On his March 18 HBO "Real Time" show, Bill Maher talked 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. The fitting example Maher cited was Ann Curry holding up a broken doll. Well, talk about life imitating art. Twice during last week's tornado coverage, Nightly News showed close-ups of broken toys. On Friday, John Yang's story from Phil Campbell, Alabama ended with a close-up of a broken Disney toy. And on Sunday, Ron Mott's report from Smithville, Mississippi included a close-up of a tattered Raggedy Ann-type doll. The only thing missing was Ann Curry herself, but she wasn't part of Nightly News's tornado coverage. That's not surprising--she rarely travels unless she's following George Clooney somewhere.
And speaking of Nightly News's tornado coverage--I almost choked on my Froot Loops when I read Brian Williams's Daily Nightly blog entry last Thursday describing how he arrived in London for the Royal Wedding only to turn around and head right back to the U.S. to cover the tornadoes. Is there any proof that Brian actually went to London? Are there any photos of him there, preferably holding up a dated newspaper? And who are these alleged NBC colleagues that supposedly picked him up at the airport? Messrs. Smythe and Jones, no doubt. The whole story seems suspicious to me, to say the least. I don't buy it. But let's say for argument's sake that it actually happened. If Brian came right back from London, it was for one reason and one reason only--ratings. He calculated that his ratings would be better if he came back and reported on the tornadoes than if he stayed and reported on the Royal Wedding. There was nothing altruistic about Brian's alleged return. He didn't do it for the benefit of the people in Alabama or Mississippi. He did it for the benefit of Nielsen. End of story. And that's assuming it really even happened. Which it didn't.