Saturday, October 30, 2010

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--Oct. 26-Oct. 29

Here's what happened on Nightly News this week:

Tuesday--Brian Williams narrated a 25-second obituary for Paul the Octopus, who had correctly predicted the winner of eight World Cup matches earlier this year. On the Aug. 11 broadcast, Ann Curry spent the same amount of time narrating an obituary for former Illinois Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, who was a U.S. Representative for 36 years and had been one of the most powerful members of the U.S. House. Apparently, based on the lengths of their obituaries, Brian and his producers believe that Paul the Octopus and Dan Rostenkowski were of equal importance.
>Brian spent a scant 35 seconds on the $750 million settlement that GlaxoSmithKline agreed to pay as a result of knowingly selling contaminated and mislabeled drugs. There was no film on the story, just narration by Brian. Meanwhile, this story was front page news--upper right hand corner, above the fold--in Wednesday's New York Times and other newspapers around the country. Brian and his producers drastically and intentionally underreported this story in order to minimize the damage to Glaxo, a heavy advertiser and frequent in-show sponsor of Nightly News.
>Tuesday's final story was mostly comprised of a rambling, pointless speech by Maria Shriver in which she talks about communicating with her dead mother. Shriver's speech clearly belongs in the Christine O'Donnell/Carl Paladino/Sharron Angle wacky world. But the funniest part of Shriver's speech was when she introspectively ruminated about what she might be doing after her tenure as First Lady of California ends in January. I think that anyone who hasn't been living in a cave knows that Shriver will soon be working for NBC again, either in their news or entertainment division. She may even end up at Nightly News, which would mean that she did, in fact, accept a job in NBC's entertainment division.
>On his Tuesday Daily Nightly blog, Brian misspelled the name of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (he spelled her name as "Ginsberg"). Ironically, on the 2/23/09 Nightly News, Brian reported that Senator Jim Bunning had misspelled Justice Ginsburg's name (also as "Ginsberg"). According to Brian's report that day, "Adding insult to injury, he misspelled her last name not once but twice in today's statement of apology." Say what you want about Brian, but he only misspelled Ginsburg's name once. Meanwhile, Brian is always boasting on the air that he is (among other things) a Supreme Court buff. Misspelling Ginsburg's name doesn't sound very buff-y, does it?

Wednesday--During a story about the Florida Governor's race, an on-screen graphic incorrectly identified candidate Alex Sink as a Republican. She is a Democrat. On the May 18 broadcast, a graphic identified Florida Senator Bill Nelson as a Republican. He is a Democrat. What is it about Nightly News and Florida Democrats?
>The "news story" about tubeless Scott toilet tissue was really just a 40-second commercial for Scott products. It was a way of thanking the company for their advertising.
>Brian reported that, "The actress Mariska Hargitay from 'Law & Order: SVU' was at the White House today to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month along with Dodgers' manager, baseball veteran Joe Torre...." Clearly, this story was contrived just so that Brian could plug NBC's "Law & Order" franchise. By the way, Joe Torre is not the Dodgers' manager. That job belongs to Don Mattingly.

Friday--Once again, Brian identified Richard Engel as NBC's "Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent". He is actually the network's Chief Foreign Correspondent.

And finally, what is the deal with the subliminal George W. Bush ads that Nightly News has been showing for the past week or so? Once a night, after a commercial break ends, but before the broadcast resumes, we briefly (for perhaps two seconds) see a still photo of Bush striding across a lawn, with the NBC News logo in the middle of the photo. Since NBC News doesn't do anything unless there is some self-promotional benefit involved, I'm guessing that this message is a subliminal promo for an interview someone at NBC (probably Matt Lauer) will be conducting with Bush on or about Nov. 9, the release date for his upcoming book.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--Oct. 19-Oct.24

If you didn't watch Nightly News this week, here are some of the things you missed:

Oct. 19--Brian Williams's obituary for Tom Bosley included clips from Bosley's Glad Trash Bags commercials (Brian also mentioned Glad by name). This was obviously a way to give some free ad time to a brand that regularly advertises on NBC.

