaming, rather than eliminating, their biggest sides and drinks. At Burger King, for example, a 42-ounce “King” drink is now the “large” option; the former “large” 32-ounce drink is now a “medium”; the former “medium” 21-ounce drink is now a “small”; and the former “small” 16-ounce drink is now the “value” option.
*The average preschooler sees almost three ads per day for fast food; children ages 6-11 see three-and-a-half ads; and teens ages 12-17 see almost five ads per day.
*Compared with 2007, in 2009 preschoolers saw 21% more ads for McDonald’s, 9% more for Burger King, and 56% more for Subway. Children (ages 6-11) saw 26% more ads for McDonald’s, 10% more for Burger King, and 59% more for Subway.
*McDonald's' 13 websites get 365,000 unique child visitors ages 2-11 and 294,000 unique teen visitors ages 12-17 each month. Targeted marketing for fast food starts as young as age 2 through websites such as
*African American children and teens see at least 50% more fast food ads than their white peers. McDonald’s and KFC, in particular, specifically target African American youth with TV advertising, targeted websites, and banner ads.

Although Nightly News did not report the Yale Rudd study, here are some of the stories they did run on Monday:

*A story on personal downsizing called "Back to Basics" that describes how people are reducing clutter and getting rid of many of their possessions. In what alternate universe does this qualify as news? (By the way, CBS News aired an identical story on Oct. 26.)
*Another story on Edison Pena, the Chilean miner who ran the NYC marathon. (Nightly News aired a story on Pena the previous night as well.) The story also contained some self-promotional footage of Meredith Vieira and Al Roker completing the marathon.
*A story about increased security in airports reported by Tom Costello. Last Tuesday and Wednesday, Costello was in Denver covering the election. By Thursday, he was back in Washington reporting on the problems Qantas was having with their Airbus A380 planes. During Monday's airport security story, Costello was still in Denver--so the story was clearly a leftover from last week.
*Yet another two minute excerpt from Matt Lauer's interview with George W. Bush. When did Nightly News become the promotional arm for Bush's book tour? (Meanwhile, I think I actually saw steam coming out of Brian's ears as a result of being passed over in favor of Lauer for the role of interviewer.)
*A story about the 1960 Presidential election. While Brian told us that Kennedy's margin of victory was just over 100,000 votes, he never mentioned the charges of vote fraud in Illinois and Texas that may have given the election to Kennedy and Johnson. He also did not mention the way in which the Kennedy family manipulated the choice of JFK's successor in the senate that allowed Ted Kennedy to eventually win the seat (they used their influence with the Governor of Massachusetts to get him to appoint a place holder until 1962, by which time Ted was old enough to run in that year's special election). Why does Brian feel a personal responsibility to protect the myth of Camelot?
*Special mention goes to the weekend producers for airing two stories (on both Saturday and Sunday) about Zenyatta's near-win in the Breeders' cup. We certainly needed those four-plus minutes of the horse running and drinking Guinness.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


This is Brian Williams's Daily Nightly blog post from Wednesday (the day after the mid-term elections): "We ended up going nine hours on the air last night. While I could not watch any other coverage, I don't see how our team could be equaled: Just think of the candlepower I had at the desk with me: Mark Whitaker, Andrea Mitchell, David Gregory, Savannah Guthrie and Tom Brokaw. Everyone worked heroic hours, everyone contributed equally. Chuck Todd was among the stars of the evening, as he analyzed wave after wave of numbers. Andrea Mitchell stayed up all night, Savannah got on a train three hours after we got off the air, went to Washington, and helped lead the questioning at the White House today during the President's news conference. Our people are wiped--and yet our team members never falter, and performed today at the same consistent level. I'm so proud to know them and to be able to work with them. Tonight we'll examine the new day in politics, and what last night's result will mean. We hope you can join us."


Manifesto--Part II

In Manifesto--Part I (Oct. 23), I listed the changes I would make if I were in charge of Nightly News. Here are the specific changes I would make regarding Brian Williams:

1) Stop saying "good evening" to every single correspondent. It sounds forced and ridiculous. (Pete Williams is my hero--he never says "good evening" back to Brian.) Also, stop describing every single correspondent as "my friend". I doubt that's true and it's irrelevant to the broadcast. "My friend Lester Holt." "My friend Tom Costello." This is supposed to be a news report, not a reading from Brian's Facebook page. Finally, stop describing correspondents as "our own". "Our own Anne Thompson." "Our own Rehema Ellis." Of course they're your own. Who else's would they be? It's only necessary to note when a reporter is from a news agency other than NBC (such as Canada's CBC or Britain's ITN).

