Tuesday, June 29, 2010

No One Cares At Nightly News (Part 2)

During Saturday's Nightly News story about the G20 summit in Toronto, Chuck Todd featured a clip of a man identified as "Stuart" Patrick, from the Council on Foreign Relations. Actually, his name is Stewart Patrick. If anyone at Nightly News had bothered to google "Stuart Patrick Council on Foreign Relations", they would have gotten a message reading "Did you mean Stewart Patrick?" Obviously, no one bothered. They rarely do.

During Sunday's story about nine soldiers from Chosen Company who were killed in a firefight with the Taliban in Afghanistan two years ago, Richard Engel interviewed someone identified by a Nightly News graphic as Sgt. "Christoper" McKaig. His name is Christopher, not Christoper. Is this how the Nightly News producers show their respect for the survivors of this deadly battle? By misspelling Sgt. McKaig's name? Shameful.

If It's A Sweeps Period, Brian Williams Is In The Gulf

It was beyond ironic to hear Brian Williams report (last Wednesday) that Spirit Airways has been accused of exploiting the Gulf oil crisis with their new ads. In fact, no one has exploited the Gulf oil crisis more than Brian himself. From a news perspective, this story rarely deserves more than a few minutes a night (if that), but Brian and the Nightly News correspondents routinely spend ten minutes or more mucking around in the oily water. Brian has only 22 minutes each night to report all the news from across the country and around the world, so this story simply does not merit the amount of time Brian gives it. Night after night, Brian panders to the viewers' anti-BP sentiment. From a ratings standpoint, it's lucrative to milk a story by playing to the viewers' emotions, rather than reporting actual news. Whether it's Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Osama bin Laden, Enron, Saddam Hussein, Bernie Madoff or BP, there are ratings to be had by exploiting the viewers' anger at a hated person or corporation. Nightly News has shown the same oil-soaked birds and marine life so often in the past two months that some of these animals are receiving residual checks from NBC. I hear that NBC is planning to change their logo from a peacock to an oil-soaked pelican.

Does anyone really believe that Brian Williams is in the Louisiana Gulf this week because he cares about what's going on there? If so, there's a bridge over the East River that I'd like to sell you. Brian cares about one thing and only one thing: His ratings. This week marks the beginning of the July Nielsen ratings sweeps period. That's why Brian is in the Gulf. For last May's sweeps period, Brian was also in the Gulf. For the February sweeps period, he was in Vancouver for the Olympics. For last year's October-November sweeps period, he was in Afghanistan, exploiting orphans for ratings. Need I say more? If anyone wants to know when the Nielsen sweeps periods took place, all they would have to do is check Brian's travel schedule. When he travels, it's a sweeps period. So where will Brian be for this November's sweeps period? Las Vegas bookies are giving 5-to-3 odds that it will be Iraq.

On Monday's Nightly News, there were two segments labeled "Brian Williams Reporting". The first segment consisted of Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser complaining for three and a half minutes about the lack of government help in cleaning up the oil. I can certainly understand his frustration. But Nungesser's griping is not news. The second "Brian Williams Reporting" segment consisted of Louisiana native Dave Cvitanovich complaining for two minutes and forty five seconds about the oil spill. I can also understand Cvitanovich's frustration. But six minutes of complaining isn't news. It's "The View".

"Brian Williams Reporting". That's an oxymoron. Brian Williams isn't a reporter, he's a news reader. His job is to sit in the studio and read the words as they crawl across the teleprompter. His reporting skills are, shall we say, thin, to say the least. (I'm trying to be diplomatic here.) Come to think of it, there wasn't much reporting going on in either of Brian's segments. Mostly it was just other people talking. But I'm disappointed in Brian. During the story on Nungesser, Brian stuck an "absorbent pad" in the water to show how much oil was present. Why didn't be use a Tena Bladder Protection Absorbent Pad? He missed an opportunity to help out a Nightly News sponsor with a product placement. In fact, I think we can say that in this case, he missed a "golden" opportunity.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Show Notes--June 21-25

*On Tuesday's Nightly News, we were shown an on-screen transcript of audio statements made by Michael Hastings (author of the "Rolling Stone" article about Gen. McChrystal). The transcript includes the phrase "president Obama". The "P" in President Obama should have been capitalized.

