Thursday, March 31, 2011

Can Anyone Help Me With A Blogspot Problem?

I am having a technical problem with my blog, and I cannot find anyone at Blogspot to contact for help. All of a sudden, I've lost the ability to use the "enter" key to insert a line space between paragraphs. I've never had this problem before. When I press "enter", a line space appears on my posting page, but after I publish the blog, there's no line space where I had inserted one. For example, I inserted a line space before this sentence, but it doesn't show up on the blog. Can anyone help me with this? Please leave help comments in the "comments" section. And why is there no one at Blogspot to offer help?

Brian Williams' Exclusive Interview With President Obama

Why didn't Brian Williams claim that his Tuesday Nightly News interview with Pres. Obama was "exclusive"? We all know that Brian likes to say that NBC interviews are "exclusive" even when they aren't. Recently, Brian claimed that an NBC interview with Michelle Obama was "exclusive", and Lester Holt made the same claim about a Charlie Sheen interview (although they each appeared on another network the same day as their NBC interviews). So even though Pres. Obama also gave interviews to ABC and CBS on Tuesday, I'm shocked that Brian didn't announce that his Obama interview was "exclusive". I'm also shocked that he didn't tell us that his interview was better than all the others. That's just the kind of humility the viewers have come to expect from Brian. And why didn't Brian ask the President about the egregious corporate income tax loopholes that allow multibillion-dollar companies like G.E. to get away with paying no income tax? I guess it must have slipped Brian's mind.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stars & Stripes At Nightly News

As part of his intro to Friday's final Nightly News story, Lester Holt said, "But there is one thing the people of Japan have not lost--hope." I don't understand. Two years ago, NBC aired some unintentionally hilarious promo spots for Nightly News that featured Brian Williams (in earnest voice-over) saying, "We live in extraordinary times. Our nation's in crisis. And yet there's that uniquely American feeling of hope." In this context, "uniquely" means occurring only in one place, and only to one set of people. So if hope is uniquely American, then no other country--not even Japan--can have it. If Brian said it, it must be true. Too bad he didn't tell Lester.

Saturday's broadcast featured a 2:40 "Making A Difference" story about a photographer who takes pictures of shelter animals in order to entice people to adopt them. In what alternate universe is this news? I thought it was the responsibility of a news organization to report the important events of the day, not to facilitate animal adoptions. This story was indistinguishable from those ASPCA commercials that show sad pets who seem to be saying, "Please, please give me a home." I guess the Nightly News producers don't care about the millions of viewers who are saying, "Please, please give us some real news." Here's a prediction: Nightly News will do a follow-up story in which Brian Williams looks earnestly into the camera and, in his most pandering voice, says, "Because Nightly News viewers are so incredibly generous, we've received thousands of emails from you asking where to donate money or how you can adopt one of these pets. We've put that information on our website. You really are incredibly, astonishingly generous. Much more generous than Diane's or Katie's viewers. Really." Trust me. It'll happen.

Over the past three nights, Nightly News has spent more than five minutes (so far) reporting the story of a Libyan woman who says she was abducted and raped by Khaddafy's troops. Fair enough, it's a legitimate story. But Nightly News has spent more time reporting this one story than they spent all last year reporting on rapes in the U.S. military. In 2009, there were more than 3,000 reported sexual assaults in the U.S. military (the actual number is believed to be much higher). Some reports have indicated that 30% of all women that have ever served in the U.S. military have been raped. So why is Nightly News devoting so little time to this important story? The answer is obvious. Brian Williams has made it the mission of his broadcast to glorify, protect and defend the U.S. military. Overwhelmingly, the Nightly News stories about the military are not just positive, they're fawningly flattering. No bad news about the military. Brian, Lester and other Nightly News on-air personalities (like the infamous Roger O'Neil) go out of their way to gush about the military in terms usually reserved for talking about one's grandchildren. Every time a Medal of Honor winner coughs, Brian reports it as news. They use subjective, inappropriate terms like "wounded warriors", "fallen heroes" and "America's bravest" on a news broadcast that is supposed to be reporting objectively on the military. We've seen three such stories in the past five days. Last Thursday, it was a "Making A Difference" story about the U.S. Navy's relief efforts in northern Japan. On Sunday, it was a story about soldiers who are commissioned to paint battlefield scenes and scenes of army life. And on Monday, it was a story about an organization that provides hockey equipment to children who have a parent serving in the military. The story on battlefield art was even more ridiculous when you consider that Sunday's broadcast started 10 minutes late on the east coast (because golf ran long) so there was a third less time to report the day's news. But no one would risk Brian's ire by daring to cut the battlefield art story. Goodness, no. These type of stories about our great military men and women show up on Nightly News all the time. It's ludicrous that Nightly News has largely become The Military Channel or a video version of Stars & Stripes. And it's shameful that Brian, Lester and their producers are using Nightly News as a propaganda machine for the U.S. military. I will never forget the scene from "Full Metal Jacket" that takes place at an editorial meeting for Sea Tiger, the Marine newspaper. The lieutenant is telling his reporters and photographers which specific words and images to use in order to shine the most flattering light on the military ("In the future, in place of 'search and destroy', substitute the phrase 'sweep and clear'. Got it?"). I would imagine that's exactly what happens at every Nightly News editorial meeting.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Nightly News Protects G.E.

