Saturday, July 31, 2010

Brian Williams Is A Vainglourious Basterd

From Brian Williams's July 27 Daily Nightly blog: "Okay, as promised: 'Mad Men' this past Sunday. Not that anyone asked. First of all, I read that viewership amounted to 2.9 million (estimated), which is interesting—and proof that this really is a niche show, that not everyone 'gets' or likes or is excited about it. And just for comparison, our broadcast this time of year averages just north of 7 million viewers an evening, while during the dead of winter, we were north of 11 million viewers earlier this year."

This is truly unbelievable. What an arrogant, intolerable, insufferable, pompous ass he is. In a blog about "Mad Men", Brian actually makes a point of bragging about his ratings!

Brian continues: "Again, mostly small potatoes, known as 'continuity errors' in the trade. There are a slew of websites devoted to the art form of picking them out. My personal favorites include Nicole Kidman calling Tom Cruise by his real name in Days of Thunder, when he was playing a character named 'Cole'. Then there's the scene from 'It's Complicated,' where Alec Baldwin is tying a necktie in front of a mirror. It's all over the place...and Brad Pitt's bow tie and tux in 'Inglorious Basterds.' These are great finds."

Here's a great find: the actual title of the movie is "Inglourious Basterds". What a joke! In his condescending, I'm-so-much-smarter-than-you blog about errors in "Mad Men", Brian misspells the name of "Inglourious Basterds". Nice going. He spends every moment of his time desperately trying to show how much smarter he is than everyone else. It's hard to imagine that anybody could spend more than thirty seconds with him before feeling the need to leave the room. Has he no shame? By the way, since Brian has so much fun pointing out errors in movies and TV shows, here are some errors from his own past blogs and broadcasts:

* 11/7/08--On his blog, Brian misspells Paul Volcker's last name as "Volker".
* 2/9/09--On his blog, Brian misspells "Alison Krauss" as "Allison Kraus". He gets both her names wrong!
* 4/22/09--After Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Pakistan's continuing instability a "mortal threat" to the U.S., Brian reported on the air that she had called it a "moral threat".
* 10/30/09--Brian misspells the names of Gen. Petraeus (as "Patreus") and Gen. McChrystal (as "McCrystal") on the same blog post.
* 5/25/10--In his Daily Nightly blog, Brian misstates the name of former oil exec John Hofmeister's book. Brian refers to it as "Why People Hate the Oil Companies". The actual title is "Why We Hate the Oil Companies". * 6/22/10--On the air, Brian refers to Richard Engel as the NBC News "Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent". Wrong. Engel is actually NBC's Chief Foreign Correspondent. Andrea Mitchell is the Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent (on 2/20/10, Brian introduced Mitchell as the "Chief Foreign Correspondent").
* 7/12/10--Brian spells Nelson Mandela's last name as "Mandella" on his blog.
* 7/16/10--On his broadcast, Brian announces that, "Overseas tonight, a deadly first in Mexico's deadly drug war--a car bomb." News flash--Mexico is not overseas. Also on that broadcast, Brian referred to Malia Obama as the President's "eldest" daughter. Eldest is used when there are three or more parties involved. Malia is the President's elder daughter.

Maybe Brian should spend less time searching for errors in "Mad Men" and spend more time correcting the errors on his broadcast.

From Brian's July 29 blog: "All in all, a busy week for our humble blog and your humble blogger!"

I guess if there's one word to describe Brian Williams, it would be "humble".

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


From Brian Williams's July 26 Daily Nightly blog: "It was a big Sunday night on television. While I'm still sorting out my feelings on 'Mad Men' (and compiling a list of continuity errors), I can sum up my reaction to 'Entourage' in one sentence: Turtle, did you really think you were invited to Mexico for your vast business knowledge, rapier wit, crackling intelligence and skills as a raconteur? And just today, driving to the City from the Jersey Shore, I saw a billboard for the same brand of vodka. It was all a product placement stunt. We were all victims. Same as Turtle."

IS HE FREAKIN' KIDDING US? Is this some sort of sick joke? Brian Williams railing against product placement? Nightly News is one big product placement repository! Virtually every night, Brian (or someone else on Nightly News) goes to great lengths to plug a product that regularly advertises on the broadcast. Three days ago, on this very blog, I pointed out a number of specific times this has happened. Chrysler, Requip, Aleve, Chevy, Lifewater, Smith & Nephew knee replacements, McDonald's, Starbucks, Heinz ketchup, Kraft Foods, the University of Phoenix, United Airlines, Boniva--these are all Nightly News advertisers that someone on the broadcast (usually Brian) has gone out of their way to plug in a "news story". And that list doesn't include all the past and present NBC Universal shows or properties that are regularly plugged. That list includes The Tonight Show, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live, Seinfeld, Law & Order, 30 Rock, The Today Show, Dateline, Chuck, Celebrity Apprentice and The Biggest Loser. Every time a former NBC star dies, Nightly News uses their obituary to promote old NBC shows, whose DVDs are still for sale at the NBC Universal online store. Recent examples include Merlin Olsen (Little House on the Prairie, Father Murphy), Pernell Roberts (Bonanza), Fess Parker (Daniel Boone), Robert Culp (I Spy), Gary Coleman (Diff'rent Strokes) and Rue McClanahan (Golden Girls). Bill Cosby has been gratuitously featured in two recent Nightly News stories (Cosby Show DVDs are, of course, for sale at the NBC Universal store). Recently, Nightly News has done "news stories" about Universal Studios and the 30th anniversary of The Blues Brothers (a Universal property). Because NBC is partnered with Microsoft in MSNBC, Nightly News makes a point of plugging Microsoft products like Bing or Connect (and regularly disparaging Apple products like the iPhone 4). Whenever NBC is planning to air a sporting event, Nightly News does one or more "news stories" about that event (the Super Bowl, Sunday Night Football, golf, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness). Last February, Nightly News turned itself into a promotional arm for NBC's Olympic coverage. Nightly News correspondents are often required to mention one or more sponsors in a story just so that the producers have an excuse to put the sponsors' logos up on the screen (Walmart is a frequent beneficiary of this practice). In the past two years, advertisers' products have sponsored a Nightly News segment (or even the entire broadcast) a whopping 126 times. On the very night Brian wrote his blog complaining about product placement, Nightly News was partly sponsored by Total cereal. A giant Total logo filled our TV screens right before the first commercial break! Brian Williams complaining about product placements would be like Mark McGwire complaining about steroid use in baseball. And by the way, product placements in entertainment shows may be undesirable, but they are not nearly as unethical as product placements in news broadcasts. People don't hold Turtle to any high ethical standards. But news anchors and correspondents are supposed to be conveying information, not peddling wares. It is impossible to trust Brian Williams when we suspect he has ulterior motives for mentioning Boniva or Heinz ketchup.

