If you haven't had a chance to watch NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams lately, here's some of what you missed:
Saturday 7/16: The lead story is the hot weather. In the southern United States. In July. That's some breaking news, all right.
Monday 7/18: In a story about the British tabloid hacking scandal, Ed Miliband was identified in a Nightly News graphic as the "Labor Party Leader". On Sunday's broadcast, a Nightly News graphic identified Miliband as the "Labour Party Leader". So which is it--Labour or Labor?
**In a story about Gen. David Petraeus's last day in Afghanistan, Brian called Petraeus "America's best-known general". If that's the case, why did Brian misspell Petraeus's name (as "Patreus") in his 10/30/09 Daily Nightly blog? In another story about Nelson Mandela's 93rd birthday, Brian called Mandela, "One of the towering world figures of the last 100 years..." No one can argue with that. So why did Brian misspell Mandela's name (as "Mandella") in his 7/12/10 Daily Nightly blog? (It has since been corrected.)
**Brian continues to pander to any- and everybody by calling Chicago "one of the great places on earth even when it's this hot." Meanwhile, millions of kids around the country are asking, "Mommy, does Brian Williams hate our city because it's not Chicago?"
**For the fourth time in eleven days, Nightly News did a "news story" on the new Harry Potter movie. Obviously, the five-and-a-half minutes that Nightly News has devoted to Harry Potter is for the sole purpose of promoting NBC Universal's "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" theme park in Orlando.
Tuesday 7/19: In a report about Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch testifying before a British Parliament committee, a Nightly News graphic identified James Murdoch as Rupert Murdoch.
**Here's how Brian introduced the "Making A Difference" story about a man who purchases headstones for deceased Negro League baseball players: "A story we've been trying to bring you for a while now during a very busy news season." I literally burst out laughing when I heard this. Is he kidding us? A very busy news season? Here's some of the important "news" that Brian Williams has been covering in the month of July: Will & Kate in Canada and California (24+ minutes); Carmageddon (12+ minutes); Harry Potter (5+ minutes) and the hot weather in July (33+ minutes). So I guess Brian had to delay the Negro League story for several weeks so he could bring us the other important news. Like Will & Kate getting stuck in Carmageddon traffic on their way to see the Harry Potter movie so they could cool off in the theater air conditioning.
Wednesday 7/20: We got to see a two-and-a-half minute "Making A Difference" story about people who rescue horses abused by drug smugglers. Like every other MAD story that has ever aired on Nightly News, this story did not contain a shred of news and did not belong on a network newscast. But on July 23, NBC was kicking off their "Summer at Saratoga" horse racing series, which includes seven straight weekends of horse racing. So naturally, Nightly News aired a story about horses to promote NBC's horse racing series. Meanwhile, I don't see anyone at Nightly News refusing advertising dollars from Pfizer or GlaxoSmithKline even though those companies test their products on animals. That's right folks, NBC is really opposed to torturing animals. Except when they can make money from it.
Thursday 7/21: After months of ignoring the famine and drought in the Horn of Africa, Nightly News FINALLY acknowledged this horrible tragedy. Brian introduced the story by saying, "Tonight we're going to tell you about the next global crisis you will be hearing about." After the story, he said, "What's sadly common about this is it's been going on for some time but the world is just taking note and before long there will be camera crews and journalists there--we'll continue to cover this story in the coming days." The world is just taking note? No, Nightly News is just taking note. Anyone who's been watching news on CBS, ABC, BBC, PBS, Deutsche Welle or any of the dozens of other news networks has been aware of this story for months. Those networks' camera crews are already there. It's shameful that Brian has ignored this story for so long and then has the nerve to congratulate himself for finally deigning to cover it. I guess he needed something to fill the time after Will & Kate went back home and Carmageddon fizzled out.
Friday 7/22: Did I say that Will & Kate had gone back home? No problem. Nightly News still found time to do a story on Kate's wedding dress. We were also treated to another pointless "Making A Difference" story about a man who cleans up rivers. Thanks, Nightly News producers.
Saturday 7/23: Nightly News aired a 2:15 story about the drought in Texas, but not a word about the drought in Africa. It's hard to feel sorry for farmers in Texas who are losing their crops when people in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia are losing their lives.
**Before the first commercial break, Lester Holt promoted an upcoming story with this teaser: "How the palace is cashing in on Princess Kate." During the story (yet another story about Kate's wedding dress), correspondent Tazeen Ahmad said, "The Royal Family have been quick to capitalize on Kate's appeal." Are Lester and Tazeen kidding us? No one has capitalized on Will & Kate as much as Nightly News. For Christ's sake, Nightly News even developed an iPad app for the Royal Wedding in a desperate attempt to increase their viewing audience! And they have the nerve to accuse the Royal Family of cashing in on Kate? That's what I call cojones.
**What was the deal with that hideous two-minute commercial for the cheesy, fake-gold buffalo coin that ran on Saturday's Nightly News? Has NBC sunk so low that they need to accept advertising for this awful-looking piece of garbage? Does anyone think this coin is worth ten cents? It contains 14 milligrams of gold. Do you know how much gold that is? It's 45/100,000 of an ounce of gold! Virtually nothing! It's just sad that NBC would run this commercial. It belongs on some high-number basic cable channel late at night.
