In a typically tacky move, Nightly News has been airing promos for itself all this week. Promos for their coverage of the Katrina fifth anniversary. Promos for Brian Williams's "Dateline" special (which is being re-broadcast this week on MSNBC). Promos for Brian hosting "Meet The Press" this Sunday (I wonder how David Gregory feels about that). Promos for Friday's "Making A Difference" segment featuring Brad Pitt. Promos for Sunday's Nightly News interview with President Obama. Promos for msnbc.com, where all the Nightly News Katrina stories can be seen. Altogether, these promos took up nearly three minutes of Nightly News time this week. Brian Williams and his producers could have used those three minutes to report actual news instead of promoting their own broadcast. But they didn't. And as if that's not bad enough, more than half of Thursday's and Friday's Nightly News broadcasts were devoted to Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. Brian and his producers could have used some of that time to report on current news stories instead of reporting on an event that happened five years ago. But they didn't. Broadcasts like The CBS Evening News and BBC World News America had the good sense to moderate their coverage of Katrina. While they included stories about Katrina, they did not allow that five-year-old story to dominate their broadcasts. But not Nightly News. Brian made sure to devote more than half his broadcast to Katrina. The reason for that is obvious.
Brian Williams exploited the Katrina anniversary for ratings. Does anyone actually believe that Brian cares the slightest bit about what happened to the people of New Orleans five years ago? Or what they're going through now? Brian is covering the Katrina anniversary story because the NBC News Research Department has informed him (and NBC News President Steve Capus) that viewers will tune in to watch. If the research department informed Brian that more viewers would tune in to see him host a dogfight, that's what he'd be doing this week on Nightly News. Brian will do whatever results in high ratings because having the #1 rated newscast is the absolute most important thing in his life. He has the George W. Bush syndrome. W was generally considered to be a major screw-up compared with his father and brother Jeb. So after W managed to get himself elected president (appointed, actually), he constantly struggled to live up to his father's legacy. W made a point of invading Iraq and capturing Saddam Hussein mainly because that allowed him to one-up his father, who failed to capture Saddam during Desert Storm. For Brian Williams, his George H.W. Bush is Tom Brokaw. Brokaw is everything Brian isn't (and never will be). A journalist, a reporter, a man of integrity, one of the most well-liked and well-respected news figures of his era. Brian is just a news reader. A talking head. A cuddly house cat. The words crawl across the teleprompter and Brian reads them. Brian spends his days desperately trying to live up to Tom Brokaw's legacy. He goes on Letterman. He goes on Leno. He goes on Charlie Rose. He appears on 30 Rock. He hosts Saturday Night Live. Please, please like me! Look how funny I am! But, of course, he can never be a fraction of the newsman--or the person-- that Brokaw was (and still is). So Brian settles for the only thing he can--keeping Nightly News as the #1 rated broadcast by pandering to the viewers with soft "news stories" about celebrities, cuddly animals, sick children, military heroes and people who are "Making A Difference". These stories have no news value, but Nightly News airs them because a story (or three) about Betty White or Dora the Explorer or Susan Boyle or Brad Pitt or Sally Field or Chelsea's wedding will attract more viewers than a story about the Australian election, the new Kenyan constitution or the civil war in Sri Lanka. It's a push strategy rather than a pull strategy. Nightly News airs stories about things viewers want to see, rather than things that are important. The Nightly News producers get their ideas for news stories by trolling search engines like Yahoo and looking at what's trending. If it's popular, they send out a news team to cover it.
So that's why Brian is in New Orleans this week. That's why he was there five years ago. His research has shown that New Orleans stories will attract viewers. And of course, as with all things on Nightly News, the Katrina coverage is about Brian's massive ego. It's about his narcissism. If Brian pretends something is important to him, it gets air time. Afghan orphans. Medal of Honor winners. Firefighters. Wounded warriors and fallen heroes. Springsteen and Bono. People who are "Making A Difference". Brian gets to put anything he wants on Nightly News because he's Brian. So this week, he will pretend to care about the people of New Orleans. He will lecture us (again) about how we were able to put a man on the moon, but we couldn't handle the post-Katrina emergency (or the BP oil spill). He will make it all about himself. Here's how HE sees it. Here's how it affected HIM. Here are the horrors HE witnessed. Here's what HE thinks should have been done. Him, him, him. Look how concerned Brian is! Look how much he cares about New Orleans! See how many celebrities he's with! Wow. He must really care. He does care. About his ratings.