Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Brian Williams--Working Class Zero

Where did Brian Williams find the audacity to give Bruce Springsteen thirty seconds of air time during last Wednesday's story about John Lennon? That would be like including George W. Bush in a tribute to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Or featuring Tori Spelling in a tribute to Meryl Streep. Or allowing Brian Williams to participate in a panel discussion about Walter Cronkite. Lennon was one of the best known and best loved musicians, songwriters and peace activists of his or any other generation. He is one of the greatest icons of the twentieth century. John Lennon was a true working class hero. Springsteen, on the other hand, just pretends to be one with his ridiculous songs about punching time clocks and working in factories. When is the last time Springsteen punched a time clock? Springsteen is a relic of the past, a purveyor of greatest hits. He's an 80's act like Billy Squier or Rick Springfield. In his heyday, 25 years ago, Springsteen had some good songs. But it's an embarrassment to include him in a story about John Lennon. Lennon had more talent in his little finger than Springsteen has in his entire body. Let's be honest--Springsteen pales by comparison.

Of course, it's not Springsteen's fault. He didn't ask to be in the story. He never intended for this comparison to be made. Brian Williams is the one who made a point of awkwardly forcing Springsteen into the story. Why? Because Lennon briefly mentioned Springsteen once in passing during a recorded interview? That's a reason to show thirty seconds of Springsteen photos and to play "Hungry Heart" during a story about John Lennon? Does Brian have a shred of credibility left? Does he have any self-respect? Almost every week, Brian finds some ridiculous excuse to squeeze Springsteen into a news story. But Springsteen's inclusion rarely has any relevance to the actual story--it's simply a gratuitous way for Brian to mention his idol on the air--again and again and again. It's a joke. This is journalistic malpractice. We tune in expecting news, but instead we get stories on stuff Brian likes. During a Nov. 23 story about the demolition of the Philadelphia Spectrum, Brian made sure to insert a photo of Springsteen because he had played there. Hundreds of musical acts had played there, but only Springsteen got a mention. On Oct. 6 & 7, Brian aired a two-part five-minute"news story" about Springsteen (funny thing--he didn't include John Lennon in that story). Part one was Springsteen talking about the economy, as if he's some sort of expert on the subject. Part two consisted of Brian fawningly describing how he used to follow Springsteen around New Jersey in the 1970's. This is a newscast? What are viewers supposed to think about a news anchor whose criteria for airing stories is based not on relevance, but rather on favoritism? Like Springsteen, Brian is a multi-millionaire who enjoys pretending that he is a regular blue-collar guy. A regular blue-collar guy with an 8-figure salary, that is. Brian may have actually deluded himself into thinking that he's a working class hero. Working class zero is more like it.

And of course, Wednesday's Lennon story had the usual inaccuracies that are par for the course at Nightly News. Before the last commercial break, Brian said, "Tonight, words from John Lennon never heard until our broadcast tonight." But most of what Lennon said in the story had already aired on other networks in the previous 48 hours. And at one point in the story, Lennon clearly says, "I only put out songs and answer questions...." But the accompanying Nightly News transcript at the bottom of the screen has Lennon saying, "I only put our songs and answer questions...." I guess Brian and his producers were too busy looking for ways to fit Springsteen into the story to bother with accuracy.

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