Oct. 21--During a story about the latest Toyota recalls, Nightly News put the recalled models on screen. One of the recalled models they listed was the 2006 Lexus G5 300. Lexus does not make a G5 300. They do, however, make a GS 300. If Nightly News is going to list auto recalls, they should get the model numbers right.

Oct. 23--The lead story about Wikileaks' allegations of prisoner abuse in Iraq included some on-screen descriptions of torture. One of these descriptions read, "Whipping the bottom of a detainees feet". The word should have been spelled with an apostrophe ("detainee's"), since it is a possessive, not a plural.
>This broadcast also featured a story on the West Virginia senate race. Although Kelly O'Donnell spent time interviewing Republican candidate John Raese, she never mentioned Raese's racial slur against Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Apparently, part of Raese's shtick is to intentionally mispronounce the names of Democrats he doesn't like (I guess he's the Norm Crosby of the Tea Party). During a filmed speech last month, Raese referred to Dr. Chu (a Nobel Prize-winning physicist) as "Dr. Chow Mein". This is as bad as, if not worse than, George Allen's "Macaca" comment (made during the 2006 Virginia senate race), which Nightly News covered extensively. Why didn't O'Donnell mention Raese's "Dr. Chow Mein" comment? Why is Nightly News protecting John Raese?
>Also on Saturday, there was a "Making A Difference" story about people donating money to charities. One part of the story focused on a five-year-old boy who raised $288 for the Ronald McDonald house. This was just a way for the producers to plug McDonald's, a heavy NBC sponsor.

Oct. 24--During a story about walk-in medical clinics, Tom Costello told us that, "Doctors Express is now a national franchise, like McDonald's or Burger King." More plugs for regular NBC advertisers.
>The broadcast's final story was about a football coach being called up as a Navy reservist. Once again, Nightly News ran a football-related story to promote NBC's Sunday Night Football coverage, which immediately followed the news.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Manifesto--Part I

If I were in charge of NBC Nightly News, here are the changes I would make to the broadcast:

1) No more "Making A Difference" stories. There has never been a single MAD story that contained even a sliver of news. This is supposed to be a news broadcast. There is no place in a news broadcast for stories about people who coach little league, cook food in hospitals or teach kids how to dance.

2) No more stories about the deaths of Medal of Honor winners, unless there is a separate, compelling reason to report them (such as if the person was well-known for some other reason). If a person is awarded the Medal of Honor, that's news. If a Medal of Honor recipient dies, that is not news. In truth, these stories are just vanity pieces for Brian Williams, since he sits on the board of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. If Brian Williams was on the board of the American Plastics Foundation, he would be bringing us several stories a week about the great new innovations in the field of plastics technology.

3) No more gratuitous stories about celebrities. Nightly News is constantly running "news stories" about celebrities and their favorite foundations or charities. These stories have no news value--they are just an excuse to pander to the viewers by putting Will Ferrell, Sally Field or Jon Bon Jovi on the air. Unless a celebrity robs a liquor store or runs for political office, there is no reason to do a story on them.

4) No more news stories promoting sponsors' products. Nightly News frequently airs reports about products that advertise on the broadcast or on other NBC shows. Examples include McDonald's, United Airlines, Lifewater, Requip, Chrysler, Boniva, Cheerios, Aleve and many pharmaceutical products made by Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline. It's obvious that Nightly News is only reporting on these products as a way to thank their sponsors.

5) No more sponsored segments. Nightly News segments like "Making A Difference" or "What Works" are often sponsored. Since Nightly News is often required to report on a product or company that has sponsored a segment, this is a huge conflict of interest. Furthermore, sometimes the Nightly News producers allow Pfizer or GlaxoSmithKline to sponsor segments about the pharmaceutical industry. That is an appalling violation of the viewers' trust.

6) No more protecting sponsors. Nightly News will often refuse to report a negative story about one of their sponsors. Sometimes they will hide a sponsor's product during a story to avoid giving it negative publicity. An example of this was the 11/30/09 story about harmful BPA levels in plastic bottles and canned food liners. Tom Costello told us that the chemical was present in "brand name foods from vegetable soup to tuna fish, green beans to corn and chili." But the accompanying graphic showed only generic cans labeled "chili", "vegetable soup", "green beans" and "tuna". Where are the name brands? There were none--the producers obscured them all to protect the manufacturers.

