Wednesday, August 10, 2011

NBC Nightly News. Shameful.

London is burning. The stock market is on a terrifying roller coaster ride. The Middle East is boiling and ready to explode. People are starving in Africa. So what does Nightly News choose to spend two-and-a-half minutes on during its Tuesday broadcast? Service dogs that help witnesses testify in court. Is that time well spent? Is that a story that really deserves to be on a network newscast? Of course not (but at least the producers managed to work in a "Law & Order" plug by using that show's familiar "da-dum" music). Just like Sunday's story about people that bring fresh fruits and vegetables to Chicago's inner-city neighborhoods. And Monday's story about the Boys & Girls Clubs who donate toys to kids who have a parent in the military (actually, Nightly News has done variations of this same story over and over and over). Not one of these stories contained even the smallest shred of news. Yet night after night, Brian Williams and his producers waste our time with these ridiculous stories whose only purpose is to pander to the viewers. Brian and his producers air these wishy-washy goody-goody human interest stories because the NBC News Research Department tells them it's what the viewers want to see. That way, they get higher ratings than if they aired actual news. After all, who wants to see a half-hour of news on a news broadcast? That is the very definition of pandering--padding the broadcast with pointless non-news stories just because they will attract a large audience. News is not supposed to be about what the viewers want to see. It should be about real events that are happening in our world. Sorry, but courtroom service dogs are not an important event. Not even close. I thought the broadcast was called "NBC Nightly News". The FCC should revoke NBC's right to air a news broadcast. Shameful.

Beginning on Saturday, Nightly News reported the story about the 30 U.S. military servicemembers who were shot down by an RPG in Afghanistan. On Saturday and Sunday, the deceased were listed as "22 U.S Navy Seals", "5 U.S Army Aircrew" and "3 U.S Airmen". Both days, the Nightly News producers omitted the period after the "S" in U.S. And no one even noticed the mistake for more than 24 hours. It wasn't until Monday that they finally corrected this error. Does it really matter that the producers left out one tiny period? Absolutely. It is yet another example of their lack of attention to detail and their inability to get the simplest things right. On Tuesday's broadcast, a video clip of Texas Governor Rick Perry carried the captions "Yesterday" and "Gilbert, Arizona". Wrong on both counts. The video was actually from Gov. Perry's prayer rally that took place in Houston on Saturday. The producers were off by two days and around 1,000 miles. But they don't care. No one cares at Nightly News. These appalling mistakes don't happen on ABC World News or the CBS Evening News. Only on Nightly News. Shameful.

Starting precisely on June 30 (and running through July 23), Nightly News brought us Will & Kate stories on 11 different days (totalling more than 24 minutes). June 30 also happened to be the first day of the July ratings sweeps period (which ran through July 27). Are we supposed to believe this was a coincidence? Of course it wasn't. Brian and his producers made sure to pad their broadcast with plenty of Will & Kate stories during the sweeps period because that's what the viewers want to see. And if the viewers keep tuning in, that means higher ratings and more ad dollars. Shameful.

On Monday's broadcast, Brian read an obituary for Fred Imus, Don Imus's brother. But Brian never mentioned the death of former New York Governor Hugh Carey, who is widely credited with saving New York City from financial default. As far as Brian is concerned, Fred Imus was much more important than Hugh Carey. Because on Nightly News, entertainment always trumps politics. I guess that's why Nightly News aired stories about Lucille Ball on three consecutive days. Shameful.

But at least there's some comic relief on Nightly News. On Monday, when Brian was talking with David Faber about the stock market plunge, he began by saying, "I'm not a historian...." That's hilarious! Because, as everyone knows, Brian really does think of himself as a historian. He's always saying things like, "For those of us who are students of presidential history," or, "For those of us who closely follow the Supreme Court". He thinks he's a scholar. False modesty is really not one of Brian's strong suits. And on Tuesday, when Brian was talking with Gen. Barry McCaffrey about the loss of the 30 U.S. military members in Afghanistan, he said this: "You've flown in thousands of these Chinook dual rotor helicopters, I've flown in far fewer...." What a riot! Brian is actually mentioning his measly exploits in the same sentence as a U.S. Army Four-Star General! He's comparing himself to Gen. McCaffrey! That would be like a baseball player on his first day in the majors claiming that he and Alex Rodriguez have combined for 626 home runs. True, except they all belong to A-Rod. Just another example of Brian's pathetic desperation to try to glom on to anything military. Shameful.

Finally, I have a question for Brian Williams: What is the definition of "life-infirming"? He used that term on Monday to describe Diana Nyad's attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. I've never heard that term. I guess I'll have to buy a better thesaurus.

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