Saturday, August 13, 2011

Yet Another Reason Why Nightly News Is Sickening

There are so many reasons why Nightly News is sickening. At the top of the list, of course, is Brian Williams's shameful willingness (actually, eagerness) to use his broadcast to promote himself, his sponsors and NBC's sports and entertainment shows. Then there's the way Brian and his producers air stories not because they have any news value, but simply because they appeal to the viewers (example: the 24 minutes of Will & Kate stories that Nightly News aired during the July sweeps period). Brian has succeeded in turning a once-respected newscast into the fifth hour of the "Today" show (and the first half-hour of "Access Hollywood"). Some news, some sports, some weather, an anchor who thinks his jokes are funny, lots of cute animals, lots of entertainment stories, lots of human interest stories about people "Making A Difference". That's Nightly News.

But one of the most sickening things about Nightly News is the way they shamelessly and blatantly pander to the viewers with their rah-rah gung-ho God-bless-America pseudo-patriotism. Brian Williams, NBC News President Steve Capus and the Nightly News producers have obviously ripped a page (or a whole chapter) right out of the Fox News playbook. Their theory is that you can't go wrong by trying to position yourself as the news broadcast that loves America the most. A news broadcast is supposed to report the news in a fair and objective manner. Brian doesn't do that. Instead, he shamelessly panders to his NASCAR-lovin' football-rootin' American-car-buyin' dog-lovin' viewers. Does anyone really buy this act? And of course, Brian has appointed himself as the propagandist-in-chief for the U.S. Military. Instead of simply reporting on military matters, as he should be doing, Brian makes a point of enthusiastically promoting the military to the point of nausea. His sycophancy for all things military is grotesque and hideous. And he feeds his personal fantasy by surrounding himself with people like Jack Jacobs and Barry McCaffrey, as if he can somehow become an officer-by-osmosis. Brian will put anyone on Nightly News as long as they're wearing a military uniform. He constantly uses technical terminology to (laughably) show off how much he thinks he knows about the military. I almost busted a gut last Tuesday when Brian told Gen. Barry McCaffrey, "You've flown in thousands of these Chinook dual rotor helicopters, I've flown in far fewer...." Yes, of course he had to insert himself into the equation--because Brian is just like Gen McCaffrey! They're two peas in a pod. Instead of reporting in a professional manner, he uses loaded, subjective (and highly inappropriate) terms like "wounded warriors" and "fallen heroes". It's truly sad to see how desperate Brian is to appear as if he is somehow related to the military.

Nightly News should be covering military matters by telling us the facts of the stories. Instead, Brian turns every military story into an emotional sap-fest. We are constantly seeing stories about soldiers who miss their families. As if that's news. And even more sickening are the stories about the families at home who have a relative in the military. Also not news. On Thursday, Brian wasted a minute-and-a-half on a frivolous story about a woman who threw out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game, only to discover that the catcher was her husband who had just returned from Afghanistan. Is he kidding us? Nightly News airs a father-surprises-kids story or a husband-surprises-wife story like this around once a month. What a joke. I can only imagine how much real news Brian could cover if he got rid of these ridiculous stories. But of course, no one at Nightly News is interested in reporting real news. Least of all Brian Williams. He just wants to promote the military. Over and over and over. One can only guess at the origins of Brian's obsession. Maybe his parents wouldn't let him have a G.I. Joe doll when he was a kid.

One of Brian's favorite pastimes is to make an announcement every time a Medal of Honor winner dies (he did this most recently on Friday). Since Brian serves on the Board of Directors of the Medal of Honor Foundation, he's really just using his anchor's chair to promote an organization on whose board he serves. Not only is that self-promotional, it's also unethical. It's no different than promoting McDonald's or Chrysler (which Brian also does quite often). No other news broadcast notes the passing of MOH winners. I wonder why. By the way, Brian Williams doesn't care the slightest bit about MOH winners. It's just something he made a calculated decision to attach himself to because the NBC research department told him that glomming onto MOH winners would boost his image with viewers and increase his ratings. It's just business--nothing more.

And then there are the flags. Every night, Nightly News shows flag after flag after flag. There they are at disaster sites. There they are on the street behind the correspondents. There they are in animated form waving behind Brian and Lester. It's obvious that this is a planned strategy. When the Nightly News team arrives at at the site of a flood, tornado or hurricane, the first thing the supervising producer does is tell the camera operators to go out and get lots of shots of flags. The more tattered, the better. I suspect that the producers bring their own flags with them and plant them to get the shots they want. Every story about the stock market features the giant flag outside the NYSE. Every story about Gabby Giffords features a flag in the shape of Arizona. Why? Do we need reminding that Giffords is an American? The psycho that shot her is also American. Hey Brian, how about a flag for Jared Lee Loughner? Samuel Johnson indicted false patriots and false patriotism when he said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." Although Johnson made his famous statement more than 200 years ago, it sounds eerily as if he could have been talking specifically about Brian Williams. Brian uses hyper-patriotic imagery for the sole purpose of pandering to his audience and increasing his ratings. And that is disgusting.


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