And what was it that Brian said about finding continuity errors in Mad Men? Here's a suggestion: Brian should spend his time trying to correct all the spelling, grammar, math and factual errors on Nightly News instead of looking for errors in other shows.

Finally, there was this pearl of wisdom from Brian: "I can sum up my reaction to 'Entourage' in one sentence: Turtle, did you really think you were invited to Mexico for your vast business knowledge, rapier wit, crackling intelligence and skills as a raconteur?" Well, I can sum up my reaction to Nightly News in one sentence: Brian, did you really think you were invited to anchor Nightly News for your vast business knowledge, rapier wit, crackling intelligence and skills as a raconteur? Of course not. It was because of your hair.

Vancouver Trumps Haiti

Can someone please buy the Nightly News producers an atlas? Twice in the first two minutes of Saturday's broadcast, a graphic showing the path of tropical storm Bonnie misspelled the island of Hispaniola as "Hispanola". Of course, the irony here is unmistakable. Hispaniola is comprised of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Back in January, Brian Williams and his producers spent about a month pretending that they cared about the earthquake that devastated Haiti. Until the Vancouver Olympics began, that is. Once the Olympics started, Haiti virtually disappeared from Nightly News. Apparently, the death of one Georgian luger was far more important than the estimated quarter of a million people who died in the Haiti earthquake. And spelling Hispaniola correctly is obviously of no importance to the Nightly News producers. Haven't the Haitian people suffered enough without this added indignity?

Of course, ignoring Haiti in favor of Vancouver made perfect sense to Brian and his producers. One reason Nightly News exists is to promote other NBC properties, and there is no NBC property more important and more valuable (and more expensive) than the Olympics. Even before the Olympics began, NBC knew they were going to lose money (the final loss total for NBC was $223 million. Funny thing--I never heard Brian report that on Nightly News.). That's why Nightly News devoted 160 minutes of February news time to Olympic-related stories. That's the equivalent of more than seven entire Nightly News broadcasts (a broadcast runs 22 minutes without commercials). By turning Nightly News into a promotional vehicle for the Olympics, NBC hoped they could increase Olympic viewership and offset some of their expected losses. The importance of the Haitian earthquake paled in comparison to NBC's desire to promote the Olympics.

There was another consideration in Brian's decision to ignore Haiti once the Olympics began: Because they represent a smaller percentage of the U.S. population, African Americans (as both news subject and viewer demographic) are less important to Brian than are whites. (African Americans comprise only about 13% of the U.S. population, while non-Hispanic whites account for about 66% of the U.S. population.) The people affected by the Haitian earthquake were overwhelmingly black and poor. The viewers watching the Olympics were largely white and affluent. Brian's primary goal for Nightly News, of course, is to attract the most viewers so his broadcast can have the highest ratings (and charge the highest ad rates). So for Brian and his producers, it simply makes economic sense to devote his broadcast to stories that appeal to the larger white population, rather than to stories that appeal to the smaller African American population. If the majority of the country was populated by purple people with green polka dots, Brian would contrive Nightly News to appeal to that demographic. Of course Brian would like African American viewers to watch his broadcast, but it just makes more sense to devote his show's limited resources towards attracting the larger racial demographic of whites. If one particular animal is five times more abundant than another animal, it makes sense to hunt the abundant animal, if both will sustain you equally. Vancouver trumps Haiti. For Brian, it's all about the ratings, all the time.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Brian Williams Will Plug Your Product On Nightly News

Once again, Brian Williams has shown his willingness (eagerness?) to plug a sponsor's product on Nightly News. Here's what Brian said on Wednesday's broadcast:

"Turning to health news briefly--We've noticed this week a new sponsor on this broadcast is a certain type of replacement knee. Knee surgery is suddenly a multi-billion-dollar-a-year business in this country--especially among us aging warriors--and a new study out that followed some amateur soccer players with ACL injuries says they fared no better with ACL surgery than they did with rehab and physical therapy."

It's obvious what's going on here. Brian and his producers wanted to plug a new sponsor (Smith & Nephew Replacement Knees) so they came up with a contrived a "news report" that would allow Brian to mention the sponsor. He didn't mention them by name, but he didn't have to. Just discussing them as "a new sponsor" undoubtedly caused many Nightly News viewers to take notice and to pay attention to their commercial (which aired only 13 minutes after Brian's plug). Let's be clear: The only reason Brian read this "news report" about knee surgery was so that he could mention the sponsor's product. He would have read a "news report" about knee surgery in pink elephants if it allowed him to make a gratuitous plug. Of course, this isn't the first time Nightly News has used a contrived "news report" to plug a sponsor's product. Here are a few other times (this list is by no means complete):

7/18/07--Nightly News airs a story about Restless Leg Syndrome. The sole purpose of the story is to establish the legitimacy of RLS because many doctors do not acknowledge it as a legitimate medical condition. One of the main drugs used to treat RLS is Requip, a frequent Nightly News advertiser (Requip was specifically mentioned in the story). And in addition to their regular advertisements, Requip (manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline) sponsored nine "Making A Difference" segments from April 2007 to January 2008 (the dates were 4/20/07, 5/25/07, 6/22/07, 7/6/07, 7/27/07, 8/3/07, 9/14/07, 1/11/08 and 1/18/08). There is absolutely no doubt that the story on Restless Leg Syndrome was done as a special favor to Nightly News's pals at Glaxo.

