Monday, January 10, 2011

A Very Special Edition Of Nightly News

Where did Brian Williams and his producers get the nerve to arbitrarily designate Monday's Nightly News broadcast as a "special edition of Nightly News"? What made this broadcast a special edition? Was it on at a different time than usual? No. Was it on for longer than usual? No. Did it have fewer commercials than usual? Hell no. So why did Brian and his producers call this broadcast a special edition? Because it covered the shooting in Tucson? It's the job of Brian and his producers to cover the shooting in Tucson, just as it's their job to cover all the important news stories all the time. Nightly News does not deserve special mention for doing what it's supposed to be doing every night. This is eerily reminiscent of the classic Chris Rock routine where he criticizes people who think they deserve credit for doing what they're supposed to be doing anyway. He specifically blasts men who brag about things like taking care of their kids, treating their wives with respect or staying off drugs. Rock's punch line is (I'm paraphrasing), "You're supposed to take care of your kids. You're supposed to treat your wife with respect. You're supposed to stay off drugs. You don't get special credit for doing those things." If Chris Rock was watching Nightly News on Monday, I'm sure he would have told Brian, "You're supposed to cover the Tucson shooting. You don't get to call your broadcast a special edition just for covering the news you're supposed to cover."

It's hard to believe that NBC even cares about what happened in Tucson. On Saturday, the day of the shooting, NBC did not even air a Nightly News broadcast because they would never dream of interrupting their football coverage. One of the major news stories of the year was unfolding, and NBC decided that football was more important than news (by "more important", of course, I mean "more profitable"). If they could, NBC would show football in place of Nightly News every day because football earns more money.

And why was Brian Williams even in Tucson on Monday? Was there any actual reason for him to be there? There wasn't a single thing he did or said that couldn't have been done exactly the same from the Nightly News studio in New York. Here's some advice for the Nightly News producers: Let the reporters do the reporting and let the news readers read the news. Network news reporters (even some at Nightly News) are usually good at what they do. Many of them have been doing their job for a long time. And if they're working on one of the three evening network news broadcasts, then it means they are probably among the best in their profession. So let them do what they do best--dig for facts and report the story. On the other hand, Brian's job is to read the words as they scroll across the teleprompter. He can do that just as easily in New York as in Tucson. Easier, in fact, because there's fewer things that can go wrong in the Nightly News home studio. There's really no reason for Brian to be anywhere else, ever. There's no reason for him to be in Washington or in Afghanistan or outside 30 Rock standing in front of a snow bank or at the Olympics or in California (except that it allows him to get an early start on his family vacation). With all of today's advanced electronic media technology, Brian can interview anyone from the Nightly News studio in New York just as easily as he can interview them in person. If he's anywhere other than New York, it's just a marketing/public relations stunt. There's no real need for him to be there.

On Monday's broadcast, Brian told us that the hideous photo of a grinning Jared Loughner was his mug shot. No it wasn't. That photo was from the Pima County Sheriff's Office Forensic Unit. It is separate from his mug shot, which had not yet been released at the time of the broadcast. Rachel Maddow knew this. Why didn't Brian know it?

Also on Monday, Andrea Mitchell's story about incendiary rhetoric included some comments made by Glenn Beck on his radio and television shows. At one point, the Nightly News transcripts from one of Beck's 2005 radio shows appeared on the screen below the words "Glen Beck", while at the same time, a credit in the upper left hand corner attributed the quotes to "The Glenn Beck Program". So Nightly News managed to spell Beck's first name two different ways at the same time. Bravo! Also, credits for Beck's TV show on the Fox News Channel ("Glenn Beck") and his 2005 radio show on Clear Channel ("The Glenn Beck Program") came with quotes around the shows' titles. But an on-screen credit for an excerpt from MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown" had no quotes around it. Why? The answer is obvious: Because no one at Nightly News cares the slightest bit about consistency, accuracy or getting things right.

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