Saturday, February 26, 2011

Rahm Calm Despite NBC Bomb

This is from the Feb. 23 Nightly News Daily Nightly blog titled "Protesters gain control of more Libyan cities": "Rahm Emmanuel wins Chicago mayoral race."

Actually, his name is Rahm Emanuel. But they were close. And for Nightly News, close is pretty darn good.

Where's Mary?

Nightly News's coverage of the situation in Libya has been woefully inadequate. How can they claim to be fully reporting the story when their coverage has not included a single story about Mary Thornberry? Did Lester Holt ever find his way to her apartment? Did she manage to get safely out of Tripoli? Did she bop Khaddafy on the head with her rolling pin? Is Brian Williams going to spend another three-and-a-half minutes interviewing her (like he did on Feb. 7)? After all, her story has captivated Americans (we know that's true because Lester said so). We haven't heard a thing about Mary in over two weeks. Please don't keep us in suspense, Nightly News producers. Inquiring minds want to know.

The Chutzpah Of Brian Williams

Speaking at the 2009 Nantucket Film Festival (as reported by the 6/22/09 website), Brian Williams told his audience, "Welcome to the Nantucket Film Festival--where Jews come to be honored. Nantucket is actually a Yiddish word meaning where the WASPS live."

Although it pains me greatly, I must disagree with Brian. According to information I found under the lid of a bottle of Nantucket Nectars Half & Half (half iced tea, half lemonade--a delicious and refreshing beverage if ever there was one), "Nantucket means 'faraway land' in the language of the original natives, the Wampanoag tribe." I hate to rain on Brian's antisemitic parade, but apparently Nantucket isn't a Yiddish word at all. Where does he get the nerve? What chutzpah!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Keith Miller Tells It Like It Is

On Monday night, BBC World News America did a story on the (over)saturation coverage of Prince William and Kate Middleton's upcoming wedding. As part of the story, the BBC correspondent interviewed Keith Miller of NBC News regarding the American media's perspective on the wedding. Here is what Miller said: "The appetite in America is insatiable for this story and we will literally cover as a network every single event regardless of how insignificant it may appear if it gives us some insight into Kate Middleton or Prince William. We'll do it because our audience wants to know about it."

Thank you, Keith Miller. Finally, someone at NBC News has confirmed what we already know is true. First, that NBC News reports on "insignificant" things. Second, that they are going to waste our time by reporting ad nauseam on every minuscule Will & Kate morsel, no matter how ridiculously inconsequential it is. Third, and most important, Miller confirmed that NBC News reports stories based not on their significance or news value, but rather based on how much the viewers want to see these stories. That means that NBC News is not a news organization--it's just a popularity poll. A news organization is supposed to inform viewers about national and world events, not simply hold a mirror up to pop culture. To an extent, the Royal Wedding is news and deserves some coverage. But the dozens and dozens of pointless Royal Wedding stories that NBC News will inevitably be reporting between now and April 29 (and beyond) will certainly be far in excess of what a serious news organization should be reporting. For those people who want to know every single detail about Will & Kate, there's the E! Channel or BBC-America or any one of the thousands of websites that specialize in Royal watching. But Nightly News shouldn't be wasting their viewers' time with this fluff. Even if Keith Miller thinks they should.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Brian Williams Is A Blue Collar NASCAR Guy

Even by Nightly News's appallingly low standards, Monday's broadcast was a huge waste of the viewers' time. The entire second half of the broadcast (eight minutes and fifty five seconds) was comprised of three "news stories" that did not contain a single shred of news among them. Anne Thompson wasted nearly four minutes telling us about the impending changeover from standard incandescent light bulbs to the new compact fluorescent bulbs. We got a two-and-a-half minute "Making A Difference" story on a woman who underwent a heart transplant. And Brian Williams himself narrated a story about Sunday's Daytona 500 race. These three stories could have been summed up in one sentence: You'll soon have to start using compact fluorescent light bulbs, organ donations are a good thing and Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500. That's it. The entire second half of Monday's Nightly News in five seconds. I could have saved the producers eight minutes and fifty seconds, which they could have used to report on actual news stories. Like what's going on in Libya or Wisconsin. Or the latest on Will & Kate.