11/13/07--Brian Williams anchors Nightly News from a Chrysler plant in Detroit. This broadcast is a thinly-disguised 30-minute commercial for Chrysler, a frequent Nightly News and NBC advertiser. At the end of the broadcast, Brian interviews Chrysler executive Jim Press. Brian's interview is made up of softball questions that allow Press to talk about how great his cars and trucks are (Brian even gets in on the act of praising Chrysler products: "This is going to make some buyer somewhere very happy."). Less than three months later (2/5/08), Chrysler sponsored the entire Nightly News broadcast.

1/31/09--A story about 3-D ads during the Super Bowl prominently featured Lifewater beverages--a product that advertised on the following day's Super Bowl (which aired, of course, on NBC).

2/23/09--Nightly News features a "news story" about how thoroughly United Airlines cleans their planes. United is a frequent Nightly News advertiser. This story is just a big thank-you from NBC to United.

5/5/09--Nightly News airs a "news story" about McDonald's new gourmet coffees. McDonald's is a major advertiser on Nightly News and other NBC shows. Ann Curry introduces the story by calling McDonald's coffee a "delicious brew". More than a third of this story is comprised of excerpts from McDonald's commercials and interviews with McDonald's spokespersons. This story is simply a commercial for McDonald's new gourmet coffees.

5/12/09--Robert Bazell's story about FDA claims regarding Cheerios' health claims turns into a two-minute commercial for Cheerios.

7/13/09--The entire Nightly News broadcast is sponsored by the University of Phoenix, an online university. Four days later, Nightly News airs a report about Western Governors University (also an online university). This story featured a gratuitous plug for the University of Phoenix as well as a prominent graphic displaying their logo. This is no coincidence. University of Phoenix's July 13 sponsorship also bought them a plug on the July 17 broadcast.

9/6/09--A story about search engines becomes a story about Bing. Bing is a Microsoft product, and Microsoft is NBC's partner in MSNBC. This story is just a plug for one of NBC's corporate partners.

2/4/10--Brian reads a 30-second story about the new Heinz ketchup packages (he also manages to mention McDonald's in the story). This is just a plug for Heinz.

3/17/10--Brian reads a 30-second story about how Kraft Foods will be reducing the sodium in their products. Another plug for a regular advertiser.

5/14/10--Brian Williams spends 90 seconds interviewing Sally Field solely about her Boniva commercial (Boniva advertises on Nightly News every night). Three days later, Brian again interviews Field and again mentions Boniva. An interesting sidebar to the Sally Field interview--Brian mentions all of her early TV roles--Gidget, The Flying Nun, Sybil--but he never once mentions her current Emmy-winning role in "Brothers & Sisters". The following night, a profile of Eva Longoria Parker makes no mention of her role on "Desperate Housewives". This is truly unbelievable. Brian and his producers refuse to allow any mention of "Brothers & Sisters" and "Desperate Housewives" because they are on ABC. The are actually scared that mentioning these shows will result in lower ratings for the NBC shows airing opposite them. So it's okay for Nightly News to use Field and Parker to try to increase the broadcast's ratings during a sweeps period, but they won't allow any mention of those ABC shows because they don't want those shows to get plugged...during a sweeps period. That is pure hypocrisy.

6/8/10--Nightly News airs a report about an obscure Danish medical study that concluded that Aleve can reduce the risk of heart attacks. Aleve (and its parent product Bayer) advertise every night on Nightly News. A week later, Campbell's recalled 15 million pounds of Spaghettios because undercooked meatballs could pose a health risk to children. Nightly News didn't mention the recall because they didn't want to offend Campbell's, a regular sponsor.

6/10/10--Brian introduces a ridiculous "news story" about whether or not Chevys should be referred to as Chevrolets. Clearly, this is a two-minute-and-ten-second thank-you to the Chevy people for all the advertising dollars they have given NBC over the years.

6/14/10--Lester Holt reads a "news story" about how Starbucks and McDonald's are now providing free Wi-Fi in their stores. Interestingly, this is the second time Nightly News has paired these two companies in a fake news story whose sole purpose is to promote them as sponsors.

6/22/10--Nightly News shows a 30-second clip of Jimmy Fallon playing Microsoft's new Kinnect video game. Again, since Microsoft is a partner of NBC, this is just a plug for one of NBC's corporate friends.

If your product advertises on Nightly News and you want Brian Williams to mention your product in a "news story", just ask Brian. He'll be glad to do it.

UPDATE (Aug. 31)--On the Aug. 26 Nightly News, Brian read a "news story" about a recall of Johnson & Johnson hip replacement implants. Once again, this story was planted on Nightly News for the sole purpose of helping Smith & Nephew--a regular sponsor who also make artificial hips. If it were not for the fact that Smith & Nephew are regular Nightly News sponsors, Brian never would have mentioned the Johnson & Johnson recall. Brian's obvious goal was to steer people away from J & J artificial hips and towards those made by Smith & Nephew.