It's well known that the Nightly News producers steal (excuse me, borrow) many of their stories from The New York Times. Well, here's a Times story we're not likely to see on Nightly News. On the front page of Friday's Times--above the fold--was a story about the shady and duplicitous tax practices used by General Electric, the former majority owner and current minority owner of NBC. Despite worldwide profits of $14.2 billion ($5.1 billion of that from the U.S.), G.E. is paying no corporate income tax for 2010. According to the article by David Kocieniewski, "[G.E.'s] extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.’s giant tax department, led by a bow-tied former Treasury official named John Samuels, is often referred to as the world’s best tax law firm. Indeed, the company’s slogan 'Imagination at Work' fits this department well. The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress."

The entire article can be read at: Meanwhile, here are some of the highlights:

> "Over the last decade, G.E. has spent tens of millions of dollars to push for changes in tax law, from more generous depreciation schedules on jet engines to 'green energy' credits for its wind turbines. But the most lucrative of these measures allows G.E. to operate a vast leasing and lending business abroad with profits that face little foreign taxes and no American taxes as long as the money remains overseas."
> "The assortment of tax breaks G.E. has won in Washington has provided a significant short-term gain for the company’s executives and shareholders. While the financial crisis led G.E. to post a loss in the United States in 2009, regulatory filings show that in the last five years, G.E. has accumulated $26 billion in American profits, and received a net tax benefit from the I.R.S. of $4.1 billion."
> "Since 2002, the company has eliminated a fifth of its work force in the United States while increasing overseas employment. In that time, G.E.’s accumulated offshore profits have risen to $92 billion from $15 billion."
> "The [tax] shelters are so crucial to G.E.’s bottom line that when Congress threatened to let the most lucrative one expire in 2008, the company came out in full force. G.E. officials worked with dozens of financial companies to send letters to Congress and hired a bevy of outside lobbyists. The head of its tax team, Mr. Samuels, met with Representative Charles B. Rangel, then chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which would decide the fate of the tax break. As he sat with the committee’s staff members outside Mr. Rangel’s office, Mr. Samuels dropped to his knee and pretended to beg for the provision to be extended — a flourish made in jest, he said through a spokeswoman. That day, Mr. Rangel reversed his opposition to the tax break, according to other Democrats on the committee. The following month, Mr. Rangel and Mr. Immelt stood together at St. Nicholas Park in Harlem as G.E. announced that its foundation had awarded $30 million to New York City schools, including $11 million to benefit various schools in Mr. Rangel’s district. Joel I. Klein, then the schools chancellor, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who presided, said it was the largest gift ever to the city’s schools. G.E. officials say the donation was granted solely on the merit of the project. 'The foundation goes to great lengths to ensure grant decisions are not influenced by company government relations or lobbying priorities,' Ms. Eisele [a G.E. spokesperson] said. Mr. Rangel, who was censured by Congress last year for soliciting donations from corporations and executives with business before his committee, said this month that the donation was unrelated to his official actions."

A huge donation to schools in Rep. Rangel's district after he reversed his position and granted tax breaks beneficial to G.E. might be seen by some as quid pro quo. Some might even call it an after-the-fact bribe. Apparently, the Nightly News producers don't call it anything, since they won't be reporting this story.

A little over two years ago (March 4, 2009), Brian Williams shamelessly took two minutes on his broadcast to try to prop up G.E.'s falling stock price. He (along with CNBC's David Faber) desperately tried to reassure the public that G.E. is a rock-solid company with more than enough capital to weather the financial crisis. And on Jan. 21, Brian was more than happy to report that Pres. Obama had picked G.E. CEO Jeff Immelt to lead his Economic Advisory Council. Brian loves to report good news about G.E. But when the news is not flattering, Brian and his producers ignore it. If the Times article had been about a mega-company other than G.E., Lisa Myers would have been all over the story. She would have done a five-minute in-depth investigation about the company's evil accounting practices. Obviously, we're not going to see that story.