It's not surprising that Brian spent more than two and a half minutes reporting on the Daytona 500 story. He often reports on NASCAR. On Friday, he narrated a 30-second tribute to Dale Earnhardt (which egotistically included a photo of Brian standing next to Earnhardt), followed by a three-and-a-half minute profile of Jeff Gordon. Last May 11, Brian told us all about the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It's no accident that Brian spends so much Nightly News time talking about auto racing. He does this intentionally to project a certain image. And for that purpose, NASCAR is a smart choice. Brian is desperate to be seen as a blue collar, working class-type regular guy. He thinks he's a character in a Springsteen song. He imagines himself as the guy that wears work boots, punches the clock and goes to the corner bar with the other factory workers. And publicly identifying himself with auto racing is a good way for Brian to adopt this persona. It's a great way to appeal directly to the red state, rural, small town demographic that Brian is so eager to pander to. NASCAR is like a code word. For people who don't follow racing, it doesn't have any meaningful significance. But for the millions and millions of racing fans throughout the U.S., mentioning NASCAR is like a secret handshake. It lets those people know that Brian thinks of himself as a salt-of-the-earth regular guy, just like them. He doesn't want to be perceived as a blue state, northeastern member of the liberal New Yawk media elite. And he certainly doesn't want to be seen as someone with an 8-figure salary. He wants to be thought of as Joe Sixpack, the guy standing next to you at a NASCAR race or waiting to play pool at the bar. Look at the things Brian claims to like: Dogs, New Orleans, Medal of Honor winners (and the military in general), football, Springsteen, American cars. Now I can't say for sure whether Brian really likes any of these things. But I can tell you this: All of Brian's "likes" have been painstakingly researched and selected to bolster his on-screen image and maximize his likeability factor with the viewers. Who doesn't like dogs? (Maybe a few militant cat owners.) Who doesn't like American cars? Or New Orleans? Or the troops? Or football? Pinko commie subversive agitators, that's who. But it's important for viewers not to confuse the character Brian Williams with the real Brian Williams. The Brian Williams we see every night on Nightly News is a role he plays on TV. It's like Larry David's character on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" or Matt LeBlanc's character on Showtime's "Episodes". The character may share qualities with the real person--there may be similarities--but the two should not be confused. Brian's on-air persona is to wrap himself in the American flag. And not only figuratively. When he's anchoring his broadcast, the screen behind Brian often displays a waving flag, as if he's trying to out-FOX the people at FOX News. Brian has carefully cultivated this hyper-patriotic image in order to have the broadest possible appeal to the viewers. Like a politician who wears a different hat at each appearance. In Cleveland, wear an Indians hat. In Cincinnati, wear a Reds hat. When it suits your purposes, wear a Dale Earnhardt hat. And like a politician, Brian is desperate for your vote. Viewers vote by watching a particular news broadcast. We can vote for Brian, Katie or Diane. Ironically, on any given night, 90% of Americans do not watch any of the three network newscasts, so Brian, Katie and Diane are essentially competing for scraps. Which makes every vote (viewer) that much more important. So by showing everyone how much he likes NASCAR or dogs or American cars, Brian is campaigning hard for our votes. (Although I don't see Katie or Diane doing much campaigning.) And apparently it's a successful strategy, since Nightly News is the top-rated network evening newscast (we know that's true because Brian tells us it is). So Brian owes a debt of gratitude to the NASCAR people. And to the NFL. And to dogs. And to Larry David.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gabby Giffords Loves NBC!

I have a great idea for Comcast, NBC's new owner. They should start a nightly 30-minute news broadcast on NBC that would cover all the important news events going on across the country and around the world. It could air right before (or after) "NBC Nightly News", which is mostly devoted to covering lifestyle, sports, entertainment, animals, weather and emotional tear-jerker stories that have no news value. This new program could be called "NBC Evening News" or "NBC World News" or something like that and it could be anchored by someone with a serious commitment to presenting an actual news broadcast. Perhaps Lester Holt, Andrea Mitchell, Pete Williams or Carl Quintanilla would be a good fit for the job. That would free Brian Williams to devote 100% of his Nightly News broadcast to reporting on Medal of Honor winners, Bruce Springsteen, NASCAR, Mary Thornberry or any other topic that is of interest to him. It would also allow him to spend as much time as he wants plugging other NBC shows or programs on MSNBC and CNBC. (On Wednesday, Brian scored a rare daily double by combining a tear-jerker story with a shameless plug when he told us that Gabby Giffords likes to watch "30 Rock" in her hospital room. Wow. Using Giffords's medical situation to plug "30 Rock" surely represents a new low in so-called broadcast journalism.) It's really a shame to force Brian to cover stories like the revolt in Egypt, the economy or the goings-on in Congress when it's obvious that he would much rather be reporting on Will & Kate or the Westminster Dog Show.