*After that story, Brian Williams referred to Richard Engel as "our chief foreign affairs correspondent." That is incorrect. Engel is the Nightly News chief foreign correspondent. Andrea Mitchell is the chief foreign affairs correspondent.

*On Wednesday's story about the earthquake in Canada, Brian told us that the quake was felt in 19 U.S. states. But the accompanying map indicated only 18 states (and the District of Columbia). Someone needs to tell Brian that D.C. is not a state.

*On Wednesday's story about the U.S. World Cup victory over Algeria, Ian Williams told us that the U.S. goal came during "overtime". Not true. The goal came during added time. It can also be called bonus time, injury time, extra time or stoppage time. But it was not overtime. There is no overtime in the initial group stage of the World Cup.

*Congratulations to Brian Williams for correctly spelling the names "McChrystal" and "Petraeus" on his blog this week. On his 10/30/09 blog, Brian misspelled both those names.

Brian Williams Doesn't Do Sports

I laughed so hard that root beer shot out of my nose when I heard Brian Williams say on Wednesday's Nightly News that, "We don't do a lot of sports around here...." That's the funniest joke I've heard since the one about the traveling salesman and the farmer's daughters. During the Vancouver Olympics in February, Nightly News aired 160 minutes of Olympic-related stories. Some broadcasts devoted more than half their time to the Olympics. Since a Nightly News broadcast runs 22 minutes (without commercials), that 160 minutes represents the equivalent of more than seven entire broadcasts devoted solely to the Olympics! And Brian says that Nightly News doesn't do a lot of sports? He's a riot! I think a more appropriate statement would have been, "We don't do a lot of sports around here unless it's for the specific purpose of promoting sporting events that will be televised on NBC." When NBC broadcasts the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness, Nightly News airs "news stories" about horse racing. When NBC broadcasts the U.S. Open golf tournament, Nightly News airs "news stories" about golf. During the NFL season, Nightly News airs "news stories" about football. When NBC broadcasts the Stanley Cup Finals, Nightly News airs "news stories" about hockey. When NBC airs college football games, Nightly News airs "news stories" about college football. NBC is carrying Wimbledon tennis this week, so of course Nightly News has aired several "news stories" about that tournament. "We don't do a lot of sports around here." That Brian Williams is one funny guy.

Actually, considering that most stories Brian reports are for the specific purpose of promoting himself, his broadcast, other NBC shows or NBC sponsors, a more accurate statement would have been, "We don't do a lot of news around here...." Here are a few examples just from this month:

*June 3--Brian spends a minute on an obituary for Rue McClanahan. Not coincidentally, "Golden Girls" DVDs and other items are available online at the NBC Universal store. Also on this broadcast, Brian spends 30 seconds showing us a picture of a rainbow that he took with his cell phone.

*June 4--Brian airs a two minute "news story" that is, in reality, a promo for a "Dateline" story he will be doing about the explosion on Deepwater Horizon. Also on this broadcast, Brian reports that McDonald's is recalling their Shrek promotional glasses because of high levels of cadmium. The story consists of close-up shots of Shrek glasses. This is just a way of promoting the Shrek ride at Universal Studios in Orlando and Hollywood.

*June 7--The "news story" on commencement addresses contains speech clips from NBC and Universal stars such as Alec Baldwin ("30 Rock", "It's Complicated"), Meryl Streep ("It's Complicated"), Bill Cosby ("The Cosby Show"), and of course, Brian himself.

*June 8--Nightly News airs a "news story" about how Aleve can reduce the risk of heart attacks. Aleve is a frequent Nightly News sponsor. Also, Brian reports a three minute "news story" about the Muppets. Muppet merchandise is available at the NBC Universal store.

*June 10--Nightly News airs a report about Chevy automobiles. This story is actually a two minute thank-you to Chevy, a frequent NBC sponsor.

*June 14--A Nightly News story about free Wi-Fi in McDonald's and Starbucks is actually just a way of giving some free advertising to these two regular NBC sponsors.