Luke Russert Is Christopher Moltisanti

The Nightly Daily editors would like to offer our sincere gratitude to Congressman Charlie Rangel for his dressing-down of MSNBC's Luke Russert. While Russert was questioning the congressman Thursday about the House Ethics Committee's decision to try him for alleged ethics violations, the following exchange took place:

Luke Russert: Are you concerned about losing your job?
Charles Rangel: What are you talking about? You just trying to make copy? What job? The one I got?
LR: Yeah--these are potentially serious violations.
CR: How do you think I got my job? I was elected, right? How do you think I'd lose it?
LR: There's two ways--you could lose it if your colleagues voted you out of here because of ethics violations, or if your constituents--
CR: What station are you from?
CR: Well, you're young--I guess you do need to make a name for yourself but basically you know it's a dumb question and I'm not going to respond.
LR: How is it a dumb question?
CR: They're allegations made by some people--
LR: You did not file taxes on properties in the Dominican Republic allegedly--if that's true, is that not a problem?
CR: It doesn't really sound like NBC--asking these dumb questions--it just shows what has happened to a channel that did have some respect.

Luke Russert has absolutely no skill or aptitude as a network (or even a cable) interviewer. It's clear that he got his job because of his father (Tim Russert) and his mentor/protector (Brian Williams). Luke Russert is Christopher Moltisanti. For those not familiar with "The Sopranos", here's a synopsis: When Tony Soprano's close friend Dickie Moltisanti died, Tony took Dickie's son Christopher under his wing. Christopher became Tony's protege, and Tony did everything he could to teach Christopher the ways of the (under) world. Unfortunately, Christopher was a screw-up. He was often too strung out on drugs to do what Tony asked him to do, and the rest of the time he was just too lazy or too incompetent. Luke Russert is Brian Williams's Christopher Moltisanti. Brian hero-worshipped Tim Russert so much that after Tim's death, he vowed to give Luke a career on MSNBC, despite Luke's obvious lack of talent for the job. Let's just hope that the Brian Williams-Luke Russert relationship ends better than the Tony Soprano-Christopher Moltisanti relationship.

Of course, the most bizarre part of the Russert-Rangel exchange is that Brian chose to air it on Thursday's Nightly News. Rangel completely humiliated Russert and NBC News. He took Russert to the woodshed, yet Brian thought it would be a great idea to put it on his broadcast. Maybe Brian wasn't smart enough to realize exactly what was happening in the interview (he always reminds us that he never graduated college), or maybe he just wanted to give his protege some prime space on Nightly News. Like the PR saying goes--there's no such thing as bad publicity.

Although Rangel later apologized to Russert, he shouldn't have. He got it exactly right about NBC News.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Brian Williams Teaches BP How To Clean Up

On his July 12 Daily Nightly blog, Brian Williams spelled Nelson Mandela's last name as "Mandella". A week later, the spelling has been corrected and there is no acknowledgment of the mistake (and no apology to Mandela or the blog readers). My blog post pointing out the error has been deleted. It's as if it never happened. It's like one of those suspense movies where someone finds a dead body but by the time they summon the police, the body is gone and the crime scene has been scrubbed spotless. What an amazing clean-up! Brian Williams could teach BP a thing or two.

Those Hacks At BBC News

On Monday, BBC World News America conducted an interview with Hillary Clinton, and they didn't even ask her about Chelsea's wedding! They call themselves professional newspeople? On Sunday, Nightly News aired a 2:10 interview Andrea Mitchell conducted with Mrs. Clinton--the sole topic of which was the upcoming wedding. Now THAT'S what we want to see on the news!

Meanwhile, Brian Williams's Monday interview with former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister was so inconsequential that I'm surprised he didn't ask Hofmeister if he had been invited to Chelsea's wedding.

Test Your Products On Brian Williams

Twice in three days Nightly News has reported the exact same story about the increasing number of pets being left in Gulf Coast animal shelters because their owners' lives are in flux. More accurately, Nightly News reported the story on Saturday and then on Monday they reported on how great their Saturday story was. Is there any newscast that loves itself more than Nightly News? And is there any newscast that spends more time reporting on itself than Nightly News?

Here's a great idea: Why doesn't NBC purchase all the pets that have been left in Gulf Coast animal shelters and donate them to their pals at GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Revlon and the other pharmaceutical and cosmetics giants so they can be used for product testing? Imagine all those cute little puppies with electrodes sticking out of their heads! Imagine all those cute little kitties who are blind because mascara was poured into their eyes three times a day! Imagine all those pets with no hair and horrible skin rashes because they were used to test the next great hair-growth drug from Pfizer! Brian Williams and his producers are the biggest hypocrites in the news business. Almost every night, they run a story about someone helping dogs, cats, horses, etc. (well--it's easier than reporting actual news). And Brian is always bragging about how much he loves animals. Meanwhile, Nightly News accepts millions of dollars every year in ad revenue from companies that cruelly test their products on animals. Here's a thought: I'd like to see these companies test their products on Brian Williams.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

NBC Nightly News Show Notes July 13-16

* Can someone please buy Brian Williams an atlas? This is what he said during Friday's broadcast: "Overseas tonight, a deadly first in Mexico's bloody drug war--a car bomb." Someone needs to inform Brian that Mexico is not overseas. It actually borders four U.S. states.

* Brian spent a combined 30 seconds Friday reporting on the Mexico car bomb (which killed four people) and a double suicide bombing outside a Mosque in Iran that killed 27 and wounded over 300. Meanwhile, he spent 40 seconds on a story about the Obama family's trip to Maine's Acadia National Park ("One of the most beautiful spots on the American east coast," Brian said in his most pandering voice). Most of this story's video centered on Sasha and Malia and ended with the breaking news story that next month, "Eldest daughter Malia goes to summer camp for the first time...." Someone needs to inform Brian that "eldest" is used when there are three or more parties involved. Malia is the elder of the two Obama girls, not the eldest. By the way, does anyone else remember Brian's solemn pledge (made on Jan. 5, 2009) not to do any stories on the Obama children unless there is a compelling reason to do so? I guess it's not surprising that Brian broke his promise again. Last Aug. 17, Nightly News did a story about...Sasha and Malia's totally excellent summer vacation. So much for Brian's word meaning anything.

* On Friday, Nightly News did their fifth story in three weeks about problems with the new Apple iPhone. Since NBC is partnered with Microsoft in MSNBC, slamming Apple (a Microsoft competitor) is just doing a favor for one of NBC's corporate partners.