**During the story on Amy Winehouse's death, Peter Alexander showed us a clip of Winehouse "Making her American TV debut on 'Late Night With David Letterman'." Actually, it's called "Late SHOW With David Letterman" (on CBS). "Late Night" is Jimmy Fallon's show on NBC. Letterman last hosted "Late Night" (on NBC) on June 25, 1993, when Winehouse was nine years old. Now, I understand that the Nightly News producers, correspondents and anchors make careless mistakes like this all the time. Constantly. But I suspect there's something else going on here. I think that Peter Alexander conspired with his producers to intentionally misstate the name of Letterman's show. It's well known that one of Brian Williams's main goals is to use his broadcast as a vehicle to promote other NBC shows. And this seems most true for NBC's late night programming. Over the years, Brian has relentlessly promoted Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon (and Conan O'Brien when he was at NBC). In the months leading up to the June, 2009 Tonight Show changeover from Jay to Conan, Brian was practically a one-man promotional force. Jay and Conan were featured constantly in Nightly News stories--even in stories that had absolutely nothing to do with late night TV. Similarly, Brian made a point of virtually ignoring Letterman, since he is the main competition for the Tonight Show. Even when proper news ethics would have mandated that Letterman be mentioned in a news story, Brian continued to pretend he didn't exist. Here's a typical example: On the 11/12/08 Nightly News, Kelly O'Donnell did a post-election story about John McCain. During the story, O'Donnell told us that McCain's presidential campaign had "kicked off on late night TV". True--McCain had announced his candidacy on Letterman's 2/28/07 show. But when O'Donnell and her producers showed clips from that show, they did not show a single clip of Letterman--although it was his show. O'Donnell did not once mention Letterman's name. Even the on-screen credit did not mention Letterman--it only mentioned World Wide Pants, Letterman's production company. Are we supposed to believe this was a coincidence? There was obviously a conspiracy among Brian, his producers and correspondents to never, ever mention Letterman on Nightly News for fear that it would hurt Leno's or Conan's ratings (O'Donnell's report aired just seven months before Conan was set to take over for Jay). So fast forward to this week when Peter Alexander "mistakenly" refers to Letterman's show as "Late Night" instead of "Late Show". I don't believe for a second that this was a mistake. I believe that Alexander intentionally misstated the name of Letterman's show so that people googling "Late Night" would be directed to NBC's "Late Night" instead of CBS's "Late Show". If it sounds petty, that's because it is. No one is pettier than Brian and his producers when it comes to promoting NBC's late night shows and treating Letterman as a non-entity. Of course, when it comes time for Brian to promote himself on Letterman's show every few months (as he did most recently tonight), he strolls right onto Letterman's set as if the two of them are best of friends. And all the while, Brian is conducting his stealth campaign to keep people from watching Letterman's show. Talk about stabbing someone in the back. That's the definition of hypocrisy.
Sunday 7/24: On Saturday's Nightly News, a promo for Sunday's "Meet the Press" boasted that White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley's MTP appearance would be an "exclusive". Actually, no. Daley also appeared Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation". Do the Nightly News producers understand what "exclusive" means? Or are they just willing to lie about MTP guests' appearances in the hope of attracting a larger audience? I would guess the latter.
**During yet another story about the hot Weather in July, Lester Holt referred to the Weather Channel's Samantha Mohr as "Stephanie"--twice. Last Oct. 8, Brian called Savannah Guthrie "Samantha". What's the deal with Nightly News anchors and the name "Samantha"? Is it a secret code for something we're not supposed to know about?
Monday 7/25: In Michael Isikoff's story about how the terrorist attacks in Norway may have been provoked by American hate writing, we were shown a U.S. map featuring the states where anti-Muslim attacks have occurred. One of those states (highlighted in yellow) was Michigan. One problem--the Upper Peninsula (which is part of Michigan) was not highlighted. Maybe the Nightly News producers don't think that the UP is part of Michigan. Maybe they think it's part of Wisconsin. Or Canada.
**In his introduction to yet another story on Amy Winehouse, Brian told us that "she changed the music business". Really? How? He didn't bother to explain that ridiculous statement.
**Monday's 30-second obituary for Gen. John Shalikashvili was identical to Sunday's obituary. Did we really need to see two obits for Gen. Shalikashvili? I mean, he's not exactly Amy Winehouse.
**The final story of the night was an in-depth piece on the appropriateness of wearing flip-flops to work. Really. I mean it. This was an actual news story on NBC Nightly News. Of course, this was the best footwear story Nightly News has done since Stephanie Gosk's famous 6/24/09 three-minute masterpiece about the difficulties of going clubbing while wearing high-heels. Bravo, Nightly News producers. I only hope that the Peabody Awards Evaluation Committee was watching. Nightly News's devotion to serious reporting about footwear is truly commendable.