*June 16--A story about a pill to increase the female sex drive includes clips from regular NBC advertisers Viagra, Cialis and Levitra.

*June 17--Campbell's recalls 15 million pounds of their Spaghettios products because undercooked meatballs could present a serious health risk to children. Brian refuses to report the story because Campbell's is a regular Nightly News sponsor.

*June 18--Nightly News airs a "news story" about the 30th anniversary of the "Blues Brothers" movie. "The Blues Brothers" is an NBC Universal property and they continue to make money from the franchise. This is just a plug for an NBC Universal product.

*June 22--Brian shows a 30-second clip from "The Jimmy Fallon Show". Even better, the clip shows Fallon demonstrating the new Microsoft Kinect hands-free gaming system. Microsoft is NBC's partner in the MSNBC network (and the MSNBC website) so this is a shameless promo for both Fallon and Microsoft.

*June 23 and 24--Nightly News reports "news stories" about Wimbledon. This is just a promo for NBC's Wimbledon coverage, which will be airing all next week.

*June 24--Brian reminds his viewers that Nightly News "is viewed by the largest single daily news audience in the country." Such modesty!

*June 25--A Nightly News story featuring Chris Warren of The Weather Channel is just an excuse to run a promo for Brian's upcoming hour-long special "The Spill: Crisis In The Gulf"--airing on The Weather Channel. Brian also reports that Kellogg's is recalling 28 million boxes of their cereals. This week, some of the Nightly News "Be Well, Be Healthy" segments are sponsored by Cheerios--a General Mills product. Reporting the Kellogg's recall is a favor to Brian's pals at General Mills. (Remember that Brian refused to report the Spaghettios recall as a favor to his pals at Campbell's.) In the "Be Well, Be Healthy" segment, Lisa Myers tells us that 16 food and beverage companies are reducing the calories in their products by 1.5 trillion. We then see the logos of such frequent NBC advertisers as Nestle, Kraft, Hershey's, Campbell's, Pepsi, Coke, Sara Lee, Smucker's, Mars, General Mills, Bumble Bee and Post. What a nice thank-you for these sponsors. Next, we see a two-minute report about all the problems with the new Apple iPhone. This story was done as a favor to NBC's partner Microsoft, a competitor of Apple. Finally, we see a report by Richard Engel which is just a 90-second promo for his upcoming "Dateline" story. The "Dateline" logo is on screen for 25 seconds.

With all these "news stories" promoting NBC and NBC's sponsors, it's a wonder that Nightly News has any time left for legitimate news stories.

"Lost" Cast Update--What The Actors Will Be Doing Next

Now that "Lost" is over, there has been much speculation about what the cast members will be doing next. Here is the latest information culled from a variety of celebrity gossip sites:

Terry O'Quinn (Locke) and Josh Holloway (Sawyer) will be starring in a new TV series based on the 1977 film "Smokey and the Bandit".

Mark Pellegrino (Jacob) and Jorge Garcia (Hugo) will be starring in a remake of the 1987-1992 series "Jake and the Fatman".

Jeff Fahey (Frank Lapidus) will be seen this fall in a network pilot called "Pilot".

Vincent the dog will be starring as the title character in an upcoming film about an aquatic menace that terrorizes beachgoers in a seaside Long Island town. The film will be called "Paws".

Dominic Monaghan will be seen in a new series that merges his characters from "Lost" and "FlashForward" (in which he played a brilliant physicist/mathematician). It will be called "Charlie's Angles".

Immediately after "Lost" finished filming, Alan Dale (Charles Widmore) accepted the position of CEO of Qantas Airways. His first official act was to decree that any Qantas passenger involved in a plane crash would be required to pay a $200 "aircraft recovery fee". Last week, Dale resigned from Qantas to become the global CEO of BP. He immediately announced that he would be seeking to impose a $250 surcharge on every Louisiana Gulf resident as compensation for all the free oil that BP has left on their shores.

Daniel Dae Kim and Ian Somerhalder will star in a new historical/buddy/comedy series called "Daniel & Boone In Old Kentucky". In early 2011, Daniel will play a young Kim Jong-il in the movie "The Hangover 2: Pyongyang Panty Raid Frat Party". Later that year, Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Day Lewis will star in a remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger-Danny DeVito movie "Twins".