In case anyone thinks that the G.E. story was not reported because of all the important breaking news happening in Libya and Japan, I would remind them that this week, Nightly News wasted five minutes alone on two "Making A Difference" stories without a shred of news value--one about a woman who helps obese people lose weight and another about a doctor who is also a nun. Clearly, it was not time constraints that prevented Nightly News from reporting the G.E. story. It was their policy of protecting their former parent company from negative publicity.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Brian Williams--Medal Of Dishonor Winner

Not surprisingly, Brian Williams has been all atwitter this week over the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation's Board of Directors meeting, a board on which Brian serves. He blogged about it like a thirteen-year-old girl who's going to a Justin Bieber concert. He also used part of his Tuesday broadcast to report that some Medal of Honor recipients had rung the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange, because that's really important breaking news (how many times can someone use the word "heroes" in one sentence?).

Let me make sure I understand this. Brian Williams serves on the Board of Directors for the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. He also reports regularly--far more than any other news anchor--on the MOH Foundation and the MOH recipients. In other words, he uses his anchor's chair to promote the organization with the specific goal of raising awareness and, ultimately, increasing donations to the foundation (according to the MOH Foundation website, "The Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation depends on public donations to continue its important work."). If Brian served on the Board of Directors for McDonald's, I guess he'd be reporting regularly on Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, and those delicious fries. Isn't anyone from Comcast, NBC, the FCC or the media watchdog groups alarmed by Brian's blatant conflict of interest and gross abuse of his anchor's position?

Ted Koppel: Back In The Game!

WOW! Ted Koppel anchored BBC World News America on Tuesday. Seeing Ted back in the anchor's chair made me nostalgic for the good ol' days when anchors were journalists, not talking-head newsreaders who are more concerned with their hair, their neckties and their ratings than with telling viewers what's going on in the world.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Disaster Porn

On his HBO show last Friday, Bill Maher was talking about the horribly parasitic way in which the network news organizations cover catastrophes like the one in Japan. Maher labeled this coverage "disaster porn" because the goal of the news organizations is not to provide information, but rather to voyeuristically exploit the situation by showing as much miserable suffering as possible, followed by a few scenes of tearful reunions. And what single example did Maher use to support his thesis? He cited "Ann Curry holding a broken doll." Bam! He nailed it. What does it tell us that the only illustration of "disaster porn" Maher gave was from NBC? Obviously, Maher is familiar with Ann Curry and Nightly News. Actually, I'm surprised that Curry even went to Japan in the first place. She usually only leaves the country when she's following George Clooney somewhere.

In the March 13 New York Times Magazine, executive editor Bill Keller wrote a column about the aggregation of news in which he said, among other things, "Some once-serious news outlets give pride of place not to stories they think important but to stories that are 'trending' on Twitter--the 'American Idol'-ization of news." Decorum and propriety prevented Keller from specifically mentioning Nightly News, but clearly it was one of the organizations he was describing. It's obvious that the Nightly News producers spend much of their day scouring the "trending" lists on Twitter, Yahoo, Google and other sites as fodder for that evening's broadcast. How else to describe a news organization that ran stories on the "supermoon" for three consecutive nights--including Saturday's 1:45 story that managed to include gratuitous clips from three different films: "The Wolfman", "E.T." and "Breakfast at Tiffany's"?

What's gotten into Lester Holt recently? At the end of Saturday's broadcast, he bragged that, "We featured live reports from four continents tonight--just another day in the office for all of us worldwide at NBC News." So? Nightly News is supposed to be covering the news--wherever it occurs. That's their job. Why is Lester trying to take credit for doing what he's supposed to be doing? And on Sunday, near the end of the broadcast, we were shown a copy of the current issue of "Newsweek" with the cover story about all the horrible things happening around the world (tsunamis, earthquakes, nuclear meltdowns, revolutions) followed by the question, "What the (expletive) is next?" Lester's response: "We wish we could tell you, but we can tell you this--whatever it may be we'll be covering it on multiple fronts as we did again tonight." With all his bragging and boasting, Lester is beginning to sound a lot like...Brian Williams.

Speaking of Brian, can someone please buy him a thesaurus? After the first commercial break of Monday's broadcast he said, "Returning to our non-stop coverage of this ongoing disaster in Japan...." But the coverage of Japan didn't begin until minute 16. Does Brian understand what "non-stop" means? It means without stopping. If the Nightly News coverage of Japan was non-stop, it wouldn't have begun in the middle of the broadcast.

