Brian Williams has become brazen. He no longer even pretends to disguise the frequent on-air promotions and product placements that he does for NBC and its sponsors. On Wednesday, a "news story" about Lady Gaga was shoehorned into Nightly News simply to promote her upcoming appearance on this week's Saturday Night Live. And that was followed by a story whose sole purpose was to defend McDonald's against accusations that it is inappropriate of them to use a clown to lure young children to their menu of high fat, high sodium and high cholesterol food. Brian made it clear where he stands on the issue. He said that the criticism of Ronald McDonald "seems a little harsh". So much for objective journalism. Of course, Brian's piece contained lots of video of McDonald's restaurants and Ronald McDonald, and even included clips from McDonald's commercials. What's the purpose of having a news broadcast if you can't use it to promote your network's best sponsors? In the story, Brian told us that, "Protesters...say a clown just shouldn't be used to promote fast food." But apparently, a news broadcast should.
Thursday's Nightly News was no different. The lead story was about Unabomber Ted Kaczynski's possible connection to the 1982 Tylenol tampering case. At the beginning and end of the story, Pete Williams was standing in front of a giant TV screen with the Tylenol logo. The story contained multiple shots of Tylenol. This was one big product placement for a regular NBC advertiser. And when you consider all the advertising dollars that NBC takes in from Johnson & Johnson (Tylenol's manufacturer), it's hardly a surprise that Nightly News did such a nice favor for one of their biggest advertisers.
One of the biggest blockbuster stories this week was the CBS News interview with Lance Armstrong's former teammates who say that Armstrong was doping during all of his Tour de France victories. This was the lead story on the CBS Evening News Thursday and Friday. But Nightly News did not even mention the story. The reason is obvious. The full Armstrong story will appear on Sunday's "60 Minutes", which airs opposite NBC's "Dateline". Brian and his producers desperately avoid mentioning "60 Minutes" because they don't want to hurt the "Dateline" ratings. But there's another reason why Brian didn't mention this story. The "60 Minutes" story was reported by Scott Pelley. Pelley is scheduled to take over as the anchor of CBS Evening News on June 6, so he will be Brian's direct competitor. The most important thing to Brian are his ratings, and as such he would never do anything to call attention to one of his competitors. Especially since Pelley is currently generating a lot of buzz. Of course, on June 5, I'm sure that Brian will welcome his "friend" Scott Pelley to the CBS anchor desk. He must appear to be cordial while thinking of ways to stab Pelley in the back.
It's interesting how Brian tells us what he wants us to believe, not what actually happens. On Thursday, he reported that "Dick Ebersol is leaving" NBC. However, Friday's New York Times page 1 headline screamed, "NBC Executive Who Delivered Olympics Quits". According to the Times article, Ebersol "resigned abruptly on Thursday after negotiations on a four-year contract collapsed". That sounds a bit different from "leaving". Of course, we can't expect Brian to report truthfully about anything related to NBC. His job is not to report the news, but to spin the facts in a way that shows NBC in the best possible light. He loves to brag about ratings for NBC shows when they're good, but never mentions ratings when they're bad. Meanwhile, it's been 15 months since the Vancouver Olympics, and Brian still hasn't mentioned that NBC lost $223 million on the Games.
Another story in the news lately: Recording artists initiated a class action suit against Universal Music (owned by NBC's parent company) claiming that Universal bilked them out of millions of dollars in royalties. Of course, this story was not mentioned on Nightly News. And Brian still hasn't reported that a former FCC commissioner (who voted to approve Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal) will be joining NBC Universal as a senior vice-president and lobbyist. I won't hold my breath waiting for Brian to report this.
On Wednesday's Nightly News, Lisa Myers reported on a new John Jay College research study (commissioned by American Catholic bishops) about sexual abuse by priests. She told us that, "Surprisingly, the report takes issue with the term 'pedophile priest', saying less than 5% of the thousands of priests accused of abuse met the definition of 'pedophile'." But Myers's report contained a glaring omission. She did not mention an important fact that was reported the same night by Elaine Quijano on the CBS Evening News. According to Quijano, "The Church provided the information for analysis [in the John Jay report], and makes a controversial decision to label priests pedophiles only if they molested children age 10 or younger. By their standards, only 5% of the priests fit the pedophile profile." So the Catholic Church only considers a priest to be a pedophile if he molested a child 10 years old or younger. Molesting a child between the ages of 11 and 16 is not considered pedophilia by the Church. That is an astounding claim, and it is astounding that Myers did not report it. This is yet another example of Nightly News protecting the Catholic Church. Obviously, Brian Williams had a hand in the way this story was reported. Brian is Catholic. You can draw your own conclusions.
Finally, what's the deal with Maria Menounos? She reported two Nightly News stories this week. Do the producers actually think she has any journalistic credibility? She's a reporter for Access Hollywood! Her job is stalking celebrities (that is, when she's not desperately trying to further her acting career with roles in TV shows like "One Tree Hill" or "Knight Rider"). And did Brian really think he was bolstering her credentials by showing the current issue of Self, which features Menounos on the cover? The headline accompanying her photo is "Drop-a-Size Secrets From Access Hollywood's Maria Menounos". Are we supposed to take her seriously? She isn't exactly Martha Raddatz or Christiane Amanpour, you know.