2) Stop saying "folks". Brian uses this word constantly. "The folks at NASA...." "The folks in Wisconsin...." Apparently, the NBC News Research Department has informed Brian that using "folks" makes him sound more homespun and blue collar. It's a marketing gimmick, nothing more. He should use "people" instead of "folks". It sounds less affected and less phony.

3) Stop saying "For those of us". This is Brian's favorite expression. "For those of us who follow the Supreme Court...." "For those of us who love American cars...." "For those of us with kids in college...." This is simply a way to for Brian to change a news story into a news story about him. It is narcissistic and egocentric.

4) TMI. Stop inundating us with personal information. We don't care about Brian's kids or his dog or his Aunt Tilly in Buffalo. He thinks we like hearing about his personal life. Just read the news.

5) There's no brick wall behind Brian. If Brian wants to do stand up (or sit down) comedy, he should go out to the comedy clubs. But Nightly News is not the place to hone his comedy skills. His desperate attempts to be funny are just forced and awkward. If we want to see funny news, we'll watch The Daily Show. Or FOX.

6) Stop talking about being a buff. Brian constantly brags about being a Supreme Court buff, a presidential history buff, an American car buff, an aviation buff, a NASA buff, a music buff. If he were any more buff-y, he'd be a vampire slayer. This is just Brian feeding his massive ego. We don't need to hear about it.

7) Stop pandering to every city. Brian describes every city or state as "great". "The great city of Chicago." "The great state of Missouri." This is just shameless.

8) Stop bragging about ratings. Brian never misses an opportunity to brag about his broadcast's ratings or the ratings of other NBC shows. It's unprofessional and egotistical.

9) Shorter intros, please. Brian's intros to stories often run 30 seconds or more. This is ridiculously long. Obviously, Brian likes to hear himself talk, but how about shaving 15 seconds off the intros and using that time for more reporting on the story?

10) Interviews should provide actual information. Brian's interviews are often just softball questions tossed at subjects to allow them to say whatever they want. He should be more aggressive and challenge his subjects. It's okay to repeat a question or interrupt someone if they are being vague or evasive.

11) Stop pandering to the military. Brian never met a uniform he didn't drool over. He acts as if he is the propaganda minister for the U.S. military. His fawning, obsequious stories have no credibility because they lack any shred of journalistic objectivity.

12) Stop talking about Medal of Honor winners. Brian serves on the Board of Directors for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, so he thinks it's his duty to report it every time a Medal of Honor winner dies. This is not news. It's just Brian reporting about his hobbies. If he served on the board of the American Plastics Council, Brian would be doing two or three stories each week about the great new innovations in the field of plastics technology.

13) Stop plugging sponsors. Brian never misses an opportunity to mention McDonald's or Coke (or some other sponsor) during one of his news stories. These are just shameless plugs for regular advertisers.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Some Choice Quotes From Brian Williams

From Brian Williams's Nov. 1 Daily Nightly blog: "I have no doubt that we have the best team ever assembled."

Really? Is that your unbiased opinion? Thank goodness for objective journalists. I'm betting that each network feels the same way about their respective team. What a pompous and arrogant thing to say.

"I'm certain we'll be on the air for more hours than any other broadcast network."

News flash for Brian Williams: Quantity doesn't equal quality.

Psycho Fonzie Advisor

On Friday's Nightly News, an on-screen graphic identified John Brennan as a "U.S. Counterterrorism Adviser". On Sunday's broadcast, Brennan was identified as a "Deputy National Security Advisor". While it's puzzling that Brennan would be identified two different ways in the space of 48 hours, it's inexcusable that the Nightly News producers still use "advisor" and "adviser" interchangeably. When are they going to decide on an official spelling to be used for all Nightly News broadcasts? This lack of regulation is extremely unprofessional and makes the broadcast seem as if it isn't very well thought out.