Where in the world is Richard Engel? As Brian introduced Engel's report from Tobruk, Libya on Monday, the graphic below Engel read "Tripoli". Fortunately, someone in the control room must have woken up, because at the end of the report, the graphic had been corrected to read "Tobruk". By the way, how long will it be before the Nightly News producers start augmenting their Libya coverage with clips from the 1967 movie "Tobruk" and the soon-to-be-released Keanu Reeves movie "Tripoli"?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--March 14-18

Let me make sure I understand this. On Thursday, when Nightly News devoted only three minutes to stories other than the disaster in Japan, Brian Williams took 35 seconds to tell us that the Pentagon has broadened the standards for awarding the Purple Heart to include such injuries as hangnails, paper cuts, tennis elbow and restless leg syndrome. Is he kidding us? This is only news in the alternate universe inhabited by Brian and other like-minded military wannabes who have a pathological obsession with anything related to the U.S. armed forces. But the other 99.99% of Nightly News viewers don't care the slightest bit about this story. Why is Brian allowed to report about things with no news value just because they interest him? How much time does he waste every year on stories about Medal of Honor winners, Bruce Springsteen or NASCAR? These aren't news stories. They're just stories that fall under the category of "stuff Brian likes". Isn't there anyone at Nightly News with enough guts to stand up to Brian and tell him that he can't do these stories? Isn't there anyone who can tell him that his job is to report stories for his viewers' benefit, not simply to satisfy his own massive ego? Obviously, the answer is "no".

Also on Thursday, Brian reported a breaking news story about the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York. Here's how he began the story: "This is the day every year those of us lucky enough to have Irish blood allow everyone else to make the same claim." Lucky enough? Apparently, Brian believes that people of Irish descent are superior to everyone else. Is it really appropriate for a network news anchor to insult most of his viewers by saying that they are second-class citizens because they don't share his ancestry?

At the three-minute mark of Thursday's broadcast, we saw a clip of a news conference featuring the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman, who was identified in a Nightly News graphic as "Gregory Jaczko". At the thirteen-minute mark of the broadcast, we saw another clip of Jaczko, but this time he was identified as "Gregory B. Jaczko". Did he suddenly acquire a middle initial in the ten minute gap between those two clips? Why is one person identified two different ways on the same broadcast? Obviously, it's because the Nightly News producers don't care the tiniest bit about accuracy, continuity or inter-office communication. The producer of the first report (by Robert Bazell) was not the least bit interested in coordinating with the producer of the second report (by Tom Costello). They just don't care.

From Friday through Thursday, every Nightly News broadcast was announced as a "special edition" of Nightly News. Why? Because they covered the disaster in Japan? That's what Nightly News is supposed to do. They're supposed to cover the news. They don't deserve special mention just for doing their regular job. It's only a "special edition" if the broadcast is on at a different time than usual, or if it's on for longer than usual. A thirty-minute broadcast that begins at 6:30 PM eastern time is not a "special edition". That's just a way for the weasels in the NBC News public relations and marketing departments to hype the broadcast. It's not a news designation. Calling something "special" is a proven way to add viewers or buyers. If a supermarket hangs a sign marked "special" next to an item, they will sell more of the item, even if they don't reduce the price.

I laughed so hard that grape soda shot out of my nose Friday night when I heard Brian tell Ann Curry that she's done "such extraordinary work" in Japan. She filed exactly the same reports that we saw on CBS, ABC, CNN, Fox, BBC and every other news organization covering the story. There was absolutely nothing extraordinary about her work. In fact, they were the same stories she did after Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti and every other disaster she's ever covered. The reports are the same; only the names change. On Tuesday, Curry said, "Through these stories that have come out of this tragedy in Japan, Americans are learning a lot about the Japanese people and their character." Fourteen months ago, she said the same thing about the Haitian people and their character. She has a bunch of stock stories she carries around with her--she just plugs in different names as needed. That's hardly extraordinary. In fact, that's quite ordinary. Curry isn't a news reporter, she's a celebrity gossip reporter. If she was on ABC, she'd be on "The View" or co-hosting with Regis. When there are no celebs to report on, she does sentimental sob stories that are intended to appeal to the viewers' emotions, rather than to provide information. Does Brian really think Curry is doing a better job than her counterparts at the other networks? And does he have even a shred of credibility as an objective evaluator of news coverage? Brian's a cheerleader. Of course he thinks NBC does a better job. But others may disagree. For example, take Brian Stelter, a media writer for The New York Times. Last July 12, Stelter wrote an article (titled "Oil Spill Makes Celebrities out of Reporters") about how some television and radio reporters covering the Gulf oil spill have seen their profiles rise as they continue to cover that story. Stelter singled out reporters from CNN, ABC, Bloomberg, CBS and Fox as doing "memorable" and "stand-out" work. But the only mention NBC received in the article was for their hiring of Animal Planet celebrity Jeff Corwin "to beef up its environmental coverage of the oil spill." In other words, according to Mr. Stelter, no NBC correspondent distinguished himself or herself while covering the Gulf oil spill. But almost every night, Brian Williams raved about the great job Anne Thompson was doing. So when it comes to evaluating NBC's on-air talent, who should we believe--Brian Williams or The New York Times? I'll let the viewers decide for themselves.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What About Mary?