* In his Friday story about the high number of suicides by current and former soldiers, Jim Miklaszewski did not ask the most important and obvious question. Are all these suicides due solely to military-related stress, or are some of them attributable to the fact that the army may attract people who already have suicidal feelings? If someone wanted to end their life, it seems that the army would be a pretty good place to accomplish that. A person could be killed by the enemy (and die a hero) or perhaps even be killed by friendly fire. Otherwise, the 24/7 access to firearms would provide ample chances for a person to take his or her own life. By the way, Ron Mott reported the exact same story on the 2/6/09 Nightly News (and also failed to raise the possibility that the army may attract people who are already suicidal). I know that summer is the time for reruns, but I don't expect to see them on Nightly News.

* On Thursday's story about the new financial regulatory reform bill, Brian informed us that, "The new law will usher in a new consumer protection agency...." But the on-screen graphic read "New Customer Protection Agency". Consumer, customer. Whatever. On Wednesday, Brian brought us the important story about how the TSA is placing ads on pizza boxes in the hope of attracting new employees. Brian read from the pizza box: "Be part of a dynamic security team protecting airports and skies as you proudly secure the future." A close-up of the box revealed that the sentence actually ended with "proudly secure your future".

* Friday's Nightly News included a two-and-a-half minute "Making A Difference" segment about a woman who donates hay to families who can't afford to feed their horses. Meanwhile, that night's broadcast did not report a single story from Asia, Europe or Africa. But at least we know all about the woman who brings hay for horses. Great work, Nightly News producers.

* From the July 7 website story about evening news ratings for the week of June 28: "Note: On Thursday and Friday, 'NBC Nightly News' was coded as 'Nitely News' in the Nielsen ratings (similar to last summer) and the newscast was therefore excluded from the average over those two lower-rated days heading into the holiday weekend while Brian Williams was out." Unbelievable. When Brian Williams is not anchoring, the Nightly News producers intentionally misspell the broadcast's name when submitting it to Nielsen so the lower-rated shows won't detract from the ratings of the higher-rated shows. I think the word for that practice is "sleazy". Or maybe "manipulative". Heck, why not both?

* A July 12 Media Decoder article by Brian Stelter in the business section of The New York Times (titled "Oil Spill Makes Celebrities out of Reporters") discussed how some television and radio reporters covering the Gulf oil spill have seen their profiles rise as they continue to cover that story. "Every long-running news story mints new television stars, even if it is sometimes awkward to acknowledge that personal success can be born of a tragic event. Perhaps it’s a show business twist on not letting a crisis 'go to waste,'" Stelter writes. He mentions Amber Lyon and Philippe Cousteau of CNN as providing "memorable" coverage. "Some other correspondents are also well on their way to becoming household names because of their time — now measured in months — spent along the gulf. Matt Gutman, a radio reporter for ABC News, is suddenly a high-profile reporter on television too, having filed nearly two dozen reports for ABC’s flagship 'World News' since mid-May, according to The Tyndall Report, which tracks the content of evening newscasts...Lizzie O’Leary of Bloomberg Television, Mark Strassmann and Kelly Cobiella of CBS, and Steve Harrigan and Kris Gutierrez of Fox News are also among the stand-outs in the spill coverage, according to network executives. Mr. Strassmann, for instance, has filed about 38 reports for the 'CBS Evening News' since the spill started, according to The Tyndall Report, almost as many as he filed in the previous 12 months combined." The only mention NBC received in the article was their hiring of Animal Planet celebrity Jeff Corwin "to beef up its environmental coverage of the oil spill. His title is 'wildlife and science expert.'" In other words, according to Mr. Stelter, no NBC correspondent has distinguished himself or herself while covering the Gulf oil spill. That sounds about right.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Brian Williams's Yiddish Lessons

From Brian Williams's July 14 Daily Nightly blog: "The following is from our own John Yang (who before becoming a television correspondent wrote for the Washington Post) and it pertains to President Obama's nomination of Jack Lew to run OMB in place of the departing Peter Orszag. Enjoy.

'As an Orthodox Jew, Jack Lew, President Obama's choice (as) Director of the Office of Management and Budget, observes the religious restrictions on the Jewish Sabbath, which runs from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. He leaves the office Friday afternoons in time to get home before sundown, and does not use electric or electronic devices, including the telephone.

Once, while working (as) President Clinton's director, Lew's home phone rang one Saturday. He didn’t answer and a familiar voice could be heard from the answering machine, urging him to pick up the phone. Mr. Clinton said he understood the sanctity of the Sabbath, but that it was important that he talk to Lew. He even said, it was later reported, that "God would understand."

Lew later consulted with his rabbi, who said that taking an important phone call from the President of the United States would be permissible on the Sabbath under the Talmudic teaching that work on the Sabbath is allowed in order to save a life.'"

Here's an idea. Brian should tell Jack Lew some of those hilarious jokes he told last summer when he spoke at the Nantucket Film Festival. "Welcome to the Nantucket Film Festival--where Jews come to be honored. Nantucket is actually a Yiddish word meaning where the WASPS live." That's killer material. Brian should call Mr. Lew and share his humor with him. But not on a Friday night. Lew probably wouldn't pick up the phone. After all, Brian is no Bill Clinton. So what's the Yiddish word for "completely inappropriate"?

Let's try an experiment. Let's substitute the word "African-Americans" for "Jews" and the word "Swahili" for "Yiddish" in Brian's jokes. Would those comments be considered acceptable? In this age of political correctness, most people seem to understand that it's inappropriate to make derogatory comments based on a person's skin color. Yet many of those same people think it's perfectly okay to ridicule the Jewish faith. Maybe Brian should consult with Jack Lew's rabbi. I think he needs a little sensitivity training.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Great Man And A Not-So-Great Man

From Brian Williams's July 12 Daily Nightly blog: " I feel great about what South Africa has just pulled off. It was great to see Nelson Mandella on the field prior to yesterday's final game, and the country that vowed to welcome the world without incident and with great hospitality...did just that."

