Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haiti Notes

I'm confused. Brian Williams began Monday's Nightly News by saying, "On our broadcast tonight, the earthquake in Haiti, the massive job to get help to those who need it--food, water, medical care and hope...." And that evening's final story (about the USS Carl Vinson) was introduced with an on-screen graphic that read "Ray of Hope". But several times last March, NBC aired a ridiculous and unintentionally hilarious promo spot for Nightly News that began with Brian (in his most anchorly voice) saying, "We live in extraordinary times. Our nation's in crisis. And yet there's that uniquely American feeling of hope." If hope is uniquely American, then by definition we're the only country that has it. So how can the Haitians have hope? I certainly "hope" Brian can explain this.

And how's this for tacky: On Thursday's broadcast, right in the middle of all their earthquake coverage, the Nightly News producers took a long moment to thank some regular NBC advertisers. A segment about companies that are donating money to Haitian earthquake relief prominently displayed the logos of NBC sponsors American Airlines, Kellogg's, FedEx, Lowe's, Home Depot, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, UPS and of course, parent company GE, along with the amounts each company donated. And as if that wasn't enough, Rehema Ellis gave a special mention to American Airlines and Bank of America (a mock check with the Bank of America logo in the amount of "one million dollars" was prominently displayed on screen). Using the earthquake as an excuse to give screen time to sponsors is in really poor taste. Apparently, for the Nightly News producers, there's no such thing as inappropriate.

But without a doubt, my favorite moment from Nightly News's Haiti coverage was also on Thursday's broadcast, when Brian was reporting from the side of the road as hundreds of Haitians streamed by him, desperately searching for food and water. As Brian began his report, he realized that he was holding a bottle of water, so he quickly and awkwardly hid the bottle in his pocket, rather than offering it to one of the thirsty children running past him. It was pretty thoughtless of Brian to be holding a bottle of water while reporting in a country with a massive water shortage. Then on Monday's broadcast, as we saw footage of Haitian children receiving bottles of water from U.S. soldiers, Brian said, "Did you hear those thank-yous? There's a lesson for every child--incredible politeness after waiting six days for one bottle of water." Maybe if Brian had shared his water on Thursday, they wouldn't have had to wait six days. Water, water everywhere, but only for Brian Williams.

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