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.

No comments:

Post a Comment