Can someone please buy Mike Taibbi a membership to Netflix? On Sunday's story about farmers who turn their farms into haunted house theme parks, Taibbi tells us, "But to make a profit in this business, you do have to spend make the shower in this Bates Motel remind you of the big finish in 'Psycho'." As he says this, we see a re-enactment of the "Psycho" shower scene in a haunted farmhouse, followed by the shower scene from the original 1960 movie. Someone needs to tell Taibbi that the shower scene in Hitchcock's "Psycho" took place before the halfway point of the film, not at the "finish" as he claimed. I think Taibbi should re-watch "Psycho" before referencing it again in one of his stories.

On Sunday, Nightly News ran an obituary for Ted Sorensen, John F. Kennedy's speechwriter and confidante. Then they ran it again on Monday. Apparently, the Nightly News producers will run obits on two consecutive nights if they believe that the deceased was an iconic giant of twentieth century America. Fair enough. I guess they must have felt that way about Barbara Billingsley, since she got a two-night obit on Oct. 16 & 17. But what about Tom Bosley? His obit ran only one night (Oct. 19). Was June Cleaver a more influential character than Howard Cunningham? Was her advice more sage? Was she more dear to the hearts of American television viewers? If Barbara Billingsley deserves a two-day obit, then so, too, does Tom Bosley. In the immortal words of Fonzie, "That is so uncool." (I have it on good authority that Ted Sorensen actually wrote those words but refused to take credit for them.)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--Oct. 26-Oct. 29

Here's what happened on Nightly News this week:

Tuesday--Brian Williams narrated a 25-second obituary for Paul the Octopus, who had correctly predicted the winner of eight World Cup matches earlier this year. On the Aug. 11 broadcast, Ann Curry spent the same amount of time narrating an obituary for former Illinois Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, who was a U.S. Representative for 36 years and had been one of the most powerful members of the U.S. House. Apparently, based on the lengths of their obituaries, Brian and his producers believe that Paul the Octopus and Dan Rostenkowski were of equal importance.
>Brian spent a scant 35 seconds on the $750 million settlement that GlaxoSmithKline agreed to pay as a result of knowingly selling contaminated and mislabeled drugs. There was no film on the story, just narration by Brian. Meanwhile, this story was front page news--upper right hand corner, above the fold--in Wednesday's New York Times and other newspapers around the country. Brian and his producers drastically and intentionally underreported this story in order to minimize the damage to Glaxo, a heavy advertiser and frequent in-show sponsor of Nightly News.
>Tuesday's final story was mostly comprised of a rambling, pointless speech by Maria Shriver in which she talks about communicating with her dead mother. Shriver's speech clearly belongs in the Christine O'Donnell/Carl Paladino/Sharron Angle wacky world. But the funniest part of Shriver's speech was when she introspectively ruminated about what she might be doing after her tenure as First Lady of California ends in January. I think that anyone who hasn't been living in a cave knows that Shriver will soon be working for NBC again, either in their news or entertainment division. She may even end up at Nightly News, which would mean that she did, in fact, accept a job in NBC's entertainment division.
>On his Tuesday Daily Nightly blog, Brian misspelled the name of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (he spelled her name as "Ginsberg"). Ironically, on the 2/23/09 Nightly News, Brian reported that Senator Jim Bunning had misspelled Justice Ginsburg's name (also as "Ginsberg"). According to Brian's report that day, "Adding insult to injury, he misspelled her last name not once but twice in today's statement of apology." Say what you want about Brian, but he only misspelled Ginsburg's name once. Meanwhile, Brian is always boasting on the air that he is (among other things) a Supreme Court buff. Misspelling Ginsburg's name doesn't sound very buff-y, does it?

Wednesday--During a story about the Florida Governor's race, an on-screen graphic incorrectly identified candidate Alex Sink as a Republican. She is a Democrat. On the May 18 broadcast, a graphic identified Florida Senator Bill Nelson as a Republican. He is a Democrat. What is it about Nightly News and Florida Democrats?
>The "news story" about tubeless Scott toilet tissue was really just a 40-second commercial for Scott products. It was a way of thanking the company for their advertising.
>Brian reported that, "The actress Mariska Hargitay from 'Law & Order: SVU' was at the White House today to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month along with Dodgers' manager, baseball veteran Joe Torre...." Clearly, this story was contrived just so that Brian could plug NBC's "Law & Order" franchise. By the way, Joe Torre is not the Dodgers' manager. That job belongs to Don Mattingly.