7) No more stories culled from Dateline or CNBC specials. These stories have no news value and are run on Nightly News simply because they present a ready-made way to eat up a few minutes of news time. The producers have no business promoting these specials on Nightly News. These segments take up valuable news time that could be used to report real news stories.

8) No more stories promoting NBC Sports. Nightly News is not the promotional arm for NBC Sports. It is appalling that a news broadcast acts as a shill for its parent network's sports programming. On Sept. 9, Brian Williams shamelessly anchored Nightly News from New Orleans just so he could promote NBC's season-opening Vikings-Saints game later that night. In February, Nightly News aired 160 minutes of Olympic-related stories solely to promote their Olympic coverage. The entire Nightly News operation moved to Vancouver. The job of a news broadcast is to report the news, not to promote its network's sports coverage.

9) No more stories promoting NBC's entertainment programs. Nightly News frequently inserts gratuitous clips of shows like "30 Rock", "The Office", "The Tonight Show", "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" and "Saturday Night Live" into news stories in order to promote those shows. During the lead-up to the Leno-Conan changeover, Nightly News promoted those shows relentlessly. In May, they did four stories about the cancellation of "Law & Order". In August, they did two stories about a contestant on "America's Got Talent". It is inappropriate and unprofessional for a news broadcast to promote its network's entertainment shows.

10) No repeat stories. Nightly News often does multiple stories about a subject when one story (or none) would suffice. Over a ten-month period beginning last October, they did six stories about an Afghan orphanage. In July, they did three virtually identical stories about a pet shelter in Louisiana. At the end of 2008, they did four stories about Nick Nelson, a nine-year-old boy who had his legs amputated. By running multiple stories about a subject, Nightly News is just patting itself on the back for what it wants us to think of as their great work.

11) No promoting charities. Nightly News will often run a story about a charity, and then tell us to go to the website for more information. It is not Nightly News's job to promote charities, either on the air or on their website. Anyone who wants to find information about a charity can easily do so by doing a computer search. This is simply an underhanded way to draw traffic to the website.

12) News broadcasts aren't radio stations. Nightly News often plays pop songs going into or coming out of a commercial break. This is just another crass way of pandering to the audience.

13) No more summits. NBC News recently held an "education summit", and then heavily reported on it as if it was actual news. It is the job of a news network to report news, not to hold summits. This was just a self-promotional gimmick that accomplished nothing. The "education summit" consisted of a bunch of people whining about the American education system. That's not news.

14) No titles. Nightly News begins each story with an on-screen title. This is completely unnecessary. People are smart enough to understand what a story is about by watching it. They don't need idiot titles to help them.

15) Spelling and grammar matter. Nightly News is constantly making errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, math and other areas (such as calendar pages). This is inexcusable for a news broadcast. They also often misquote people. When you use quotation marks, you are obligated to reproduce the words exactly. A broadcast that makes this many errors cannot expect to have any credibility as a news source.

16) No more lying to Nielsen. When the Nightly News producers expect a particular broadcast to have lower-than-expected ratings, they submit it to the Nielsen ratings service intentionally misspelled as "Nitely News". That way, the lower-rated "Nitely News" broadcasts are counted in a separate category and don't detract from the higher ratings of the "Nightly News" broadcasts. This is the equivalent of giving the police a fake name so they won't know about your prior arrests. It is deceitful and dishonest.

17) No doctoring footage. Nightly News often doctors news footage to make it appear older. They add lines, hairs, cigarette burns, stains, flickering light and specks of dust to the film. They have done this dozens of times over the past few years. This is deceitful and self-serving. A news broadcast that alters footage to suit their needs cannot be trusted. What other footage is Nightly News altering?

