Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Same Old Same Old At Nightly News

It may be a new year, but at Nightly News, it's the same old same old. On Sunday's story about the incoming Republican House of Representatives, the Nightly News producers actually managed to misspell "Pennsylvania". During a clip from CBS's "Face the Nation", a Nightly News graphic identified Representative-Elect Mike Kelly as a Republican from "Pennslyvania". The biggest irony is that the Nightly News graphic was superimposed directly over a CBS graphic that correctly spelled the state's name. If the Nightly News producers weren't sure how to spell "Pennsylvania", why didn't they just copy it from the CBS graphic?

Can someone please buy The Weather Channel's Julie Martin an atlas? On Friday's Nightly News, Martin reported live from Cincinnati, Arkansas and told us about the New Year's Eve tornado that struck that town. Unfortunately, Martin announced that she was in Cincinnati, Ohio. As she said this, the caption at the bottom of the screen read "Cincinnati, Arkansas". Oh well, it's only a difference of 560 miles or so.

I think Richard Engel may have jet lag from all the travelling he's been doing. On Friday, he reported a story about added security measures being implemented in and around New York City. Engel told us that, "On the Hudson River...a barge and crane are...constructing a major anti-terrorism upgrade to New York's underwater subway line." Wrong. The New York City subway system operates only within the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. The subway does not go to New Jersey. The tunnels running beneath the Hudson are used by PATH trains, which are completely separate from the NYC subway. PATH trains are operated by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, while the NYC subway system is operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the New York City Transit Authority. During Engel's story, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly clearly identified the Hudson tunnels as "PATH tubes", and Engel's producers showed a clip of a PATH train. So why was Engel the only one who didn't know that the tunnels belonged to PATH? It seems that Engel is much more familiar with the goings-on in Basra and Kabul than he is with what's happening in New York.

Since Brian Williams took five days off in the past two weeks, I can't help but wonder if he and his producers intentionally misspelled Nightly News (as "Nitely News") when they submitted those five broadcasts to the Nielsen ratings service. That's what they do whenever they anticipate that broadcasts will have a lower-than-expected rating (such as when Brian doesn't anchor). When broadcasts are submitted as "Nitely News", Nielsen counts them in a separate category from Nightly News. That way, the lower-rated "Nitely News" shows won't detract from the higher-rated Nightly News shows and Brian and his producers can claim an artificially higher Nielsen rating for the week. Of course, this is completely dishonest. It's like giving a fake name to the police in the hope that they won't know about your prior arrests.

Of the 104 weekend days in 2010, NBC did not air a Nightly News broadcast on 18 of them (on the East Coast, and perhaps nationally) because apparently football, golf and horse racing are much more important than weekend news to the NBC execs. By "more important", of course, I mean more profitable. Ad rates are higher for sports than for news, so NBC made more profit by airing football, golf and horse racing instead of Nightly News. Well done, NBC. I guess we know exactly where their priorities are.

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