Brian Williams and Lester Holt, I beg you--please, please, please tell me: Did Mary Thornberry make it safely out of Sendai after the tsunami? Did she take her rolling pin with her? Don't keep me in suspense. I have to know.

For those who may not remember: Last month, Nightly News spent an astonishing total of 14 minutes reporting on Mary Thornberry, an American who was living in Cairo during the recent protests and regime change. They updated us almost nightly on Mary's status instead of spending that time reporting on the more far-reaching and important events unfolding in Cairo and throughout Egypt. And once Mary got back to the U.S., Brian spent an additional three-and-a-half excruciating minutes interviewing her, as if her story had some relevance for anyone outside her circle of family and friends. Well, now they're at it again. On Monday's broadcast, Ann Curry spent four minutes looking for the next Mary Thornberry. She introduced us to some Japanese people searching for family members and then focused on a California woman who was unable to locate her sister near the quake site. And can you believe it--Curry found the missing sister! Hallelujah! It's only too bad that Curry found her so quickly. Otherwise, they could have dragged it out for days or weeks and devoted 10, 20 or 30 minutes of valuable news time to finding one person. Curry's story was even a bigger waste of time when you consider that Nightly News didn't even air on Sunday (because golf was more important), so they had two days worth of news they should have been reporting instead of chasing down one missing person. Call me strange, but when I tune into the news, I expect to see news. If I want to see stories about people searching for missing relatives, I'll watch reruns of "Without A Trace". But I'm sure the Nightly News producers don't care. Undoubtedly, they're already hot on the trail of their next Mary Thornberry. Because if there's one thing Brian and his producers understand, it's that stories with a strong emotional component earn higher ratings than boring old straight news stories. It's a certainty that over the next few days and weeks, Nightly News viewers will be seeing a lot of tearful reunions. I can already hear Peaches & Herb singing the soundtrack to these stories: "Reunited, and it feels so good...."

NBC: Golf Is More Important Than Japan

Let me make sure I understand this. Japan is suffering through one of the worst natural disasters in recent memory, and NBC didn't even bother to air a Sunday edition of Nightly News on the east coast (and perhaps even nationally). It's clear that the ad revenue NBC earned from golf was much more important than informing people about the ongoing tragedy unfolding in Japan. The NBC executives are a bunch of money-grubbing scumbags. They sicken me. I hope they are haunted by the spirits of the Japanese people who lost their lives.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Brian Williams For Subway

Is anyone surprised that Brian Williams mentioned "30 Rock" before he mentioned David Broder in his March 9 Daily Nightly blog post? That's a perfect illustration of where his priorities lie. Promote, promote, promote. And when you're done, promote some more. After all, it's been more than a week since Nightly News showed a "30 Rock" clip as part of a news story (it was during the March 1 story about the White House study on women in America). Promote, promote, promote. Just like on Tuesday's broadcast, when Brian read a 30-second "news story" about how Subway now has more outlets worldwide than McDonald's. This is news? It's a 30-second commercial for one of NBC's biggest advertisers. The Subway logo was on screen for half a minute! What's that worth? $25,000? $50,000? Who knows. Maybe more, since it was integrated into the broadcast as a product placement. Perhaps Brian is replacing Jared as the official Subway spokesperson. But I especially love how Brian made sure to mention that McDonald's still makes more money than Subway. After all, Brian wouldn't want to incur the wrath of the cash cow known as McDonald's (I think that's the name of their new burger--the cash cow). Can you imagine any other network newscast reporting this story? But then again, no other network newscast makes a point of reporting on their sponsors' activities as if they were actual news. Only Nightly News does this. And they seem pretty darn proud of themselves.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

America's Next Sick Baby--Only On NBC!