Friday--Once again, Brian identified Richard Engel as NBC's "Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent". He is actually the network's Chief Foreign Correspondent.

And finally, what is the deal with the subliminal George W. Bush ads that Nightly News has been showing for the past week or so? Once a night, after a commercial break ends, but before the broadcast resumes, we briefly (for perhaps two seconds) see a still photo of Bush striding across a lawn, with the NBC News logo in the middle of the photo. Since NBC News doesn't do anything unless there is some self-promotional benefit involved, I'm guessing that this message is a subliminal promo for an interview someone at NBC (probably Matt Lauer) will be conducting with Bush on or about Nov. 9, the release date for his upcoming book.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--Oct. 19-Oct.24

If you didn't watch Nightly News this week, here are some of the things you missed:

Oct. 19--Brian Williams's obituary for Tom Bosley included clips from Bosley's Glad Trash Bags commercials (Brian also mentioned Glad by name). This was obviously a way to give some free ad time to a brand that regularly advertises on NBC.

Oct. 21--During a story about the latest Toyota recalls, Nightly News put the recalled models on screen. One of the recalled models they listed was the 2006 Lexus G5 300. Lexus does not make a G5 300. They do, however, make a GS 300. If Nightly News is going to list auto recalls, they should get the model numbers right.

Oct. 23--The lead story about Wikileaks' allegations of prisoner abuse in Iraq included some on-screen descriptions of torture. One of these descriptions read, "Whipping the bottom of a detainees feet". The word should have been spelled with an apostrophe ("detainee's"), since it is a possessive, not a plural.
>This broadcast also featured a story on the West Virginia senate race. Although Kelly O'Donnell spent time interviewing Republican candidate John Raese, she never mentioned Raese's racial slur against Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Apparently, part of Raese's shtick is to intentionally mispronounce the names of Democrats he doesn't like (I guess he's the Norm Crosby of the Tea Party). During a filmed speech last month, Raese referred to Dr. Chu (a Nobel Prize-winning physicist) as "Dr. Chow Mein". This is as bad as, if not worse than, George Allen's "Macaca" comment (made during the 2006 Virginia senate race), which Nightly News covered extensively. Why didn't O'Donnell mention Raese's "Dr. Chow Mein" comment? Why is Nightly News protecting John Raese?
>Also on Saturday, there was a "Making A Difference" story about people donating money to charities. One part of the story focused on a five-year-old boy who raised $288 for the Ronald McDonald house. This was just a way for the producers to plug McDonald's, a heavy NBC sponsor.

Oct. 24--During a story about walk-in medical clinics, Tom Costello told us that, "Doctors Express is now a national franchise, like McDonald's or Burger King." More plugs for regular NBC advertisers.
>The broadcast's final story was about a football coach being called up as a Navy reservist. Once again, Nightly News ran a football-related story to promote NBC's Sunday Night Football coverage, which immediately followed the news.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Manifesto--Part I

If I were in charge of NBC Nightly News, here are the changes I would make to the broadcast:

1) No more "Making A Difference" stories. There has never been a single MAD story that contained even a sliver of news. This is supposed to be a news broadcast. There is no place in a news broadcast for stories about people who coach little league, cook food in hospitals or teach kids how to dance.

2) No more stories about the deaths of Medal of Honor winners, unless there is a separate, compelling reason to report them (such as if the person was well-known for some other reason). If a person is awarded the Medal of Honor, that's news. If a Medal of Honor recipient dies, that is not news. In truth, these stories are just vanity pieces for Brian Williams, since he sits on the board of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. If Brian Williams was on the board of the American Plastics Foundation, he would be bringing us several stories a week about the great new innovations in the field of plastics technology.

3) No more gratuitous stories about celebrities. Nightly News is constantly running "news stories" about celebrities and their favorite foundations or charities. These stories have no news value--they are just an excuse to pander to the viewers by putting Will Ferrell, Sally Field or Jon Bon Jovi on the air. Unless a celebrity robs a liquor store or runs for political office, there is no reason to do a story on them.

4) No more news stories promoting sponsors' products. Nightly News frequently airs reports about products that advertise on the broadcast or on other NBC shows. Examples include McDonald's, United Airlines, Lifewater, Requip, Chrysler, Boniva, Cheerios, Aleve and many pharmaceutical products made by Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline. It's obvious that Nightly News is only reporting on these products as a way to thank their sponsors.