18) Nightly News is not the propaganda arm of the U.S. military. They constantly air stories meant to glorify the armed forces. These stories are two-and-a-half minute flag-waving, eagle-soaring, hyper-patriotic misty-eyed tributes to our "brave men and women in uniform". The correspondents and anchors are constantly using loaded terms like "wounded warriors" and "fallen heroes". This is completely inappropriate. Those are subjective value judgments and they don't belong on a news broadcast. A news broadcast is supposed to be objective and report the facts, not pander to the viewers by appealing to their base patriotic instincts.

19) No more movie clips. It seems that almost every night, Nightly News includes one or more movie clips in their broadcast, ostensibly to help "explain" a news story. In truth, this is just another way to pander to the viewers by feeding them entertainment instead of news. If the Nightly News producers and writers can't adequately describe a news event without using a movie clip, then the executive producer needs to find employees who are more competent.

20) Graphics do not make a story good. Nightly News stories frequently contain fancy high tech graphics. The producers should spend more time providing information and less time on graphics. Graphics are not a substitute for reporting.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Brian Williams Reports On Brian Williams

Since Brian Williams always tries to make every news story into a story about himself (on Tuesday, he narrated a story about how HE was on stage during the awarding of the Broad Prize for Urban Education--complete with video clips of HIM), I was certain that he would begin Tuesday's Nightly News story about hormone replacement therapy by saying, "For those of us who are going through menopause...."

Nightly News Promotes NBC's Football Coverage

On Sunday's Nightly News, the final story was about football. That's hardly surprising. The Nightly News producers often use their Sunday broadcast to shamelessly promote NBC's Sunday Night Football coverage, which airs immediately after the news. Last Sunday's story was about the Washington Redskins--who just happened to be one of the teams that was playing on NBC that night. On Sept. 26, Nightly News did a story about the NFL's efforts to recruit younger fans. And on Sept. 19, Nightly News ended with a story about Eli and Peyton Manning (who play for the Giants and Colts, respectively), which was immediately followed by the Giants-Colts game on NBC. Of course, nothing can top the Sept. 8 & 9 broadcasts. Nightly News spent those two days shamelessly promoting NBC's Sept. 9 NFL season opener between the Vikings and the Saints. On Sept. 8, Nightly News aired a three-and-a-half minute "Making A Difference" story about a Vikings player. The story began with Brian Williams telling us, "He just happens to be a pro football player, and you'll see him on NBC tomorrow in the season opener as his Vikings take on the world champion Saints in New Orleans." The following day, Brian went even further. He devoted his entire broadcast to promoting the Saints-Vikings game by anchoring Nightly News from New Orleans, the site of the game. A three-minute story about the game featured 43 seconds of opening remarks from Brian, including, "Playing tonight in the Superdome, their first game as defending Super Bowl champions when they meet the Vikings tonight here on NBC...." At the end of the broadcast, Brian offered yet another plug for the game and spent time the next day bragging about the game's ratings. This is beyond shameless. Using Nightly News to promote NBC's football coverage is a violation of the viewers' trust and a grossly inappropriate use of the newscast. People tune in to Nightly News to find out about important news stories going on across the country and around the world, not to see endless promos for NBC's sports and entertainment shows. The FCC should revoke NBC's right to air Nightly News. And then they should penalize them 10 yards and a loss of possession.

Why don't the Nightly News producers just drop all the pretenses and devote their entire Sunday night broadcast to NBC's NFL coverage? It could be the first half hour of "Football Night in America". Here's a story suggestion for next week: Susan Boyle, Jackie Evancho, Chelsea Clinton, Anna Chapman, Nick Nelson, Nikki Yanofsky and a group of Medal of Honor Winners could play a football game against a team made up of Afghan orphans and rescued Chilean miners. The mascots would be oil-soaked Gulf pelicans. And it would all be for charity, so we know they'd be making a difference!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Nightly News Protects Boniva

Once again, Nightly News is protecting its sponsors. On Wednesday, the FDA issued a warning about bisphosphonates, a category of drugs (including Boniva) that are used to strengthen bones and treat the symptoms of osteoporosis. These drugs are now believed to cause an increased risk of thigh fractures in many patients who use them. According to an Oct. 13 article at, "The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning on Wednesday linking long-term use of popular osteoporosis drugs to an unusual fracture of the thigh bone."