Yunjin Kim (Sun) will be seen this fall as Soon-Yi in the Lifetime Movie Network production of "Heart and Seoul: The Many Loves of Woody Allen".

The two sets of twins who portrayed baby Aaron and baby Ji Yeon have been adopted by Angelina Jolie.

Nestor Carbonell (Richard Alpert) will be interviewed by James Lipton on an upcoming episode of Bravo's "Inside the Overactors Studio".

Emilie de Ravin will take over the lead role in the series "Medium". The show will be retitled "Claire Voyant".

Sheila Kelley (Zoe) is continuing to take acting lessons and can currently be seen as an extra on several South American soap operas. In 2011, she will be reprising the role of Zoe in the Latvian musical stage version of "Lost" (the actual Latvian title translates roughly to "The Estonians Have Sabotaged Our Plane!"). She will sing a solo number called "I Want More More Widmore".

Doug Hutchison (Horace) will be introducing episodes of "That 70's Show" on The History Channel later this year.

Ken Leung (Miles) will star in a new series about a man with the unique ability to communicate with people who can communicate with the dead. The show will be called "The Ghost Whisperer Whisperer".

Zuleikha Robinson (Ilana), Harold Perrineau (Michael) and Daniel Roebuck (Arzt) will each be appearing in separate series this fall on the TNT Network.

Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond) will soon be seen in a new series playing a man who journeys back and forth through history searching for herbs and spices. The show will be called "The Thyme Traveler".

Sonya Walger will star in a show portraying her "Lost" character as a nightclub singer. It will be called "Penny's Serenade".

Malcolm David Kelley (Walt) is currently 53 years old and lives in Modesto, California with his second wife, Gail, and their three kids. He is the co-owner of an insurance agency and coaches little league.

Titus Welliver (The Man In Black) will soon be seen in a new cop/buddy series called "Titus And Ronicus".

Hiroyuki Sanada will be starring in a new sitcom as the leader of a group of Japanese soldiers being held in an American POW camp during World War II. It will be called "Dogen's Heroes".

Michelle Rodriguez (Ana Lucia) will be seen on several upcoming episodes of "Cops" (being stopped for DUI). She will then be seen on an episode of "Judge Judy", trying to plead her charges down to misdemeanor reckless driving. In early 2011, she will be featured in a three-episode arc of MSNBC's "Lockup: Raw--Women In Prison". Twenty months later (or 16 months with good behavior), she will appear on "The Nancy Grace Show" and "Dr. Phil".

Naveen Andrews (Sayid) will be seen playing a terrorist in the next "Die Hard" movie. After that, he will appear as a terrorist in the next "Bourne" movie. In early 2012, he will play a terrorist in the upcoming "24" feature film. Later that year, he will appear as Carrie Bradshaw's new love interest in "Sex and the City 3".

Michael Emerson will star in a new ABC adventure series about a meteorologist who frequently risks his life by flying a weather balloon into strong winds in order to gather data. The show will be called "Henry's Gale".

Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet) will have a co-starring role in the upcoming remake of "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb". She will also continue her role in ABC's "V". Note: If "Henry's Gale" and "V" do poorly in the ratings, ABC will merge them to create a new show called "Henry V".

Rebecca Mader (Charlotte) will star in the upcoming BBC-America drama "No Royalties: The Sarah Ferguson Story".

Matthew Fox and Evangeline Lilly will star in a new reality show in which they travel from city to city looking for high school kids to play with them in five-on-five pickup basketball games. The show will be called "Jack & Kate Plus Eight".

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Brian Williams Celebriduck

On Thursday, Campbell's announced that they were recalling 15 million pounds of Spaghettios because the meatballs may be undercooked. This presents a significant danger to children, who are most likely to eat this product. But this story was not reported on Nightly News either Thursday or Friday. The reason is obvious. Campbell's is a regular NBC advertiser, and they advertise on Nightly News almost every night. It's clear that the Nightly News producers refused to run this story because they didn't want to offend one of their best sponsors. Campbell's ran an ad on Friday's Nightly News, which means they must have been informed in advance that the Spaghettios recall story would not be airing (it will not air this weekend either, since Nightly News is being pre-empted for golf on Saturday and Sunday). It's nice to see such great communication between the Nightly News producers and their friends at Campbell's. Just another example of Nightly News protecting one of their sponsors.

