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.