It is appalling and grotesque that Nightly News continues to exploit sick children just for the sake of gaining a few ratings points. Sunday's "Making A Difference" report about people who volunteer to hold sick babies in L.A.'s Children's Hospital did not contain a shred of actual news. But it did contain plenty of close-ups of sick babies. Here a sick baby, there a sick baby, everywhere a sick baby. This is a recurring theme on Nightly News. The sick children stories. They show them over and over again. Just like the rescued animal stories and the feeding-the-homeless stories. The purpose of these stories is not to provide information, but to cause a strong emotional reaction in viewers. And, as the Nightly News producers well know, emotional reactions cause viewers to bond with a broadcast and tune in again and again. Sick babies are like crack. Viewers have to get their fix. It's like a soap opera or a Lifetime movie. But the difference is that we expect a soap opera or a Lifetime movie to be exploitative. We don't expect that from a news broadcast. Exploiting sick babies for ratings is shameful and unethical. The Nightly News producers should be ashamed of themselves. But they're not. They're too busy scouring the country for more sick babies to exploit on future Nightly News broadcasts. Maybe NBC should start a reality show called "America's Next Sick Baby". That way, Nightly News would have a steady supply of sick children to exploit. Wow--I just thought of something. I'm no conspiracy theorist, but what if the Nightly News producers were actually poisoning babies or infecting them with diseases just so they could film them for "Making A Difference" stories? Someone should investigate this. It sounds like a good plot for "CSI: 30 Rock".

Reruns On Nightly News

On Saturday's Nightly News, Lester Holt spent 25 seconds narrating a "news story" about how a team of scientists, engineers and pilots used 300 helium balloons to lift a 16' x 16' house 10,000 feet in the air--just like in the movie "Up"--for a National Geographic special called "How Hard Can It Be". On Monday's Nightly News, Brian Williams spent 25 seconds narrating a "news story" about how a team of scientists, engineers and pilots used 300 helium balloons to lift a 16' x 16' house 10,000 feet in the air--just like in the movie "Up"--for a National Geographic special called "How Hard Can It Be". Did we really need to see this story twice? Did we even need to see it once?

On Sunday's Nightly News, Anne Thompson reported on refugees at Tunisia's Djerba Airport who had fled the uprising in Libya and were now waiting to fly home to their native countries. Thompson hitched a ride on an American Air Force C-130 transport plane that was taking Egyptian citizens back to Cairo. She interviewed Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Stockman and showed footage of Marine Major Adam Lefringhouse using his Arabic language skills to welcome the Egyptians onto the plane. Everyone made it safely to Cairo. On Monday's Nightly News, Anne Thompson reported on refugees at Tunisia's Djerba Airport who had fled the uprising in Libya and were now waiting to fly home to their native countries. Thompson hitched a ride on an American Air Force C-130 transport plane that was taking Egyptian citizens back to Cairo. She interviewed Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Stockman and showed footage of Marine Major Adam Lefringhouse using his Arabic language skills to welcome the Egyptians onto the plane. Everyone made it safely to Cairo. It was the same story on both days! Did the producers think we wouldn't notice that Thompson was wearing the same clothes in both reports? Sunday's story was simply repackaged as a "Making A Difference" report for Monday. Why is Nightly News re-running the exact same stories more than once? With all that is going on across the country and around the world, how can the producers justify wasting the viewers' time airing the same story twice? Instead of reporting unimportant things twice, why don't they report important things once? This is why Nightly News is a joke.

Spelling And Reading

During Monday's "Education Nation" story about tenure for teachers, one of the people Rehema Ellis interviewed was National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel. Unfortunately, a Nightly News graphic identified him as "Dennis Von Roekel". So in a story about education, the producers misspelled the name of the NEA president. Does anyone else see the irony in this? Spelling is an important part of education. It's too bad the Nightly News producers don't seem to understand this.

On Sunday's "Making A Difference" story about hospital volunteers who hold sick babies, Dr. Philippe Friedlich of Children's Hospital Los Angeles was identified in a Nightly News graphic as "Dr. Phillippe Friedlich". Is anyone at Nightly News paying attention?

On Saturday's broadcast, Lester Holt introduced that night's "America at the Crossroads" segment by calling it "America at a Crossroads". Good reading skills are also an important part of education. Someone needs to let Lester know this.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Pander And A Panda

I would like to sincerely thank the Nightly News producers for wasting more than twenty minutes of air time with this week's "America At The Crossroads" series. Could someone please explain to me what the point of this series was? It was comprised of five generic non-news stories that could have been shown (and probably were) any time in the past 20 years. The next big thing in hi-tech innovation? Apprenticeship programs? The hard times that have fallen on Reading, PA? Foreign entrepreneurs who want to stay in the U.S. but can't? Women in the workplace? Give me a break. And that last story was particularly absurd. Nightly News has been doing the same story for years. In fact, Anne Thompson did the exact same story on 9/3/09. Friday's "women in the workplace" story seemed like nothing more than an excuse to show clips from "Leave It To Beaver", "Nine to Five", "Working Girl", "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Mad Men". These clips took up the first 25 seconds of the story. And what's the deal with "Leave It To Beaver"? This was the second time this week (and the fifth time in the past five months) that Nightly News has used clips from "Leave It To Beaver". Does Brian Williams own a piece of the show? Does he get royalties every time a clip is shown? And why is Nightly News using graphics that are clearly ripped off from "Mad Men"? Can't the producers come up with some original graphics? Maybe the Nightly News graphics are so stale because all the talented foreign workers from Reading have been forced to go back to their native countries and there aren't enough women in the Nightly News apprenticeship program.