While Nightly News did not report the Spaghettios recall, they did find time on Friday's broadcast to air a "news story" about the 30th anniversary of the "Blues Brothers" movie. This is not surprising. "The Blues Brothers" was released by Universal Studios, a sister company of NBC (they share the same parent company). Every time "The Blues Brothers" airs on TV and every time a "Blues Brothers" DVD is sold, NBC Universal gets paid. The Universal Studios theme parks in Hollywood and Orlando both currently feature Blues Brothers live shows. The online NBC Universal store features a number of Blues Brothers items, including T-shirts, DVDs (of the original movie, of "Blues Brothers 2000" and of Saturday Night Live shows featuring the Blues Brothers) and an Elwood Blues celebriduck. It's obvious that Nightly News ran this story simply as a way to promote their Blues Brothers properties. It was a 30-second commercial for their merchandise. Millions of children are in danger of eating undercooked Spaghettios meatballs, but Nightly News wouldn't report that story. But the Blues Brothers are considered newsworthy. Well, at least we know where to buy an Elwood Blues celebriduck. Great work, Nightly News producers. So where can we buy a Brian Williams celebriduck?

Edward R. Murrow Rolls Over In His Grave

During last Tuesday's Nightly News story about a Congressional inquiry into the Gulf oil spill, an on-screen graphic identified Rep. Henry Waxman as "Harry" Waxman. Waxman has been in office since 1975 and is one of Congress's most visible and influential members. But the Nightly News producers couldn't be bothered to spell his name right. Incredibly, on the 11/20/08 broadcast, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was identified as "Henry" Reid. What is it with the Nightly News producers' inability to differentiate between Henry and Harry?

Also on Tuesday, a Nightly News graphic identified Grand Isle, Louisiana Mayor David Camardelle as David "Carmardelle". This is appalling and disrespectful. Brian Williams is always bragging about his broadcast's outstanding coverage of the Gulf oil spill ("Every piece, every night, has been exemplary," he boasted on his June 9 Daily Nightly blog), but his producers can't even get the names right! On June 10, a Nightly News graphic spelled Plaquemines Parish as "Placquemines". It's hard to believe that Nightly News could win two Edward R. Murrow awards with their sloppy and inaccurate journalism. I attended Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, New York, and I am embarrassed that Mr. Murrow's name is in any way associated with Nightly News. If Edward R. Murrow were alive today, he would certainly disavow his affiliation with Brian Williams and Nightly News. I think Mr. Murrow would say that a newscast that can't get the small stuff right cannot be trusted to get the big stuff right.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nightly News Says "Buy Aleve! Buy Chevy! Buy Coke!"

As usual, Brian Williams, Robert Bazell and the Nightly News producers continue to run "news stories" whose sole purpose is to promote NBC advertisers. On June 8, Nightly News aired a story about a Danish study that concluded that naproxen (sold as Aleve) may reduce the risk of heart attacks among its users. The study also showed that ibuprofen and celebrex increased the risk of heart attacks. Aleve is a frequent advertiser on NBC Universal stations (they advertise on Nightly News almost every night). It's obvious that Bazell and his producers chose to air this story as a favor to their friends at Bayer (Aleve's manufacturer). It was a two-and-a-half minute commercial for their product. I can guarantee that this story would never have run if it contained any negative information about Aleve.