5) No more sponsored segments. Nightly News segments like "Making A Difference" or "What Works" are often sponsored. Since Nightly News is often required to report on a product or company that has sponsored a segment, this is a huge conflict of interest. Furthermore, sometimes the Nightly News producers allow Pfizer or GlaxoSmithKline to sponsor segments about the pharmaceutical industry. That is an appalling violation of the viewers' trust.

6) No more protecting sponsors. Nightly News will often refuse to report a negative story about one of their sponsors. Sometimes they will hide a sponsor's product during a story to avoid giving it negative publicity. An example of this was the 11/30/09 story about harmful BPA levels in plastic bottles and canned food liners. Tom Costello told us that the chemical was present in "brand name foods from vegetable soup to tuna fish, green beans to corn and chili." But the accompanying graphic showed only generic cans labeled "chili", "vegetable soup", "green beans" and "tuna". Where are the name brands? There were none--the producers obscured them all to protect the manufacturers.

7) No more stories culled from Dateline or CNBC specials. These stories have no news value and are run on Nightly News simply because they present a ready-made way to eat up a few minutes of news time. The producers have no business promoting these specials on Nightly News. These segments take up valuable news time that could be used to report real news stories.

8) No more stories promoting NBC Sports. Nightly News is not the promotional arm for NBC Sports. It is appalling that a news broadcast acts as a shill for its parent network's sports programming. On Sept. 9, Brian Williams shamelessly anchored Nightly News from New Orleans just so he could promote NBC's season-opening Vikings-Saints game later that night. In February, Nightly News aired 160 minutes of Olympic-related stories solely to promote their Olympic coverage. The entire Nightly News operation moved to Vancouver. The job of a news broadcast is to report the news, not to promote its network's sports coverage.

9) No more stories promoting NBC's entertainment programs. Nightly News frequently inserts gratuitous clips of shows like "30 Rock", "The Office", "The Tonight Show", "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" and "Saturday Night Live" into news stories in order to promote those shows. During the lead-up to the Leno-Conan changeover, Nightly News promoted those shows relentlessly. In May, they did four stories about the cancellation of "Law & Order". In August, they did two stories about a contestant on "America's Got Talent". It is inappropriate and unprofessional for a news broadcast to promote its network's entertainment shows.

10) No repeat stories. Nightly News often does multiple stories about a subject when one story (or none) would suffice. Over a ten-month period beginning last October, they did six stories about an Afghan orphanage. In July, they did three virtually identical stories about a pet shelter in Louisiana. At the end of 2008, they did four stories about Nick Nelson, a nine-year-old boy who had his legs amputated. By running multiple stories about a subject, Nightly News is just patting itself on the back for what it wants us to think of as their great work.

11) No promoting charities. Nightly News will often run a story about a charity, and then tell us to go to the website for more information. It is not Nightly News's job to promote charities, either on the air or on their website. Anyone who wants to find information about a charity can easily do so by doing a computer search. This is simply an underhanded way to draw traffic to the website.

12) News broadcasts aren't radio stations. Nightly News often plays pop songs going into or coming out of a commercial break. This is just another crass way of pandering to the audience.

13) No more summits. NBC News recently held an "education summit", and then heavily reported on it as if it was actual news. It is the job of a news network to report news, not to hold summits. This was just a self-promotional gimmick that accomplished nothing. The "education summit" consisted of a bunch of people whining about the American education system. That's not news.

14) No titles. Nightly News begins each story with an on-screen title. This is completely unnecessary. People are smart enough to understand what a story is about by watching it. They don't need idiot titles to help them.

15) Spelling and grammar matter. Nightly News is constantly making errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, math and other areas (such as calendar pages). This is inexcusable for a news broadcast. They also often misquote people. When you use quotation marks, you are obligated to reproduce the words exactly. A broadcast that makes this many errors cannot expect to have any credibility as a news source.

16) No more lying to Nielsen. When the Nightly News producers expect a particular broadcast to have lower-than-expected ratings, they submit it to the Nielsen ratings service intentionally misspelled as "Nitely News". That way, the lower-rated "Nitely News" broadcasts are counted in a separate category and don't detract from the higher ratings of the "Nightly News" broadcasts. This is the equivalent of giving the police a fake name so they won't know about your prior arrests. It is deceitful and dishonest.