Nelson Mandela is one of the greatest men of the past century and Brian Williams can't even manage to spell his name. That is appalling! Third graders can spell Mandela's name, but Brian can't. Well, at least he spelled "Petraeus" correctly later in the blog. Which is more than I can say for Brian's Oct. 30 blog, where he spelled the General's name as "Patreus" (Brian also spelled "McChrystal" as "McCrystal" that day).

Brian goes on to write about soccer: "...and its become a staple of American recreation, if not American big-money fan support..." That should be "it's", Einstein.

Update 7/20/10--The incorrect spelling of "Mandella" on Brian's 7/12 Daily Nightly blog post has now been corrected. Of course, there was no acknowledgment of the mistake, or any apology to Mandela. My post pointing out Brian's error has been deleted. It's as if it never happened. It's like one of those suspense movies where someone finds a dead body, but by the time they summon the police the body (and the blood) has disappeared. Call it "CSI 30 Rock".

Nightly News Show Notes July 5-12

* On a July 7 story about the U.S.-Russia spy swap, a Nightly News graphic identified Pat Rowan as a "Former Federal Porsecutor". I think the Department of Justice disbanded the Federal "Porsecutor's" office and replaced it with the Federal Prosecutor's office.

* On July 12, for the third time in less than three weeks, Nightly News aired a story about defects in the new Apple iPhone (they aired similar stories on June 25 and July 2). NBC is partnered with Microsoft in the MSNBC network. Apple is Microsoft's chief rival. Any bad publicity for Apple is good for Microsoft. This is just another example of Nightly News using a "news story" to protect one of NBC's business partners.

*On the July 12 story about the death of long-time Yankee Stadium announcer Bob Sheppard, the viewers were inadvertently shown a production card that carries information for the producers (date, subject, length of clip, etc.). Obviously, we weren't supposed to see it. On the card, Bob Sheppard's name was misspelled as "Shepard". Even in internal material, the producers can't manage to spell the names right.

* Also on July 12, Brian read a story about how the YMCA is now to be called simply "the Y". He ended his story by talking about The Village People, who had sung about the YMCA: "They say quote we can't help but wonder Y." Meanwhile, on screen, we were shown the quote as reading, "...we still can't help but wonder Y." Someone needs to inform Brian that when he quotes someone (especially when he uses the word "quote" in his sentence), he has an obligation to get the quote right.

* The Royal "We": This was Brian's intro to the July 12 story about the six-month anniversary of the Haiti earthquake: "It was six months ago tonight--we saw a bulletin on the Associated Press wire service that a magnitude 7.0 earthquake had just hit Haiti and demolished much of that desperately poor nation. The quake killed close to a quarter of a million people and left a million and a half people homeless and it took out about half the hospitals in the big city of Port-au-Prince. We were on a plane the next day--our team of NBC News correspondents--we set up camp on the tarmac at the airport where we lived. We covered those first desperate days in Haiti and we saw the aid pouring in from around the world. We've gone back many times since and tonight on this six-month anniversary, our Chief Science Correspondent Robert Bazell is back in Port-au-Prince with a look at where things stand tonight." Brian's intro mentions "Haiti", "Port-au-Prince" or "that nation" five times. But he mentions "we" or "our" nine times. "We were on a plane..."; "We set up camp..."; "We covered those first desperate days...." As usual, it's all about Brian. It's more important to talk about himself than to talk about the story. His intro is all about him and how HE covered the story (everyone knows that Brian uses the royal "we"--when he says "we" he means "I") and how difficult things were for HIM and the other NBC correspondents. For more of this drivel, read Ann Curry's Jan. 14 Daily Nightly blog to hear her complain about how difficult the conditions were in Haiti for poor little Ann.

* On the July 9 story about LeBron James, a Nightly News on-screen transcript quoted Cleveland Cavaliers' majority owner Dan Gilbert as saying, "I personally guarantee that the Cleveland cavaliers (sic) will win an NBA championship before the self-titled 'king' wins one." I think the Cavaliers' majority owner knows enough to capitalize his team's name. If anyone at Nightly News had bothered to check Gilbert's actual statement at, they might have noticed that he did, in fact, capitalize the words "Cavaliers" and "Championship" (on the site, that sentence was in all caps). Of course no one checked. No one at Nightly News ever does. But wait--it gets better. In that Nightly News story, Gilbert's statement was superimposed over a website called Stay In My Home ( That sounds like it could be a website devoted to keeping LeBron in Cleveland, right? But it isn't. It's a website for a lawyer who advises and represents people who choose to stay in their homes after stopping their mortgage payments. If that sounds familiar, it's because on July 10, the day after the Dan Gilbert-LeBron James story, Nightly News ran a story about exactly that--people who continue to live in their homes after stopping their mortgage payments. That story featured the Stay In My Home website. It's obvious what happened. The Nightly News producers couldn't be bothered to show the correct website for the LeBron James story. They already had video of the Stay In My Home website prepared for Saturday's story, so they just used that for the LeBron James story. They thought they could just pull the wool over our eyes. They thought no one would notice. They must really think we're pretty stupid.

