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.