"The F.D.A. said the labels and medication guides would be changed to show the new warning in oral bisphosphonates including Actonel, Atelvia, Boniva, and Fosamax and injectible drugs including Boniva and Reclast, and their generic equivalents. Genentech is working closely with the F.D.A. to add a statement to Boniva labels warning of the possible increased fracture risk, according to Terry Hurley, spokesman for Genentech, the Roche subsidiary that sells Boniva in the United States."

(The entire article can be read at

This story was not reported on Nightly News. The reason is obvious. At least three of the above-mentioned drugs, Boniva, Fosamax and Reclast, are Nightly News advertisers. Boniva advertises almost every night. By not reporting this story, Brian Williams and his producers are intentionally protecting Boniva and the other Nightly News sponsors from negative publicity.

On May 14 & 17, Nightly News aired a two-part interview (totalling more than five minutes) that Brian Williams conducted with Sally Field. The first part of the interview was exclusively about Field's Boniva ads, including Brian's in-depth questions about the dog that appears with Field in the ads. The interview included fifteen seconds of Boniva ad clips, and constituted a 90 second commercial for Boniva. The second part of the interview also mentioned Boniva. So when Brian feels like helping out his pals at Boniva, he gives them free air time as part of a "news story" on his broadcast. But when the FDA issues a warning about Boniva, Nightly News refuses to report it. Nightly News is little more than a shameless shill for its advertisers. Brian Williams and his producers should be ashamed of themselves. But, of course, they're not.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tina Fey Exposes Racism At NBC

The Oct. 7 episode of "30 Rock" spent most of its time satirizing the racial insensitivity and lack of diversity at NBC Universal. Of course, when you satirize something, you are acknowledging that it actually exists. So thank you to Tina Fey and the "30 Rock" producers for bringing this horrible problem to our attention. Exposing a problem is the first step on the long road to solving it. Let's hope that other NBC divisions (like NBC News) can now admit their dirty little secret and begin to take steps to eradicate racism from the Peacock Network. One way to do that would be for Nightly News to air a series of reports about racial insensitivity at NBC. I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

Ann Curry Loves George Clooney--I Mean Sudan!

Is there one person on this planet who believes that Ann Curry cares the slightest bit about what's going on in Sudan? On Monday's Nightly News, Curry reported from Sudan--with George Clooney! There's George and Ann riding on a truck! There's George and Ann riding on a boat! See how he takes her hand to help her onto shore! There's Ann interviewing George! See how he gazes into her eyes! And of course the story ended with Brian Williams reading a promo for Ann's exclusive interview with George on Tuesday's Today show. This wasn't a story about Sudan, this was a story about George Clooney. This is just part of the Nightly News strategy. Include lots of famous people on their "news" show so the ratings go up. This is the third time in five weeks that Nightly News has included Clooney in a story. An Oct. 3 story featured clips from "Up In The Air." And on Sept. 5, they aired a story ostensibly about how American movies need foreign box office receipts to succeed financially. In reality, the story was just an excuse to show 90 seconds of movie clips--including 30 seconds of clips from Clooney's movies and an additional 20 seconds of Clooney clips that ran as promos during earlier parts of the broadcast. Brad Pitt was also featured in that story--as he was on the Aug. 27 story about his post-Katrina work in New Orleans. For the Nightly News producers, George Clooney and Brad Pitt are part of a winning formula for ratings, although they will show stories featuring practically any celebrity that they think will help increase their viewership. Barely a day goes by without Nightly News featuring some actor or singer as part of a news story. It's becoming more and more difficult to tell Nightly News apart from the shows that follow it--Extra and Access Hollywood. Case in point--the final story of last Friday's Nightly News was reported by Maria Menounos who is best known as a correspondent for Access Hollywood. It's as if the Nightly News producers are making a point of blending their broadcast as seamlessly as possible into the gossip shows that follow it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Brian Williams's Obsequious Narcissism (Or: Born To Run Off At The Mouth)

Of all the grotesquely narcissistic displays that Brian Williams has put on over the years (and that is a long, long list) nothing comes close to his fawning and obsequious two-part "interview" with Bruce Springsteen that aired on Nightly News this past Wednesday and Thursday.