Two nights later, Nightly News viewers were treated to a "news story" about how the Chevrolet executives do not want their cars to be referred to as Chevys. The story consisted entirely of shots of old and new Chevys, including plenty of excerpts from old Chevy ads and lots of testimonials from loyal Chevy drivers (including Brian Williams in his intro to the story). I would estimate that over the years, General Motors (Chevy's manufacturer) has purchased close to a billion dollars worth of advertising on NBC, if not more. So this "news story" was really a two-minute "thank you" from Brian Williams and the Nightly News producers to their pals at GM. But wait, there's more. Right in the middle of this story, the producers found a way to insert a clip from a Coke commercial (they made a comparison between the Chevy name debacle and the Coke/New Coke formula change blunder from 1985). So in the middle of a two-minute Chevy commercial, they figured out a way to throw some free advertising to their pals at Coke (I couldn't even begin to guess how much money Coke has spent advertising with NBC). Brilliant. Even better, the Coke commercial excerpt featured Bill Cosby, who starred in one of the most popular television shows ever to air on NBC. NBC is certainly still earning money from "Cosby Show" reruns and DVD sales. So including Bill Cosby in a news story is a not-so-subtle reminder to the viewers to buy "Cosby Show" DVDs and watch "Cosby Show" reruns (so the ratings go up and the local stations continue to purchase the show). In fact, the Nightly News producers have figured out a way to include Cosby in three news stories this year--twice in the past week. If anyone thinks this is just a coincidence, there's a bridge over the East River that I'd like to sell you.

And on Monday's broadcast, Lester Holt took thirty seconds of news time to tell us that Starbucks will soon be providing free Wi-Fi to their customers, and that McDonald's was already doing so. So this was just a commercial telling Nightly News viewers why they should go to Starbucks and McDonald's. Maybe in the not-too-distant future, Brian Williams and his producers can use all their air time to promote their sponsors' products. That certainly seems to be where they're heading.

Nightly News Has "A" Problem

On Monday's Nightly News story about BP's decision to ignore safety concerns that eventually led to the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon, Lisa Myers read from an internal BP email: "This has been a nightmare well which has everyone all over the place." But a close-up of the email shows that it actually read, "This has been nightmare well which has everyone all over the place." The word "a" did not appear in the sentence, but Myers chose to insert it anyway. A few minutes later, during a story about Ted Kennedy's FBI file, Pete Williams read from a death threat directed at Kennedy: "You are a dead man." The actual threat read, "You are dead man." Again, Williams inserted an "a" that didn't exist. Why are Nightly News correspondents inserting the word "a" into sentences that don't actually contain that word? Maybe they should show...little more care in reading direct quotes (I intentionally left the word "a" out of that sentence because I assume that someone from Nightly News will put it back in).

Reruns On Nightly News

On Sunday, Nightly News aired a story about the Army's 82nd Airborne Division Charlie Company 2508 engaging in a firefight with the Taliban near Kandahar (reported by Richard Engel). And then on Monday, Nightly News aired the story again with a few edits. Same narrative. Same footage. Is this some kind of joke? I know that June is rerun season, but I really don't expect to see reruns on Nightly News. With all that is going on across the country and around the world, it is appalling that Nightly News would waste the viewers' time by showing the exact same story on two consecutive nights.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

No One Cares At Nightly News

During the intro to Thursday's Nightly News broadcast, Brian Williams referred to Arlington National Cemetery as "hollowed" ground. The correct word is "hallowed".

Also on Thursday's broadcast, a Nightly News graphic identified Billy Nungesser as the "mayor" of "Placquemines" Parish, Louisiana. Actually, he is the President of the Parish, and the correct spelling is "Plaquemines". That's two errors in one graphic. As if the people of that region haven't suffered enough, they also have to suffer the indignity of seeing Nightly News misspell the name of their Parish.

On Friday, a promo for "Meet the Press" at the 20-minute mark of the broadcast informed us that Sunday's guest would be "White House Advisor David Axelrod". Eight minutes later, another MTP promo informed us that the guest would be "Senior White House Adviser David Axelrod". It is beyond comprehension that the Nightly News producers cannot manage to spell a word the same way twice in the space of eight minutes. Not only that, but in the time between the promos, Axelrod seems to have been promoted from Advisor to Senior Advisor. Congratulations, David.

No one cares. No one's trying.

Brian Williams Gives His Broadcast High Marks

These are excerpts from Brian Williams's June 9 Daily Nightly Blog:

"It should also be noted that the members of our team down there [the Louisiana Gulf] have been warriors."

No. Warriors are people who actually put their lives on the line. Your correspondents, producers and tech staff are simply on an assignment. Big difference.