17) No doctoring footage. Nightly News often doctors news footage to make it appear older. They add lines, hairs, cigarette burns, stains, flickering light and specks of dust to the film. They have done this dozens of times over the past few years. This is deceitful and self-serving. A news broadcast that alters footage to suit their needs cannot be trusted. What other footage is Nightly News altering?

18) Nightly News is not the propaganda arm of the U.S. military. They constantly air stories meant to glorify the armed forces. These stories are two-and-a-half minute flag-waving, eagle-soaring, hyper-patriotic misty-eyed tributes to our "brave men and women in uniform". The correspondents and anchors are constantly using loaded terms like "wounded warriors" and "fallen heroes". This is completely inappropriate. Those are subjective value judgments and they don't belong on a news broadcast. A news broadcast is supposed to be objective and report the facts, not pander to the viewers by appealing to their base patriotic instincts.

19) No more movie clips. It seems that almost every night, Nightly News includes one or more movie clips in their broadcast, ostensibly to help "explain" a news story. In truth, this is just another way to pander to the viewers by feeding them entertainment instead of news. If the Nightly News producers and writers can't adequately describe a news event without using a movie clip, then the executive producer needs to find employees who are more competent.

20) Graphics do not make a story good. Nightly News stories frequently contain fancy high tech graphics. The producers should spend more time providing information and less time on graphics. Graphics are not a substitute for reporting.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Brian Williams Reports On Brian Williams

Since Brian Williams always tries to make every news story into a story about himself (on Tuesday, he narrated a story about how HE was on stage during the awarding of the Broad Prize for Urban Education--complete with video clips of HIM), I was certain that he would begin Tuesday's Nightly News story about hormone replacement therapy by saying, "For those of us who are going through menopause...."

Nightly News Promotes NBC's Football Coverage

On Sunday's Nightly News, the final story was about football. That's hardly surprising. The Nightly News producers often use their Sunday broadcast to shamelessly promote NBC's Sunday Night Football coverage, which airs immediately after the news. Last Sunday's story was about the Washington Redskins--who just happened to be one of the teams that was playing on NBC that night. On Sept. 26, Nightly News did a story about the NFL's efforts to recruit younger fans. And on Sept. 19, Nightly News ended with a story about Eli and Peyton Manning (who play for the Giants and Colts, respectively), which was immediately followed by the Giants-Colts game on NBC. Of course, nothing can top the Sept. 8 & 9 broadcasts. Nightly News spent those two days shamelessly promoting NBC's Sept. 9 NFL season opener between the Vikings and the Saints. On Sept. 8, Nightly News aired a three-and-a-half minute "Making A Difference" story about a Vikings player. The story began with Brian Williams telling us, "He just happens to be a pro football player, and you'll see him on NBC tomorrow in the season opener as his Vikings take on the world champion Saints in New Orleans." The following day, Brian went even further. He devoted his entire broadcast to promoting the Saints-Vikings game by anchoring Nightly News from New Orleans, the site of the game. A three-minute story about the game featured 43 seconds of opening remarks from Brian, including, "Playing tonight in the Superdome, their first game as defending Super Bowl champions when they meet the Vikings tonight here on NBC...." At the end of the broadcast, Brian offered yet another plug for the game and spent time the next day bragging about the game's ratings. This is beyond shameless. Using Nightly News to promote NBC's football coverage is a violation of the viewers' trust and a grossly inappropriate use of the newscast. People tune in to Nightly News to find out about important news stories going on across the country and around the world, not to see endless promos for NBC's sports and entertainment shows. The FCC should revoke NBC's right to air Nightly News. And then they should penalize them 10 yards and a loss of possession.

Why don't the Nightly News producers just drop all the pretenses and devote their entire Sunday night broadcast to NBC's NFL coverage? It could be the first half hour of "Football Night in America". Here's a story suggestion for next week: Susan Boyle, Jackie Evancho, Chelsea Clinton, Anna Chapman, Nick Nelson, Nikki Yanofsky and a group of Medal of Honor Winners could play a football game against a team made up of Afghan orphans and rescued Chilean miners. The mascots would be oil-soaked Gulf pelicans. And it would all be for charity, so we know they'd be making a difference!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Nightly News Protects Boniva

Once again, Nightly News is protecting its sponsors. On Wednesday, the FDA issued a warning about bisphosphonates, a category of drugs (including Boniva) that are used to strengthen bones and treat the symptoms of osteoporosis. These drugs are now believed to cause an increased risk of thigh fractures in many patients who use them. According to an Oct. 13 article at, "The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning on Wednesday linking long-term use of popular osteoporosis drugs to an unusual fracture of the thigh bone."