Of course, trying to fool the viewers is nothing new for the Nightly News producers. Last year, the website reported that whenever the Nightly News producers anticipate that a particular Nightly News broadcast will earn lower-than-expected ratings, they submit it to the Nielsen rating service intentionally misspelled as "Nitely News". That way, Nielsen counts the lower rated "Nitely News" broadcasts in a completely separate category from the higher rated "Nightly News" broadcasts and the lower rated shows don't bring down the ratings of the higher rated shows. The producers can claim a higher rating for Nightly News because that doesn't include the shows that were submitted to Nielsen as "Nitely News". (The most recent example of this deceptive practice was on July 1 & 2, according to a 7/7/10 article. Because Brian was not anchoring those nights, the producers submitted the show to Nielsen as "Nitely News".) So next time Brian feels the need to shamelessly brag about his ratings (as he did on June 24 when he prefaced his interview with BP's Bob Dudley by saying, "This is the first time in the 66 days of this disaster that the BP boss has appeared live on this broadcast, which is viewed by the largest single daily news audience in the country...."), let's all keep in mind that those ratings are artificially and deceptively inflated because Brian and his producers manipulate the Nielsen rating service. And by the way, Brian--bragging about your ratings on the air is real classy and professional. I wonder how often Walter Cronkite or Tom Brokaw bragged about their ratings on the air.

Another example of how Nightly News deceives and manipulates: On a regular basis they doctor their news footage to make it appear older. By my count, they have done this at least a dozen and a half times in the past two years. They add vertical lines, cigarette burns, hairs, specks of dust and other impurities to the footage in order to make it look older. They also de-colorize footage so that it appears black and white. Considering this, it's hard to believe that the Nightly News producers had the audacity to air a story last Dec. 3 that was severely critical of French magazine editors who digitally alter photographs of models to make them appear younger, slimmer and more attractive. These same producers have digitally altered photos and video images in Nightly News stories to make the subjects appear older, yet they criticize magazine editors for doing essentially the same thing in reverse! Altering magazine photos to make models appear younger is despicable. And altering news video images to make subjects appear older is equally despicable. Furthermore, it raises some serious ethical questions about Nightly News. In what other circumstances are the producers doctoring images? Are they digitally adding or removing people from videos or photos? Are Nightly News correspondents really where they claim to be? During election night 2008, Brian Williams bragged about NBC's great new technology. He told us that by standing in front of a green screen, a correspondent could be made to appear as if he or she was anywhere in the world. So has Richard Engel really been reporting from Afghanistan, or has he been standing in front of a green screen somewhere in the bowels of 30 Rock? Is Chuck Todd really standing in front of the White House? Is Anne Thompson really reporting from the Gulf? Who knows? If the producers would try to deceive the viewers by altering footage to make it appear older, there's no reason to believe they wouldn't also try to deceive the viewers in other ways. Doctoring footage may be acceptable on Dateline or Today, but it's not acceptable on Nightly News. Nightly News has a higher standard to adhere to, and it's time the producers understood this. The producers owe the viewers an apology for altering Nightly News video images, and they owe us a pledge that they will never again engage in this deceptive practice. And by the way, it might also be nice if they stopped criticizing others for offenses that they themselves commit. That's called hypocrisy.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


From Brian Williams's July 8 Daily Nightly blog: "Also tough to watch, and a dramatic change of subject: A piece we are doing tonight on the stoning of women in Iran. We are airing it (with a parental warning) because it’s important for people to see, and that's a big part of what we do."

1) Brian placed a parental warning on that story because his research department informed him that more people tune in to broadcasts or segments when they carry parental warnings. Apparently, viewers think they will be seeing something taboo. It's a ratings ploy, nothing more.

2) Important? That's a big part of what Brian does? Really? What he does, first and foremost, is report stories that promote himself, his broadcast, his sponsors and other NBC shows. Was it "important" for Nightly News to air stories about skateboarding bulldogs, pink dolphins, how thoroughly United Airlines cleans their planes, Susan Boyle (seventeen minutes total), McDonald's new gourmet coffees, students who like to hug each other, the difficulty of dancing in high heels, a Serbian girl who met the members of U2, a woman who cooks overnight in a Chicago hospital, the Kennedy Center honoring Bruce Springsteen (two separate stories), the dancing wedding video, the 50th anniversary of Chicago's Second City Comedy Theatre, the new Heinz ketchup packets (and a separate story about Heinz reducing the sodium in their ketchup), how Walmart is "slashing prices", Betty White hosting SNL (two separate stories), Hoda and Kathie Lee appearing on camera without makeup, a 90-second interview with Sally Field about her Boniva commercial, the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man, the finale of "Law & Order" (four different stories), the Muppets, how Aleve (a Nightly News sponsor) reduces the risk of heart attacks, whether Chevrolet should be called Chevy, free Wi-Fi in Starbucks and McDonald's, the 30th anniversary of "The Blues Brothers" (an NBC Universal property), pianos on the streets of New York, a high school drill team, Chelsea Clinton's upcoming wedding, Lindsay Lohan's trial, LeBron James or Paul the octopus who predicts World Cup winners? These stories are important? Was it important for Nightly News to devote 160 minutes to coverage of the Vancouver Olympics? Perhaps Brian and I have different definitions of "important". And these stories represent just a fraction of Nightly News's frivolous reporting.

The same night Brian reported on the stoning of Iranian women, he also reported on the Emmy nominations. He made sure to tell us that with its 12 nominations this year, SNL has now received the most nominations ever (126). But Brian "neglected" to mention that Jay Leno did not receive a nomination and that The Tonight Show is down 850,000 viewers since 2008 (as reported in Thursday's New York Times). That's because when it comes to stories about NBC, Brian is a cheerleader, not a reporter. Whenever he "reports" a story about NBC, he should pick up a pair of pom-poms and begin by saying, "Rah Rah Ree, I'm From NBC/Rah Rah Rink, The Other Networks Stink".

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


From Brian Williams's July 5 Daily Nightly blog, titled "The Only Living Boy In New York": "I guess I didn't think it through. I saw that July 4th fell on a Sunday this year, and figured Monday would be a standard workday. I tore myself away from my beloved Jersey Shore...and came into work today, only to find: it was as if someone made an announcement that the last person left in New York City would have cooties. You can roll a bowling ball down 6th Avenue outside our building and watch it fall off the other end of the island into the Hudson River. There's no one here...So I'll say this: we have a broadcast full of news, we've been working on it all day, and we're anxious to share it with you."

