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.