"Anne Thompson has been there for the majority of these 51 days. Mark Potter and Kerry Sanders are residents of the region. Every piece, every night, has been exemplary."

Is that your unbiased opinion? Make sure you inform the Peabody Evaluation Committee. In case you haven't noticed, the other networks are reporting this story exactly the same way that NBC is.

"And for each of them, it takes an army of producers and camera crews to put them on the air each night. Like with war coverage, we have employees down there who haven't seen their families for weeks."

So? That's their job. And they are very well paid for what they do.

"We have rented houses for our folks to stay in and we have hired local boat captains to help us get around (at least we're putting money into the struggling local economy)."

Big deal. So is BP.

"I just wanted to take a moment to recognize some of what you DON'T see on TV—which is the work and dedication that goes into what you DO see."

Here's what I don't see on Nightly News: Coverage of other events in the U.S. and around the world. I'm still waiting for Nightly News to report that Japan has a new Prime Minister.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Brian Williams And Helen Thomas

How ironic that Brian Williams would report that Helen Thomas resigned from her job at Hearst Newspapers because of insensitive comments she made about Israel. Last summer, while acting as emcee of the Nantucket Film Festival, Brian made some inappropriate Jewish jokes ("Welcome to the Nantucket Film Festival--where Jews come to be honored. Nantucket is actually a Yiddish word meaning where the WASPS live.") but he did not resign (nor was he asked to do so). Interesting. I guess there are different standards for columnists and anchors.

George Lewis--Basketball Fan

On Saturday's Nightly News story about the death of UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, George Lewis told us that Wooden had won 627 regular season games at UCLA. That's incorrect. Wooden actually won 620 games at UCLA. On Saturday, Wooden's name and stats were all over the internet and the newspapers. The New York Times printed Wooden's won-lost record on the front page of their sports section--in bold type. A google search for Wooden turns up more than 15 million hits, and it's likely that most of those sites list his correct win total. Did it ever occur to Lewis to check the L.A. Times website? It's unbelievable that Lewis could get this wrong. And it's unbelievable that the Nightly News producers, editors and other personnel who worked on this story would allow this error on the air. Nightly News broadcasts frequently contain spelling, grammar, math and factual errors. If we can't trust them to get the small stuff right, how can we possibly trust them with the big stuff?

It's Complicated

On Monday, Nightly News devoted almost five minutes to excerpts from commencement speeches given at various colleges. This was the biggest waste of network news time that I can imagine. How can the producers possibly justify putting this on the air when there was actual news to cover? This broadcast did not contain a single news report from Europe, Africa, South America or Eastern Asia. In fact, it contained only 20 seconds of news from outside the U.S. Yet the producers felt that it was important to devote 4:45 to commencement speeches? Unbelievable. This was just another excuse to pander to the viewers by showing celebrities. Look! It's Bill Cosby! And Alec Baldwin! And Meryl Streep! Cool! Actually, it's not surprising that the producers chose to include Baldwin and Streep. They both starred in the movie "It's Complicated", which was recently released on DVD--by Universal Studios. Universal is owned by the same parent company that owns NBC. So this is just a way of cross-promoting DVD sales. And let's not forget that Alec Baldwin also stars on the NBC show "30 Rock", so including Baldwin in this segment was also a way to promote that show (and its DVD sales) to Nightly News viewers. And it goes without saying that NBC Universal is still making money on "Cosby Show" reruns and DVDs, so that explains why Bill Cosby was included. Great job, Nightly News producers!

And how did the producers come to the conclusion that Brian Williams deserved to be included in this segment? Of the hundreds of hours of speeches they reviewed, was his really among the most inspiring? Maybe Brian instructed the producers to include him. Or perhaps he did some behind-the-scenes maneuvering to get his speech included. I understand--you can't say no to the boss. Especially when he has an ego like Brian's.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