Speaking of which, on Tuesday, Nightly News spent two-and-a-half minutes reporting on the dog show. Immediately after that story, Brian read a promo telling us that we can watch the dog show on the USA Network (which is owned by NBC Universal). Meanwhile, in the business section of Thursday's New York Times, Stephen Burke, NBC Universal's new chief executive, was quoted as saying that USA and Bravo are, "...fantastic businesses and those businesses can do even better than they are doing right now if they get the right investment and the right cross promotion." It's obvious what that means. Comcast plans to use Nightly News to aggressively promote NBC Universal shows. So in the future, Nightly News is going to be spending even more time than usual plugging USA, Bravo and other NBC Universal networks.

On Wednesday, Brian once again introduced Richard Engel as NBC's "Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent", despite the fact that Engel is actually NBC's Chief Foreign Correspondent. (Andrea Mitchell is the network's Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent.) Meanwhile, in two stories this week about the assault on CBS's Lara Logan in Cairo, Brian correctly identified her as CBS's Chief Foreign Correspondent. So how come Brian knows who CBS's Chief Foreign Correspondent is, but he can't seem to remember that Engel holds that position at NBC?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Nightly News Is Now The Michelle Obama Show

During Sunday's Nightly News broadcast, viewers were treated to three teaser promos (totalling 24 seconds) for a story about Michelle Obama's advice on love and happiness for Valentine's Day (a breaking news story if ever there was one). When they finally showed this "news story" in the broadcast's final segment, it ran for all of 15 seconds. So the producers showed 24 seconds of promos for a 15 second story. This is what passes for journalism at Nightly News. It doesn't take Marshall McLuhan to understand what's going on here. Like NBC Entertainment, NBC News conducts focus groups to determine which people and subjects are of the most interest to their viewers. Based on the feedback from these focus groups (and from other sources such as a list of the top Google or Yahoo searches), the Nightly News producers then make a point of airing stories about those specific topics that the viewers have indicated they would most likely tune in to see. That's called pandering. Instead of airing stories based on newsworthiness, Nightly News airs stories based on how many viewers the producers think the stories can attract. That way, Nightly News gets higher ratings and can charge higher ad rates. Obviously, Michelle Obama tests very well in Nightly News focus groups. So in order to attract a larger audience, the producers make sure to air plenty of Michelle Obama stories. Even when there is no story to report, they slap together 15 seconds of stock photos (like they did on Sunday) and call it a "news story". Other "news subjects" who enjoy a high favorability rating (and thus have been featured repeatedly on Nightly News) are Kate Middleton, Chelsea Clinton, Susan Boyle, Mary Thornberry, George Clooney and Sarah Palin. (Palin may not be well-liked, but she attracts viewers. Sometimes people are just as eager to see stories about people they dislike as about people they like.) That's the reason Nightly News constantly shows clips from movies, TV shows and pop music performances. Viewers have indicated that they like to see entertainment on the news, so by showing more of these vacuous types of "news stories", Nightly News manages to attract a larger audience than CBS or ABC. And achieve higher ratings. Which is, of course, the goal at Nightly News. Anything for ratings. That's the motto of Brian Williams and his producers.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Brian Williams Exclusive!