This was Brian's comment after Wednesday's story about Reading, PA: "Reading's a great place--whole lot of people cheering for it." I will say this about Brian: He knows the value of pandering. Practically every city or state he mentions on his broadcast is preceded by the word "great". Obviously, Brian knows that one way to attract viewers is by pretending that he really cares about where they live. Also on Wednesday's broadcast, we saw a story about the secret lives of animals--what they do at night when no one is looking (they should have attached a "Breaking News" banner to that one). That story included lots of footage of the giant panda, so viewers got to see a pander and a panda on the same broadcast. Great work, guys. Keep it up.

Of course, Nightly News completely ignored this week's story about the assassination of Pakistan's only Christian cabinet minister. All the so-called experts agree that Pakistan is the most volatile country in the region, but Brian didn't feel that this story was important enough to make it onto the broadcast. However, Brian found time this week to air a story about Charlie Sheen and another story about how Continental Airlines is eliminating snacks on all flights. I'm sure glad that Brian knows how to prioritize news stories and decide what's really relevant.

Nightly News Producers Just Don't Care

During Tuesday's Nightly News story about the HPV virus, a woman was identified by an on-screen graphic as "Dr. Anna Guiliano" of the Moffitt Cancer Center. Her name is actually Anna Giuliano. It would have taken one of the Nightly News producers or editors about five seconds to google Dr. Giuliano. But that would mean that the people at Nightly News actually care about getting names right. Clearly, they don't.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Brian Williams--The Most Biased Anchor Ever

Brian Williams just can't help himself. It seems that every time he goes on a talk show, he has to make some sort of reference to genitalia. A year ago (2/5/10) he told Jimmy Fallon that the luge uniform is "the most package-enhancing outfit". Last Jan. 3, on David Letterman's show, he made repeated references to his "shmegegge" and "Dave and the twins". And now he's at it again. On Letterman's show Monday night, Brian had this to say about his hybrid car: "...when it's not running it's fairly neutering 'cause it just turns off..." Again a genital reference. Howard Stern doesn't make as many genital references as Brian does. What's up with that? Is there something Brian wants to tell us? Actually, I'm not sure I even want to know.

But I have to give Brian some credit for honesty. After Brian evaded some of Letterman's questions (claiming neutrality for the sake of journalistic integrity--a joke for anyone who is familiar with Brian), Letterman said he was going to continue to ask questions in the hope that he still might learn something. Brian responded, "I doubt it very highly--I'm just not terribly smart." Finally--the truth comes out. Kudos to Brian for admitting it.

Actually, Brian's appearance on Letterman's show seemed to be a promotional appearance on behalf of Chevy. He mentioned Chevy by name twice (including the Chevy Tahoe). He also said, "It reminds you why Detroit is great and why we drive American cars." Minutes earlier, Brian wouldn't answer Letterman's question about the importance of labor unions in Wisconsin, but now Brian is running off at the mouth about Chevy and the superiority of American cars. Excuse me, but Brian covers the auto industry on Nightly News. He reported frequently on the accusations of sudden acceleration in Toyotas. Are we supposed to believe that someone who is so partisan towards American cars would report this story neutrally? It seems obvious in retrospect that Brian and his producers intentionally made Toyotas appear dangerous in order to boost sales of American cars. He won't comment on labor unions, but it's okay to promote American cars over foreign cars? This is unbelievable bias. During the worst part of the economic crisis a few years ago, Brian often went out of his way to talk about what a great value American cars were. Nightly News was like an adjunct dealership for Ford, GM and Chrysler. Brian said everything except, "What do I have to do to put you in this car today?" And he has the nerve to go on Letterman's show and claim that he's neutral on important issues? That's a joke.

