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.

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