Saturday, August 6, 2011

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--July 27-Aug. 5

Last month, Nightly News spent a whopping 33 minutes reporting on the hot weather. In the southern United States. In July. I guess the producers must really think they're onto something, because in the first week of August, Nightly News has already spent six-and-a-half minutes reporting on the hot weather. In the southern United States. In August. Maybe they should attach a "Breaking News" banner to this story.

One of the biggest news stories of the past two weeks was the public emergence of Dominique Strauss-Kahn's accuser, who broke her silence and spoke out about her ordeal. Every print and television news organization reported this among their lead stories for several days. Except Nightly News. Brian Williams never once mentioned this huge story. That's odd because on May 16, Nightly News reported the arrest of DSK, and in the following weeks, they spent a significant amount of time on the DSK story. On July 1, Nightly News devoted its first three segments--totalling 8:55--to the DSK story. That's almost half of the entire broadcast. So why did Brian refuse to even mention the blockbuster emergence of DSK's accuser? The answer is obvious. The woman told her story exclusively to ABC's Robin Roberts. All the other networks had to get the story through ABC News. So rather than admit that he was scooped, Brian simply ignored the story and refused to report it. It's that simple. And that petty.

Here are some other things that happened on Nightly News in the past week-and-a-half:

*July 27--Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana was identified by a Nightly News graphic as Eric Cantor. During the week, Brian Williams spent way too many minutes shamelessly promoting his "Dateline: Inside Congress" special, but his producers can't even correctly identify members of Congress. Great work, Nightly News producers.
*July 28--In his obituary for Dan Peek (from the group "America"), Brian told us that Peek, "...gave us 'A Horse With No Name', 'Ventura Highway', 'Lonely People', 'Sister Golden Hair', 'Don't Cross the River' and a lot more songs." Actually, "A Horse With No Name" and "Ventura Highway" were written by Dewey Bunnell and "Sister Golden Hair" was written by Gerry Beckley. So Brian was wrong on the authorship of three of the five songs he mentioned. Batting .400 is great if you're a baseball player. It's not so great if you're a news anchor.
*July 30--Since there was no Will & Kate news to report, Lester Holt instead took 2:15 to tell us all about the wedding of Will's first cousin, Zara Phillips. Fascinating.
*July 31--Brian anchored Sunday's edition of Nightly News so he could (again) shamelessly promote his "Dateline" special, which followed the broadcast. Poor Lester Holt. He was just shoved aside and told, "Don't bother showing up for work. Brian wants to anchor tonight." Also on this broadcast, Brian reported that Peyton Manning just signed a new 5-year, $90 million contract. Brian derisively added that this will pay Manning $633 for every second he's on the field. That's great. A network anchor who will earn more than $50 million over the next five years is mocking an athlete who will earn $90 million over the next five years. Does Brian really think anyone is buying his "I'm just a regular guy" shtick? By the way--how much does Brian earn every second he's on the air?
*August 1--Brian plugs a "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" spinoff that will be airing next year on the PBS Kids network. Since Comcast NBC is an owner of the PBS Kids Sprout network, this is just another opportunity for Brian to promote a Comcast property. Clearly, that's the only reason he bothered to report the story. He also reported that the Honda Civic was downgraded by Consumer Reports and will no longer be recommended by that magazine. Obviously, Brian reported this as a favor to regular NBC sponsors Chrysler and Chevy. And since Brian has never been shy about trumpeting his love for American cars, it also gave him an opportunity to slam a Japanese car. Well done, Brian.
*August 2--Nightly News spent an incredible 5:20 on two separate stories about Gabby Giffords' return to Congress. The second Giffords story was an appallingly ridiculous piece in which Lee Cowan interviewed Tucson residents about their thoughts on Giffords. This story did not provide an iota of information and did not belong on a news broadcast. It was shown for one reason and one reason only--to pander to the viewers' emotions. Apparently, interviewing Giffords' high school history teacher is what passes for news at NBC. Has Cowan ever once reported on anything that actually matters?
*August 3--Finally, some more Will & Kate news! Brian told us that they (and Harry) flew the equivalent of coach when they returned home from cousin Zara's wedding in Scotland. I'm so glad to know that. Brian also reported the following important news items: A "Batman" movie is being filmed in Pittsburgh, a tree that appeared in "The Shawshank Redemption" was damaged in a storm and the Fifth Avenue peacock was returned to the Central Park Zoo (this is the second consecutive day that Brian has reported breaking news about the peacock). The final story of the broadcast was a 2:10 opus on a singing New York City construction worker. Really. I mean it. I'm not kidding. This was an actual news story on NBC Nightly News. I only hope that the Peabody Award Evaluation Committee members were watching.
*August 4--Harry Smith made his NBC debut with a fawning, pointless, overlong four-minute homage to Pres. Obama on his 50th birthday. Smith's advice to the President on how to deal with two teenagers: "Prayer and patience". Really? A network news correspondent advocating prayer? Is that in any way appropriate? That must mean that Harry Smith has some evidence supporting the existence of a deity. I would really like to see that. But only when there's no Will & Kate news. Meanwhile, as usual, Brian did his best to turn this "news story" into a story about him. He introduced the story about the President turning 50 by calling it, "An event way too many of us know all too well." And in the post-story discussion between Brian and Harry, Brian told us that, "I'm new to this 50 game." Of course. It's all about Brian, all the time. And not surprisingly, Brian made sure to engage Harry in a scintillating discussion about colonoscopies. I think we all saw that coming.
*August 5--Tom Brokaw gave us a 2:50 story on a veteran who can't find work. Fascinating. Thanks, Tom. Of course, the story was just a promo for Brokaw's upcoming "Dateline" report on Sunday. The night's final story was a 2:25 tribute to Lucille Ball on what would have been her 100th birthday. Yes, folks, Nightly News really brings us the hard news. By the way, in that story, Donelle Dadigan, president of the Hollywood Museum, was identified by a Nightly News graphic as "Danelle Dadigan". No one's trying. No one cares.

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