Wednesday's segment consisted of one-minute-and-forty-seconds of Springsteen bloviating about the economy. I'm not really sure how a faded 80's rock star qualifies as an expert on this subject, but Brian seemed to hang on Springsteen's every word. So what's next on Nightly News? Vanilla Ice discussing the Pakistan-Afghanistan situation? MC Hammer on education? Howard Jones and Rick Astley engaging in a point-counterpoint debate about the relative merits of the bank bailout? I think it's time for the Nightly News producers to update their pop-star news experts. How about Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber discussing the upcoming mid-term elections?

But Thursday's segment was one for the ages. For more than three-and-a-half minutes, Brian was like a squealing fourteen-year-old girl at a Beatles concert. His fawning narcissism was revolting. As usual, much of his interview was about him. His "interview" contained a ridiculously high number of personal pronouns like "I", "me", "my", "us" and "we". Brian talked about HIS love of Springsteen. How HE followed Springsteen around from club to club in the 70's. What Springsteen meant to HIM. Here's how Brian began the interview: "When you grow up in New Jersey, you sometimes need a thick skin. You are often called upon to defend the Garden State. That is, until Bruce Springsteen came along. You see, he became everything to those of us growing up during that time at the Jersey Shore." Here are some more gems from the interview:

* "While we were chasing Bruce up and down the Shore every weekend trying to figure out where he was gonna play on a given Saturday night, he was in the town next to ours unbeknownst to us in a rented farmhouse making his masterpiece follow-up album."
* "Would it have killed you to call a buddy in Middletown? I was three miles away at most...Would it have killed you just to reach out to a brother and say, 'We're having trouble with some of these tracks--come on over we need you'?"
* "'Born To Run' comes out--cover of Time magazine--causes guys like me to say to people, 'Yes, I'm from New Jersey'--becomes a source of great pride..."
* "And a funny thing happened during the interview. I could tell something was bothering Bruce. It turned out he thought the wrong man was holding the guitar." So Brian takes the guitar and spews out a line from "Thunder Road": "I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk." Gross.

That interview is one of the most grotesque displays of narcissism I have ever seen. In what alternate universe does this belong on a network news broadcast? How many actual news stories were not covered on Wednesday and Thursday so Brian could air five minutes of his love-fest with Springsteen? Isn't there anyone at Nightly News who has the courage to stand up to Brian and tell him what is inappropriate for a newscast? Sadly, no. There isn't anyone with enough nerve to do that.

Of course, Springsteen's shameless promotion of "Darkness on the Edge of Town" is pretty sad, too. Springsteen is essentially an oldies act, a purveyor of greatest hits. He goes from town to town playing the same tired old songs he's been playing for a quarter-century or more, not unlike the members of Styx or Journey. His "Glory Days" are far behind him. By plugging "Darkness" now, he's shamelessly trying to squeeze a few extra bucks out of an album he released more than 30 years ago. That really is kind of sad.

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--Friday, Oct. 8 2010

If you didn't see Nightly News on Friday, Oct. 8, here's what you missed:

1) You know that the cool weather is here when the Nightly News producers drag out their old stock footage of people waiting on line at the Work One job placement center to use in stories about the employment situation. Friday marked the first appearance of the season for the Work One footage (the people on line are wearing winter clothing, so it can be shown only in the cold weather months). Nightly News has been using this same Work One footage for around five years now. I think maybe it's time for some new footage of a different job placement center.

2) At the end of Savannah Guthrie's story about the economy, Brian Williams referred to her as "Samantha".

3) Andrea Mitchell did a story about professional actors who appear in political ads portraying "real people". The story included clips from "Saturday Night Live" and "Law & Order". It seems that this story was contrived solely as an excuse to plug these shows. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Brian once again introduced Mitchell as the NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent. She is actually the Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent.

4) Can someone please buy Kristen Welker a calculator? During her "Education Nation" story about the tough job market for recent college graduates, Welker told us that the 14.8% unemployment rate among adults aged 20-24 was "almost 50% higher than the national average" of 9.6%. Actually, it's 54% higher. Instead of saying "almost 50% higher", she should have said "more than 50% higher". Math is a very important part of education. Nightly News should get these things right.