And Brian certainly isn't neutral when it comes to promoting his favorite films. This season, of course, it's "The King's Speech". Brian seems to have a personal stake in making sure that movie sells tickets. Nightly News has done four "news stories" on "The King's Speech" in the past three months. That's called promotion. On Monday's story about the Oscars, Lee Cowan did not even mention the name of a single movie other than "The King's Speech". The only movie clips that were shown were from--you guessed it--"The King's Speech". We saw a clip from Melissa Leo's R-rated acceptance speech, but Cowan didn't even tell us which film she won the Oscar for. We saw Charles Ferguson (winner of the Best Documentary Oscar for "Inside Job") note that despite the economic meltdown, not one financial executive has gone to jail. But Cowan never mentioned Ferguson by name and didn't even tell us the name of his Oscar-winning film. More than half of Monday's Oscar story was devoted to just one film--"The King's Speech". And most of that was about the screenwriter, David Seidler. A day earlier, Nightly News had done a two-and-a-half minute story on Seidler. Monday's story was just a rehashing of what we had already seen on Sunday night. So instead of mentioning any of the other winning films, Cowan and his producers chose to rerun parts of Sunday's story on Seidler. It's obvious that Brian Williams's fingerprints were all over this story. Can you imagine any other network news broadcast doing a post-Oscar story and only mentioning ONE FILM by name? They didn't even show Natalie Portman! That story was a joke. But by far my favorite part of the story was Brian's introduction. The very first thing he said was that the Oscar ratings on ABC were down 9% from last year. I can guarantee you that if the Oscars had been on NBC, Brian never would have talked about the ratings decline. He only talks about a ratings decline when it happens to other networks. (But if an NBC show has a ratings increase, he can't stop talking about that.) The Grammy Awards on Feb. 13 had their best ratings in a decade, but of course Brian never mentioned that because the show aired on CBS. Again, if the Grammys had aired on NBC, Brian would not have shut up about the great ratings. Of the three network news anchors, Brian Williams is by far the most biased. He may be the most biased network news anchor ever. He relentlessly promotes the things he likes, and trashes (or remains silent about) things he doesn't like. But he has the nerve to tell David Letterman that he can't talk about certain topics because he has to maintain his neutrality ("I can't give opinions," he said). Does anyone else find this incredulous?

Charlie Sheen, Muammar Khaddafy and Duke Snider

Once again, a Nightly News anchor has intentionally misled the viewers about the exclusivity of a "Today Show" interview. On Feb 8, Brian Williams told us that Michelle Obama would be appearing "exclusively" on the next day's "Today Show". In fact, Mrs. Obama also appeared on that day's "Live With Regis and Kelly". Then, on Sunday night, Lester Holt ended the broadcast with a 20-second plug for Charlie Sheen's "exclusive" appearance on Monday's "Today Show". However, Sheen was also interviewed on Monday's "Good Morning America" (on ABC). In fact, Sheen seemed to be all over TV and the internet on Monday. So his "Today Show" appearance was hardly an exclusive. It's shameful that Brian and Lester (and their Nightly News producers) would intentionally lie to the viewers just so they can boost the "Today Show" ratings by a few micropoints. Don't they have any integrity? Don't they have any conscience? Are they really willing to lie so blatantly? And if they would lie about the exclusivity of an interview, doesn't it follow that they would lie about other things? Clearly, the answer is "yes".

How about that Christiane Amanpour? First, she scores an interview with Hosni Mubarak. Then she gets an interview with Muammar Khaddafy. So who will be her next mega-awesome interview? Osama bin Laden? Jimmy Hoffa? Why can't Richard Engel or any other NBC correspondents get the same access as Amanpour to the superstar dictators? She's the rock star of foreign correspondents. Meanwhile, it's obvious that Brian must have been fuming. I thought I saw smoke coming out of his nostrils (which is very bad for his surgically-altered nose). I'm sure that everyone at Nightly News was green with envy over Amanpour's scoop. When Nightly News showed a clip from the Khaddafy interview on Monday, they used the BBC feed, not the ABC feed. That way, the on-screen credit was attributed to BBC, not ABC. Brian and his producers were so angry and jealous of ABC's scoop that they refused to even acknowledge the network's involvement (except for Andrea Mitchell, who briefly mentioned ABC). It's like refusing to talk to someone because their score on the math test was higher than yours. Talk about petty.

Let me make sure I understand this. On Monday's Nightly News, Jane Russell got a 30-second obit. Frank Buckles, the last surviving American WW I veteran, got a 40-second obit. On August 9, Ann Curry read a 45-second obit for Brian Williams's father. But Duke Snider, one of the greatest baseball players of the post-war era, only got a 25-second obit. Snider had more home runs (326) and more RBIs (1031) than any other player during the 1950's, but he only gets a 25-second obit. Where's the justice? I'm curious: How many home runs and RBIs did Brian Williams's father have?