How does Brian Williams define the word "exclusively"? On Tuesday's Nightly News, he bragged that Michelle Obama would be appearing "exclusively with Matt Lauer tomorrow morning on Today." But Mrs. Obama also appeared that morning on "Live! With Regis and Kelly". Mrs. Obama's appearance with Regis & Kelly certainly wasn't a secret or a hastily arranged last-minute pop-in. In fact, ABC announced on Monday that Mrs. Obama would be appearing on Wednesday's Regis & Kelly show. So clearly Brian and his producers knew about it. It's obvious what happened here. Brian intentionally lied to the viewers about the exclusivity of Mrs. Obama's Today Show appearance in a shameful attempt to boost that show's ratings. This isn't surprising. One of Brian's main responsibilities as Nightly News anchor is to promote other NBC shows, and one of the ways he does this is by lying to the viewers about the content of the shows he's plugging. He also lies quite frequently about ratings for NBC entertainment or sports programs. On the 2/13/10 Nightly News, Brian could barely contain himself when he announced that the previous night's Olympic Opening Ceremony had attracted 68 million viewers. Meanwhile, Nielsen put the rating at 32.6 million--less than half of what Brian claimed. On 3/1/10, Brian bragged that the previous day's USA-Canada gold medal hockey game was "one of the most-watched sporting events in television history...." That claim is unsubstantiated and, in fact, it is not true. (Funny thing--with all the bragging Brian did about NBC's Olympic ratings he never once mentioned that his network lost $223 million on the Games.) And of course, Brian frequently lies about his own show's ratings. Whenever Brian and his producers anticipate that a particular Nightly News broadcast will have lower-than-expected ratings, they submit it to the Nielsen Ratings Service intentionally misspelled as "Nitely News". Since Nielsen counts the lower-rated "Nitely News" in a separate category from the higher-rated Nightly News, the lower-rated shows don't bring down the ratings of the higher-rated shows. So Nightly News often has artificially inflated ratings. That's dishonest. It's like giving a false name to the police so they won't know you have prior arrests. So next time Brian announces that someone will be appearing "exclusively" on an NBC show, we should take that with a grain of salt. And then we should check our TV Guides to find out the truth.

Also on Tuesday's Nightly News, Brian read some of the negative reviews for the Spider-Man musical that had appeared in that day's editions of the L.A. Times, Newsday, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and the N.Y. Times. But here are some review excerpts that Brian neglected to read:

> From the L.A. Times: "The music is hit or miss, with three screechers for every rousing cri de coeur rock ballad." They also called the musical score "erratic" and said that much of the music is a "cacophonous brew".
> From the Washington Post: "The score, by Bono and the U2 guitarist the Edge, is an ineffectual bystander. It's loud and pulsing and devoid of personality."
> From the Chicago Tribune: "The score is a disappointment. There are two memorable songs, both in the second act...Elsewhere, we get what mostly feels like fragments, riffs and mood treatments from masterful musicians who no doubt were as confused as to the aesthetic world here as everyone else. Most disappointing of all is the failure of the score to articulate empowerment."
> From the N.Y. Times: "The songs by Bono and the Edge are rarely allowed to take full, attention-capturing form. Mostly they blur into a sustained electronic twang of varying volume, increasing and decreasing in intensity, like a persistent headache."

It's hardly surprising that Brian didn't read any review excerpts that criticized the musical score, since he would never say anything bad about his pals from U2. Brian practices the partisan politics of personal journalism: He protects his friends at all costs, whether they are personal friends (Bono, the Edge, Springsteen, Bon Jovi) or corporate friends (Glaxo, Chrysler, McDonald's, Bayer). He frequently uses his broadcast to rave about people he likes (and also refrains from saying bad things about them). Bono and the Edge are esteemed FOBs (Friends of Brian) and thus are immune to criticism on Nightly News. It's obvious that the Spider-Man musical score was at least partly responsible for the show's bad reviews. So Brian's refusal to include criticism of the score was just another example of Brian protecting his friends from negative press.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Brian Williams Thinks He's The President

From Brian Williams's Feb. 9 Daily Nightly blog: "I get a lot of emails--some about things I say on the air, some about things people think they heard me say on the air, some personal ('BW definitely colors his hair!' -- I don't, and never have, but every time I'm under the lights in our Washington Bureau, people think I color my hair...) but most professional...having to do with what we cover or what people want us to cover."

Let me make sure I understand this. On Wednesday morning, Michelle Obama appeared on "The Today Show" and one of the very important topics Matt Lauer asked her about is whether President Obama colors his hair. She said he doesn't, it's just that the lighting makes it appear that way. And that very same night, Brian Williams writes a blog post denying that he colors his hair and saying it's just that the lighting makes it appear that way. Wow. I think it's pretty obvious that Brian is obsessed with comparing himself to President Obama. Is that what he means when he calls himself a Presidential history buff? I've heard that Brian recently started smoking just so that he can quit like the President did.

