Tuesday, July 13, 2010

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 www.cleveland.com/cavs, they might have noticed that he did, in fact, capitalize the words "Cavaliers" and "Championship" (on the www.nba.com/cavaliers 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 (http://www.stayinmyhome.com/.) 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 tvnewser.com 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 tvnewser.com 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.

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