5) One of the recent college graduates profiled in Welker's story was a young woman named Heidi Cristensen. At one point during the story, we see a close-up of Cristensen's resume, clearly revealing her home address, telephone number and email address. That is completely inappropriate. The producers should take steps to safeguard the personal information of people that appear in Nightly News stories. How would Welker or her producers feel if their addresses and phone numbers were given out on the air?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Brian Williams--A Sensing Man

From Brian Williams's Sept. 27 Daily Nightly blog: "As far as I can tell, the world is divided into two basic groups: Those who are sensing and those who are intuitive. Intuitive people notice big things: Feelings, moods, themes. Sensing people (like me) notice the details, and can often be preoccupied with them. This brings us to 'continuity errors' in film and television. Put simply, we've all seen the movie scene where it cuts back and forth between a character, and their position or clothes may be different on a shot-to-shot basis—the background might be different—we know something is amiss. The web is full of them, and there are some remarkable continuity errors in major motion pictures.

Here's how closely I watch for such things: On last night's 'Mad Men' (this is NOT a spoiler), during a meeting between Roger Sterling and the man from Lucky Strike, the dandruff on Sterling's suit appeared—then disappeared—then appeared again. Being sensing can be such a burden."

Amen, Brian. I hear you, brother. Much like Brian, I am also a sensing person. I notice small details and errors in TV shows, too. For example, here are some errors I noticed in Nightly News broadcasts and blogs over the past few years:

* 11/7/08--On his blog, Brian misspelled Paul Volcker's last name as "Volker".
* 2/9/09--On his blog, Brian misspelled "Alison Krauss" as "Allison Kraus".
* 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 misspelled the names of Gen. Petraeus (as "Patreus") and Gen. McChrystal (as "McCrystal") on the same blog post.
* 5/25/10--In his blog, Brian misstated the name of former oil exec John Hofmeister's book. Brian referred 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 referred to Richard Engel as the NBC News "Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent". 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 spelled Nelson Mandela's last name as "Mandella" on his blog (it was subsequently corrected).
* 7/16/10--On his broadcast, Brian announced that, "Overseas tonight, a deadly first in Mexico's deadly drug war--a car bomb." 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.
*7/24/10--A story on Hurricane Bonnie spelled "Hispaniola" as "Hispanola".
*7/29/10--In his blog, Brian mentioned Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds", but he misspelled the first word as "Inglorious".
*8/5/10--A Nightly News graphic spelled Metairie (Louisiana) as "Metarie".
*8/14/10--Deborah Hersman was identified as the NTSB "Chairman". A day earlier, she was identified as the NTSB "Chairwoman".
*8/21/10--Karin Rosander was identified as being from the Swedish "prosecuter's" office. The correct spelling is "prosecutor".
*8/25/10--A Nightly News map of Iraq identified the city of "Basra". A minute later, a different map spelled the city as "Basrah".
*8/28/10--An on-screen caption omitted the hyphen in Melissa Harris-Lacewell's name.
*9/15/10--An on-screen Nightly News caption identified Michael Steele as the "Repulican National Chairman", rather than the "Republican National Chairman".
*9/16/10--On his Daily Nightly blog, Brian spelled Meredith Vieira's last name as "Viera", and Jon Hamm's first name as "John". (Does that count as a "Mad Men" find?)
*9/19/10--On his Daily Nightly blog, Lester Holt spelled Sarah Shourd's name as "Sarah Shroud".
*9/20/10--A story about the economy showed six different calendar pages. Five of the pages had errors, including two with the incorrect number of days.
*9/22/10--During a story about Bob Woodward's new book, Andrea Mitchell read a quote by Joe Biden about Richard Holbrooke: "He's the most egotistical bastard I've ever met. Although the right guy for the job." But in the accompanying on-screen transcript, the second sentence appeared as, "But maybe he's the right guy for the job."
*9/26/10--An "Education Nation" story included the on-screen phrase "african americans". Proper nouns are always capitalized--it should have read "African Americans". Also on that day, a story about the Charlotte school system profiled a fourth grader identified as "Jevon" Dixon. A close-up of his report card clearly showed that his name is actually spelled "Jevo'N".
*9/27/10--A story about BP's underestimation of the oil spill in the Gulf included a clip of a Florida State University oceanography professor, who was identified on screen as "Ian McDonald". His name is actually Ian MacDonald.
*9/30/10--A transcript of statements by a Maine gubernatorial candidate spelled the governor's name as "Lepage". It is actually LePage.
*10/1/10--In a story about mortgage foreclosures, Peter Alexander told us that three of the largest banks have suspended foreclosure evictions in 23 states. In the accompanying map, 24 states were highlighted. A few minutes later, a story about education identified two different people as "Professor Larry Cuban" from Stanford University.