Brian Williams--Master Grammarian

From Brian Williams's Feb. 8 Daily Nightly blog: "Perhaps because...shall we say...sensitivities are high right now after the Super Bowl—the snow, the ice, the missing seats—the good people of Dallas (at least a few of them) lit up my email this week. It seems we indicated that the stadium home of the Dallas Cowboys is in Dallas. Of course it isn't. It’s in Arlington, Texas...although as structures go, its closely identified with 'Dallas' as a brand name, just as owner Jerry Jones is closely identified with the 'Dallas Cowboys.' Officially: We regret the error. More than that: I understand the sensitivity. I am a native New Jerseyan. Our State is home to the New York Giants and the New York Jets. I've never quite figured out how that works."

The bold word in Brian's blog was supposed to be "it's". Someone should tell Brian that grammar counts. Nightly News should do an Education Nation story about all the grammatical errors on Nightly News and on Brian's blog. And what's with the Royal "we": "...we indicated...We regret the error"? Brian made the error. Why is he trying to blame others for his mistake?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Brian Williams For Chrysler

Not surprisingly, Nightly News continues to do its part to promote Chrysler. Monday's final "news story" was nothing more than a 3:15 commercial for the auto company. It included 80 seconds of clips from their Super Bowl ad, while the rest of the story consisted of Anne Thompson and others acting like Chrysler cheerleaders. It's not hard to figure out who was behind this story. Brian Williams has been using his broadcast to promote Chrysler for years. Many Nightly News viewers still remember the infamous 11/13/07 broadcast, which Brian anchored from inside a Chrysler plant in Detroit. That broadcast was a non-stop thirty-minute rah-rah commercial for Chrysler which ended with Brian and Chrysler exec Jim Press falling all over each other to see who can say the nicest things about Chrysler (Brian may have actually won that contest). From the way Brian relentlessly promotes Chrysler, you'd think he owns stock in the company. But that couldn't be the case, since Brian always fully discloses any conflicts of interest that exist between him and his sponsors. Yeah, right. And if you believe that, there's a bridge across the East River that I'd like to sell you. Obviously, this "news story" was a gift from NBC to their pals at Chrysler, but I'm just wondering: How much cash would Chrysler have had to shell out for a 3:15 commercial on Nightly News if they had actually paid for it?

Once again, the Nightly News producers have attempted to deceive the viewers by altering a photographic image for their own convenience. On Jan. 25, the producers flipped an image of Jeff Bridges from "True Grit" because they wanted Bridges to appear as if he was looking at a picture of Jesse Eisenberg (the flipped image was obvious because Bridges's eye patch had mysteriously moved from his right eye to his left eye). And on last Friday's broadcast, they did it again. As Brian introduced a story about the Super Bowl, there was a photo above his left shoulder of a Packers helmet facing a Steelers helmet. But there was one problem. The Steelers helmet clearly showed the team's logo on the left side. even a casual football fan knows that the Steelers logo appears only on the right side of their helmet. So that means that the Nightly News producers flipped the image or otherwise altered it by superimposing the logo on the left side. Is anyone at Nightly News paying attention? Did they think that no one would notice? How many other times have they done this? And why do they continually choose to flip images that are so easily detectable? That's not exactly a smart thing to do. If they had flipped the Packers helmet, nobody would have noticed because their logo appears on both sides of the helmet. But there's a larger issue here. Don't the Nightly News producers understand that flipping or altering an image is completely inappropriate for a news broadcast? They are required to show us images as they actually exist, not as the producers want them to appear. This is unethical behavior. What's next? An image of Pres. Obama signing a bill with his right hand?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nightly News Says There's Something About Mary