"The F.D.A. said the labels and medication guides would be changed to show the new warning in oral bisphosphonates including Actonel, Atelvia, Boniva, and Fosamax and injectible drugs including Boniva and Reclast, and their generic equivalents. Genentech is working closely with the F.D.A. to add a statement to Boniva labels warning of the possible increased fracture risk, according to Terry Hurley, spokesman for Genentech, the Roche subsidiary that sells Boniva in the United States."

(The entire article can be read at

This story was not reported on Nightly News. The reason is obvious. At least three of the above-mentioned drugs, Boniva, Fosamax and Reclast, are Nightly News advertisers. Boniva advertises almost every night. By not reporting this story, Brian Williams and his producers are intentionally protecting Boniva and the other Nightly News sponsors from negative publicity.

On May 14 & 17, Nightly News aired a two-part interview (totalling more than five minutes) that Brian Williams conducted with Sally Field. The first part of the interview was exclusively about Field's Boniva ads, including Brian's in-depth questions about the dog that appears with Field in the ads. The interview included fifteen seconds of Boniva ad clips, and constituted a 90 second commercial for Boniva. The second part of the interview also mentioned Boniva. So when Brian feels like helping out his pals at Boniva, he gives them free air time as part of a "news story" on his broadcast. But when the FDA issues a warning about Boniva, Nightly News refuses to report it. Nightly News is little more than a shameless shill for its advertisers. Brian Williams and his producers should be ashamed of themselves. But, of course, they're not.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tina Fey Exposes Racism At NBC

The Oct. 7 episode of "30 Rock" spent most of its time satirizing the racial insensitivity and lack of diversity at NBC Universal. Of course, when you satirize something, you are acknowledging that it actually exists. So thank you to Tina Fey and the "30 Rock" producers for bringing this horrible problem to our attention. Exposing a problem is the first step on the long road to solving it. Let's hope that other NBC divisions (like NBC News) can now admit their dirty little secret and begin to take steps to eradicate racism from the Peacock Network. One way to do that would be for Nightly News to air a series of reports about racial insensitivity at NBC. I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

Ann Curry Loves George Clooney--I Mean Sudan!

Is there one person on this planet who believes that Ann Curry cares the slightest bit about what's going on in Sudan? On Monday's Nightly News, Curry reported from Sudan--with George Clooney! There's George and Ann riding on a truck! There's George and Ann riding on a boat! See how he takes her hand to help her onto shore! There's Ann interviewing George! See how he gazes into her eyes! And of course the story ended with Brian Williams reading a promo for Ann's exclusive interview with George on Tuesday's Today show. This wasn't a story about Sudan, this was a story about George Clooney. This is just part of the Nightly News strategy. Include lots of famous people on their "news" show so the ratings go up. This is the third time in five weeks that Nightly News has included Clooney in a story. An Oct. 3 story featured clips from "Up In The Air." And on Sept. 5, they aired a story ostensibly about how American movies need foreign box office receipts to succeed financially. In reality, the story was just an excuse to show 90 seconds of movie clips--including 30 seconds of clips from Clooney's movies and an additional 20 seconds of Clooney clips that ran as promos during earlier parts of the broadcast. Brad Pitt was also featured in that story--as he was on the Aug. 27 story about his post-Katrina work in New Orleans. For the Nightly News producers, George Clooney and Brad Pitt are part of a winning formula for ratings, although they will show stories featuring practically any celebrity that they think will help increase their viewership. Barely a day goes by without Nightly News featuring some actor or singer as part of a news story. It's becoming more and more difficult to tell Nightly News apart from the shows that follow it--Extra and Access Hollywood. Case in point--the final story of last Friday's Nightly News was reported by Maria Menounos who is best known as a correspondent for Access Hollywood. It's as if the Nightly News producers are making a point of blending their broadcast as seamlessly as possible into the gossip shows that follow it.