I agree with Brian--being a sensing person can be such a burden. We're always finding errors. What makes these errors even more egregious is that many of them occurred during the week when NBC News was presenting their "Education Nation" summit. I think all the math, spelling, grammar and geography errors on Nightly News demonstrate that the need for education reform is even more dire than the "Education Nation" summit indicated.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I Hate Time Warner Cable--Part 2

Approximately 13 months ago, Time Warner Cable of New York City unceremoniously changed over from the Passport operating system to the Mystro operating system. Time Warner customers were not consulted on this change, we were simply forced to accept it. Unfortunately, this change represented a significant downgrade in service (for details, see my 8/18/09 blog "I Hate Time Warner Cable" at The following January, Time Warner raised their rates by 7%. So within the space of five months, they downgraded their service and raised their rates.

Now they're at it again. One of the channels on the Time Warner cable system is Prime Time On Demand (Time Warner channel 1009). This is where viewers can go to watch new prime time shows a day or two after they initially air on the networks. It includes shows from CBS, NBC, FX, USA, Discovery, Bravo, AMC and a few others (ABC and Fox do not currently participate). As is the case with all on-demand shows, viewers can use the fast-forward, pause and rewind features on their remote controls (I'm not sure if these features are available to all viewers, or just to viewers who have a DVR cable box). This week, I watched a number of on-demand shows, and I noticed that all of the NBC OD shows began with a message stating that fast-forward has been disabled (this was only the case with NBC--the fast-forward function remained usable for all other network on-demand shows). Obviously, NBC wants fast-forward disabled in order to prevent viewers from zipping through all the promos for their crappy new Fall shows. This is a shitty thing for NBC to do, but it's hardly surprising. Of all the networks, NBC is the sleaziest when it comes to self-promotion. They will do anything to try to attract viewers, no matter how desperate. And disabling fast-forward is just one bullet in their arsenal. But NBC is not completely to blame. After all, they don't have the power to unilaterally disable the fast-forward mechanism on Time Warner's cable system. All NBC can do is make the request of Time Warner. Time Warner were the ones who agreed to do it. This is outrageous. Like many Time Warner subscribers, I pay good money each month for my cable service and I expect to get what I pay for. One of the things I pay for is fast-forwarding for on-demand programs. But Time Warner doesn't care about us. Time Warner only cares about serving the networks. This is a horrible thing for Time Warner to do to their customers. The appropriate response from Time Warner to NBC should have been, "We're sorry, but we can't do that to our customers. One of the features our customers enjoy is fast-forwarding for on-demand programs, and we're not going to disable that feature just so your Fall season promos get seen. If you no longer want to carry NBC shows on our Prime Time On Demand channel, we understand. But we won't inconvenience our customers by depriving them of a regular feature they enjoy." Obviously, Time Warner didn't say that to NBC. Instead, they said, "Sure. No problem. We can do that." They acquiesced like the French Vichy government did with the Nazis during World War II. Did it even occur to Time Warner to stand up for their customers instead of caving in to NBC? I doubt it. Time Warner and NBC are two scumbags who deserve each other, like a pimp and a whore. Unfortunately, the customers are the ones who suffer. I can only wonder what features Time Warner will decide to remove from their system next. This is why I hate Time Warner. This is why everyone hates Time Warner.