It is disgusting and appalling that Nightly News has wasted more than thirteen minutes of news time over six consecutive days--so far--telling viewers about the ongoing saga of Mary Thornberry, an American who was living in Cairo when the protests erupted. This isn't news, it's just a soap opera designed to attract viewers. On Saturday's broadcast, Lester Holt introduced that night's Thornberry installment by telling us that, "Today for the first time we see the frail 76-year-old Texan whose tough talk while living under siege captivated Americans back home." Is he serious? And I hope that members of the Peabody Award evaluation committee were watching when Holt asked Thornberry if she had taken her rolling pin with her when she left Cairo (a reference to Thornberry's vow to use her rolling pin to defend her apartment from looters.) I think I once saw Edward R. Murrow pose the same question to Eleanor Roosevelt. And on what basis did Holt find the nerve to proclaim that Thornberry's story had "captivated Americans back home"? According to what source? A few comments on the Nightly News/ web site? That's hardly an indicator of public opinion. Clearly, Holt was promoting Thornberry's story, rather than simply reporting it, in order to generate interest in her upcoming appearances on "Today" and on future editions of Nightly News. It's shameful to see such blatant self-promotion masquerading as news. Shameful, but hardly surprising. Nightly News does this all the time. They hype a story with no news value and then report on it day after day so that viewers will continue to tune in to the broadcast hoping to get more information about the story that didn't belong on the news in the first place. The Nightly News anchors and correspondents constantly plug stories from "Today" and "Dateline" (or CNBC and MSNBC specials) and promote NBC/Universal entertainment shows, theme parks, movies, DVDs and anything else that can generate ratings or income for their broadcast, their network or its parent company. Last August, Nightly News ran two consecutive "news stories" about 10-year-old Jackie Evancho who, not coincidentally, was appearing that month on NBC's "America's Got Talent". Ann Curry called her "America's newest singing sensation" and said, "Tonight that little girl behind that astonishing voice that has people shaking their heads in wonder all over the world." That's a commercial, not a news broadcast. And last Dec. 14, Kerry Sanders reported on the weather--from the Universal Orlando theme park where he plugged the new Harry Potter attraction! It's a sickening, grotesque cycle. Manufacture interest in a non-story and keep force-feeding it to the viewers. And it will never stop because ultimately, it's a successful strategy. Ratings mean everything to Brian Williams, Steve Capus (NBC News President) and the Nightly News producers, and their shameless self-promotion is a proven way to achieve these ratings.

Here's an interesting postscript to the situation: During Brian's overlong three-and-a-half minute rambling interview with Thornberry and her son on Monday's broadcast, we were shown the original email that her son had sent to the Nightly News producers. In the email, he said, "You could get a good story (via) a telephone interview...or a great story if you have a local reporter...rescue/interview her." (Parts of the sentences were not readable because they trailed off the screen.) Clearly, the Nightly News producers were only interested in Thornberry because they were promised a "good" or "great" story, not because they had any concern for her safety.

Meanwhile, there's something I'd like to ask the Nightly News producers. Saturday's broadcast was virtually identical to Sunday's. Both broadcasts were anchored by Lester Holt from Amman, Jordan. Both spent approximately twelve minutes on the Cairo protests and related stories. Both featured pieces on the Super Bowl, Mary Thornberry and Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday. Both included a smattering of domestic news items. As I said, virtually identical broadcasts. Yet Saturday's broadcast was heralded as a "special edition" of Nightly News, while Sunday's broadcast was not. So what accounts for the different descriptions? Did the producers have an epiphany? Did they suddenly realize that it was ethically inappropriate to arbitrarily declare that a Nightly News broadcast was a "special edition" simply for doing what it was supposed to do--report the news? Did they search their souls and seek guidance from the spectral legacies of Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor? Nah. I'm guessing that someone just pushed the wrong "audio intro" button at the beginning of Sunday's broadcast. They probably meant to call it a "special edition".

Friday, February 4, 2011

Nightly News Notes From Cairo

Anyone who's watched Nightly News knows that Brian Williams is obsessed with Medal of Honor winners. Every time a MOH winner coughs, Brian reports it as news. He serves on the board of directors for the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, an egregious conflict of interest for an anchor who reports on MOH winners and other military matters. It doesn't take a psychologist to understand where Brian's obsession comes from. MOH winners possess the combination of qualities that Brian sorely lacks--bravery, valor and humility. On Thursday, the New York Times printed an obituary for MOH winner Barney Hajiro, who died on Jan. 21. Here's what Sen. Daniel Inouye--a MOH recipient himself--said about Hajiro: "He didn't go around blowing his own horn. He would just say he was doing something he was supposed to do." Doing something he was supposed to do. Clearly, Brian doesn't understand that concept. For the three days this week that Brian was in Cairo (and the one day he was in Amman, Jordan), we were told that those broadcasts were "special editions"of Nightly News . Meanwhile, Katie Couric was also in Cairo this week, but no one from CBS ever referred to any of those broadcasts as a "special edition". Obviously, the CBS News producers understand that simply doing their job and covering important events is what a news broadcast is supposed to do and does not merit the term "special edition". What would Barney Hajiro think about Brian's egotistical need to call his broadcast a "special edition" simply for doing what it was supposed to be doing--covering the news? It's pretty obvious that Hajiro would think Brian was a bloated, narcissistic fool. Amen to that.