115 Rescued, 116 Dead

Does Brian Williams really think that he's "Making A Difference" by devoting 2/3 or 3/4 of each Nightly News broadcast to the Gulf oil spill? We get it. It's a horrible situation. Oil in the water. Oil in the marshes. Oil on the beaches. Oil on the birds. We get it. Really. But I don't think Brian gets it. He has 22 minutes each night to bring us all the news from across the country and around the world, and he's not doing that. On Friday, he spent two minutes on a story about how the crew of the ship Damon B. Bankston rescued 115 people when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20. First of all, this was just a promo for a longer piece that would be airing on "Dateline" later that night. So its purpose was to generate ratings (and ad dollars) for "Dateline". Meanwhile, also on Friday, 116 people died in a fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh. But Brian didn't report that story. Obviously, the tragedy in Bangladesh isn't important to Brian, because it doesn't help generate ratings for his broadcast. Oil spill equals ratings. Bangladesh tragedy does not. This past week, the Prime Minister of Japan resigned. The President of Germany resigned. But Brian didn't report either of those stories. He was too busy showing us the same images over and over of birds coated in oil. Although somehow, Brian managed to find time this week to air an obituary for Rue McClanahan (including 30 seconds of clips from "Golden Girls", which aired on NBC). Not coincidentally, the on-line NBC Universal Store is currently selling all 7 seasons of "Golden Girls" on DVD, as well as "Blanche Is My Nana" T-shirts, which prominently feature a picture of McClanahan (only $25 each or 3 for $65!). Using McClanahan's obituary to sell T-shirts is crass and shameful. Also this week, Brian found time to air a two-minute story about Al and Tipper Gore separating; a three minute story about a blown call that cost a pitcher a perfect game; a speech by Sonia Sotomayor in which she fondly remembers eating burgers at a White Castle in the Bronx; and footage of an asteroid hitting Jupiter. And on Thursday, Brian managed to spend 30 seconds showing us (and explaining all about) a picture of a rainbow that he took with his cell phone camera. But deaths in Bangladesh? Not important enough for Nightly News. Maybe if those 116 people were covered in dark, sticky oil, Brian would have reported it.

The Gulf oil spill is important news. But reporting on it shouldn't come at the expense of other stories. Nightly News has an obligation to report all the day's news. Brian and his producers are not fulfilling their obligation to the viewers.

Lightning The Load

On Friday's Nightly News broadcast, an on-screen transcription of comments by BP CEO Tony Hayward included the following statement: "I personally think it's right that I should be the lightening rod because it allows everyone else to get on with doing their job...." "Lightening" means to make something lighter, as in color or weight. A "lightning rod" is used to attract electrical lightning, or in Hayward's case, to attract criticism away from others. It would be so easy for the Nightly News producers to get these things right. But they don't.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Brian Williams Show

It is appalling that Brian Williams devoted more than three minutes of last Thursday's Nightly News broadcast to the death of John Finn. Even by the broadest possible definition of the word, Finn's death was not news. Unfortunately, Brian doesn't understand the difference between a story that's important, and a story that's important to him. In fact, it seems that Brian doesn't really understand the function of an evening newscast, nor does he understand the role of an anchor/managing editor on such a newscast. The function of an evening newscast is to present the most important stories from across the country and around the world in the too-short time of 22 minutes each night. And it is the responsibility of the anchor/managing editor (along with the show's producers) to select the stories that are important enough to merit air time. But on a regular basis, Brian Williams fails to live up to that responsibility. Instead of airing the most important news stories, he chooses to air stories about people or things he likes, as well as stories that are specifically intended to attract a large audience (higher viewership translates to higher ad rates). The title of the program is Nightly News, not "The Brian Williams Show". If Brian wants to air stories about his departed friends (or about Springsteen, Bono, Bon Jovi, Will Ferrell, skateboarding bulldogs, pink dolphins, blind dachshunds, kazoos, dancing in high heels or how much students like to hug each other) he should get his own show on MSNBC. I'm sure NBC News President Steve Capus would give Brian his own show. In fact, that would be great. It would give Brian an outlet to show the dozens and dozens of hours of non-news material that Nightly News airs each year. That would free up a significant amount of space on the broadcast to carry actual news. Last Thursday, Nightly News did not report a single story from Asia, Europe, Africa, South America or anywhere outside the U.S. But we got three minutes on John Finn, because he was Brian's friend. Although Brian is the anchor, the broadcast is supposed to be for us. It's time he started treating it that way. Brian Williams needs to reevaluate his priorities.