Brian must think we're pretty stupid. Like we really believe his "Golly gee, I forgot this was a holiday weekend so I came into work" crap. Brian worked July 5 for one reason and one reason only: July is a Nielsen ratings sweeps period. The ratings for this month are used to set ad rates for the coming quarter. The higher the ratings, the higher the ad rates. Brian knew that both Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer would not be working on July 5, so he chose to anchor Nightly News that day in order to gain a ratings advantage that would ultimately result in higher ad rates for NBC. End of story.

And it's supremely ironic that Brian would title his blog "The Only Living Boy In New York". That title comes from a Simon & Garfunkel song that contains the lines "I get the news I need on the weather report/I can gather all the news I need on the weather report." Obviously, Paul Simon's lyrics mean that there is nothing worth watching on the news (and this was back in 1970). That is certainly true of Nightly News--despite Brian's boast that "we have a broadcast full of news". A two-and-a-half minute story about someone who brought Wi-Fi to a South Carolina town is what Brian thinks of as news? Or maybe he was referring to the two-and-a-half minutes Nightly News spent on the east coast heat wave. There's some breaking news--the east coast is hot in the summer. Or maybe he was referring to Saturday's story about Chelsea Clinton's upcoming wedding. There's some hard news for the viewers. I'm sure Nightly News will be all over that story. And Queen Elizabeth in 3-D glasses--that's journalism at its finest. Someone alert the Peabody committee.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Way Too Many Stories

From Kate Snow's July 2 Daily Nightly blog: "This happens to be a particularly busy holiday Friday for us. Meaning, we have way too many stories to fit in our half hour broadcast."

Way too many stories? Really? Here are some of the "news stories" that made it onto the air for Friday's Nightly News broadcast:

* A two-minute story about problems with the new Apple iPhone 4. It's obvious why this story was included on the broadcast. Microsoft is NBC's partner in the MSNBC network. Apple is Microsoft's main rival. Any bad publicity for Apple is good for Microsoft. This is just a way for the Nightly News producers to slam a rival of NBC's partner.

* A two-and-a-half minute story about LeBron James. Of course, the producers made sure to include clips of LeBron's commercials for McDonald's and Nike, two major NBC sponsors.

* A one-minute story about a married military couple who reunited in the air when the pilot of an Air Force refueling plane refueled her husband's F-18 fighter jet. Maybe the Nightly News producers should have attached a "breaking news" banner to this story.

* A two-and-a-half minute story about a South African man who builds soccer fields and provides equipment for kids to play. Interesting story, but hardly deserving of time on Nightly News. Maybe it would be okay for "The Today Show".

Way too many stories? These four stories took up eight minutes of valuable news time--more than a third of the broadcast. If this is what made it onto the air, I'd like to see the stories that were rejected. Meanwhile, this broadcast did not report a single story from Europe, South America or Eastern Asia. But at least we know all about LeBron's McDonald's commercial and the problems with the iPhone. Nice job, Nightly News producers. Keep up the great work.

Ann Curry--Take One For The Team!

(Ann Curry anchored the July 1 NBC Nightly News.)

Ann really should recuse herself from filling in as Nightly News anchor. She speaks so fast that it's difficult to understand what she is saying. She mispronounces words and combines words into new words ("Obama administration" often becomes "Obaministration" in Curry-speak). She cuts off her correspondents before they are finished talking. Being a news reader isn't rocket science. News reader. Read the news. The words crawl across the teleprompter, and the reader reads them. But Curry can't manage to do that. For the good of the network, she should voluntarily remove her name from the list of people who substitute for Brian Williams. Come on Ann--take one for the team.

Brian Visits The Gulf And Plugs Taco Bell

From Brian Williams's June 29 Daily Nightly blog titled "Traveling in the land of crawfish, with Blackberry":

"I neglected to post on this just-concluded trip to the Gulf. The truth is, we were in motion and working constantly—up at 5am every day to service the TODAY Show, working late on the next day's material before crashing, and on the move and shooting stories by day." It's really distasteful when people who earn 8-figure salaries complain about their tough work schedules. Brian's comment reminds me of BP CEO Tony Hayward saying, "I want my life back."

"We're all friends -- we've travelled thousands of miles together over the years, and it was heaven -- a great night with wonderful food and good company." How come in the blog's title Brian uses the word "Traveling", but in the blog's body he uses "travelled"? One "L" or two? He should pick a spelling and stick with it.

"The nicest, kindest, most hospitable people in the world live in [Venice] harbor. They welcome you in and will offer you a meal, a beer, or the shirt off their back. I love it here." I think at some point, Brian has made this same statement about the people from every single city in the U.S. If this is Tuesday, it must be time to pander.

"Drive-up window, Taco Bell, Pensacola, 10 pm" (This caption accompanied a photo--taken by Brian--of the Taco Bell drive-through window.) How much money does Taco Bell spend advertising on NBC every year? This is just a shameless plug from Brian to his pals at Taco Bell. Too bad Brian couldn't figure out a way to insert a McDonald's photo/plug into his blog. Hasn't he heard of photoshopping?

From Brian's June 30 Daily Nightly blog: "I arrived at 30 Rock this afternoon in time to join our afternoon editorial meeting in progress—and I noticed something on the bottom of my shoe: oil. I had carried it from Florida by air to New Orleans, through the airport, onto the plane, through LaGuardia and all the way to our newsroom. And now...its preserved forever in this photo. This oil stains like ink from a pen—I have it on my shirt and pants, and on a shirt from a previous visit. It doesn't come out. There's a lesson in that." Okay Brian, we get it. Go ahead and claim your boots, shirt and pants on your NBC expense report. I'm sure they'll reimburse you for your damaged clothing.

"And now...its preserved forever in this photo." There's supposed to be an apostrophe in "its" (it's). If a word is a contraction (such as for "it is"), it takes an apostrophe.