Not surprisingly, the Nightly News coverage from Cairo this week was a disaster. Brian and the NBC News correspondents seemed to spend as much time reporting on themselves as they spent reporting on the events in Cairo. And the broadcasts contained the usual flubs, gaffes and grammatical/spelling/math errors. Here's what you missed if you didn't watch Nightly News this week:

Tuesday--During Richard Engel's interview with Amal Sharaf, one of the protest leaders, the producers ran a printed transcript of her words at the bottom of the screen. When she said, "Mubarak has to depart," the last word was transcribed as "deport". Another caption read," We ourselves dont (sic) believe this." When she said, "We didn't think it will go that far," the word "will" was transcribed as "would". Unfortunately, at Nightly News, accuracy is the first casualty of protest.
Wednesday--Richard Engel, Lester Holt and Ron Allen spent as much time talking about themeslves and their encounters with pro-Mubarak crowds as they spent talking about the actual protests. Someone needs to tell the Nightly News correspondents that news is supposed to be about the events taking place, not about THEM.
> In a story about Yemen, a Nightly News caption spelled the capital city as "Sanaa", rather than the correct spelling of "Sana'a".
> Can someone please buy Brian an abacus? During a story about a massive blizzard across the U.S., Brian told us that "Thirty states in all" were affected. But the accompanying map showed 31 states highlighted in blue.
> Brian showed us repeat footage of his Tuesday walk through Cairo with Richard Engel from the previous day's broadcast. Yeah, we know--we already saw it. We don't need to see it again.
Thursday--Brian began the broadcast by telling us that, "Egypt's President Mubarak said in an interview today if he resigns now, there would be chaos." But Brian didn't tell us that the interview was conducted by Christiane Amanpour of ABC. That's not surprising--Brian's official policy is to never mention the other networks by name because he's terrified that this might cause viewers to change the channel. Fortunately, Richard Engel had the maturity and professionalism to disclose that the interview was with ABC. I would have given anything to have been in the room when Brian first learned that Amanpour had scored an interview with Mubarak. I don't think I've ever actually seen a person turn green and have smoke shoot out their ears.
> Brian spent more than three minutes showing footage of himself and Richard Engel from the previous night's MSNBC coverage. This is the second consecutive broadcast in which Brian has shown footage of himself from the previous night. Usually, when a character in a soap opera or drama has a flashback, the screen dissolves into a series of wavy lines. I think Nightly News should use that technique whenever Brian wants to show us old footage of himself. Here's an idea: instead of showing footage from the previous day, why not try showing new footage? It's just a thought.
> In another story, Lester Holt was identified as "Phillip Derrick" in a Nightly News caption. Someone should give the producers a photo book so they know who's who at Nightly News.
> Brian seems to have a desperate need to convince the viewers that the other correspondents are his friends. On this broadcast, he referred to both Martin Fletcher and Richard Engel as "friend" (Fletcher was given the esteemed title of "old friend"). It's pretty well known that most of the people at NBC News (both on camera and behind the camera) dislike Brian because of his massive ego and relentless self-promotion.
Friday--For the third consecutive night, Nightly News reported on Mary Thornberry, an American who is trapped in her Cairo apartment by the protests going on outside. Over three nights, they spent nearly seven minutes reporting on Thornberry. The reason is clear, as Brian told us on Thursday: "We received a ton of mail about (the Thornberry story)...." And that's what really matters at Nightly News. Pandering to the viewers. They don't report stories based on newsworthiness, they report stories based on popularity. A story that attracts viewers is the most important type of story at Nightly News because viewers equal ratings. And ratings equal ad dollars. Thursday's story alone was a whopping 3:20 and was comprised mostly of Lester Holt's unsuccessful attempt to get to Thornberry's apartment. Holt told us that, "Back in Washington today, a State Department spokesman responded to a question about her situation." Gee, I wonder who asked the question. Do you suppose it could have possibly been someone from NBC News? On Friday, Brian earnestly asked, "Lester, what do we know about Mary's whereabouts and her safety tonight?" That sounded like a line Chevy Chase might have spoken on SNL's Weekend Update. I'd bet my Enron stock that it will only be a matter of time before we see Thornberry on "The Today Show." Thornberry is getting the type of coverage usually only lavished on Nightly News BFFs like Susan Boyle, Chelsea Clinton and Kate Middleton. Not that the story has any news value, but since the viewers like it, the producers are happy to oblige. I wonder how much actual news could have been reported in those seven minutes.
> Not surprisingly, Nightly News did a story about the Super Bowl. Although this year's Super Bowl will be on FOX, this story is obviously a promo for next year's Super Bowl, which will be on NBC. If NBC wasn't airing the 2012 Super Bowl, Nightly News never would have run this story since they don't show stories that might inadvertently promote a show on another network.
>During the Super Bowl story, Decima Cooper (a spokesperson for the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau) was identified in a Nightly News graphic as "Decmia" Cooper. Oh well, close enough.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Brian Williams Is In De Nile

Once again, we were informed that Monday's broadcast was a "special edition" of Nightly News. Why? Because they covered the riots in Egypt? Because Brian Williams was in Cairo? That's ridiculous. Nightly News is supposed to be covering the events in Egypt. That's their job. They don't get to label a broadcast as a "special edition" just because they're doing their job. My garbageman comes by every Thursday to pick up my garbage. He never tells me that this is a "special garbage collection". He's doing what he's supposed to be doing when he's supposed to be doing it. There's nothing special about that. Now, if he came by on a Tuesday, that would be considered a "special edition" of garbage pick-up. If Monday's Nightly News had been on at a different time than usual, or if it had been on for longer than usual, then it could be considered a "special edition". But a broadcast that comes on at 6:30 PM eastern and lasts half an hour is not a "special edition" of Nightly News. That's just weaselspeak from the NBC marketing sleazebags who want us to think that Nightly News is somehow "new & improved". It isn't. It's the same old, same old.

And why was Brian in Cairo, anyway? He stood there and read the teleprompter and introduced the correspondents. He needed to go to Cairo to do that? I'm no news expert, but it seems as if he could have done that just as well from New York.

I would also like to know why the Nightly News producers are intentionally trying to deceive us. On Monday's broadcast, Erin Burnett told us that, "In the outdoor market today, the effects of the chaos are hitting home. Food supplies are dwindling. People waited more than five hours for bread." As she says this, we see a crowd of people trying to buy bread at a bread shop. Although Burnett used the word "today" (meaning Monday), the bread shop footage had already been shown on Sunday. The producers tried to fool us into believing that this was the scene Burnett was describing. It wasn't. They tried to pass this off as new footage when it was actually old footage. In fact, much of Monday's footage had already been shown over the past few days. With so many NBC News people on the ground in Cairo, why are the Nightly News producers recycling old news clips? That doesn't seem very "special edition-like". If there's anything worse than day-old bread, it's day-old news footage.

Once again, Nightly News has managed to spell the same word three different ways. On Sunday, as Kate Snow introduced a story about media censorship in Egypt, the word "Aljazeera" was on the screen to her left. A minute later, Abderrahim Foukara was identified by a Nightly News graphic as the "Al-Jazeera" Washington Bureau Chief. On Monday's broadcast, Foukara was identified as the "Al Jazeera" Washington Bureau Chief. Three different spellings. But it's not as if this is unusual for Nightly News. On Jan. 10, Nightly News spelled Glenn Beck's name two different ways on the same screen at the same time. Last Dec. 27, one Nightly News story told us that airline flights had been "cancelled", while another story told us that airline flights had been "canceled". On June 11, one "Meet the Press" promo identified David Axelrod as a presidential "advisor", and eight minutes later another MTP promo identified Axelrod as a presidential "adviser". And who can forget Jan. 5 & 6, 2010, when Nightly News graphics alternately spelled the Yemeni capital as Sana'a, Sanaa and Saana. Were those also "special editions" of Nightly News?