Friday, September 30, 2011

Education Nation Week At NBC News

Hey! It's Education Nation week at NBC News. Which means that Brian Williams and everyone else at NBC are pretending to care about education so they can get a ratings boost during a sweeps period. Here are some of the exciting Education Nation features you can look forward to seeing in the near future:

***Brian Williams will convene an expert panel of education experts who will expertly share their expert expertise on education. Panelists will include Bruce Springsteen, Bono, The Edge and Jon Bon Jovi.
***Susan Boyle and Jackie Evancho will sing the Education Nation theme song, assisted by the singing NYC construction worker.
***Brian will have an exclusive education-related interview with Will & Kate. (Note: At Nightly News, "exclusive" means that it may not actually be exclusive. This isn't really an interview--it's just a bunch of old Will & Kate sound bites cobbled together to make it seem like an interview.)
***Mary Thornberry will narrate a 10-part series about her harrowing escape across the Egyptian border into Education Nation as hordes of hostile illiterates stormed her door.
***Brian will show clips of himself showing clips of himself showing clips of himself showing clips of himself talking about education.
***One word: Carmageducation.
***Brian will interview Mishka the talking dog about education. Which is kind of weird because Mishka is, you know, a dog.
***Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer will reveal his plans to become a New York City public school teacher.
***Maria Shriver will talk for hours and hours and maybe mention education, but maybe not.
***We will see a special report about the appropriateness of wearing flip-flops to school.
***Brian will work the word "McDonald's" into as many education stories as possible.
***Ann Curry will ask a hologram of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about education reform in Iran before taking full credit for recently freeing the two imprisoned American hikers.
***Rehema Ellis will present an in-depth special report about unaccredited sham online-only universities like the University of Phoenix.
***Brian will show multiple clips of his questions to Republican presidential candidates from the 9/7 GOP debate he co-moderated, with every question newly dubbed so that it is now about education.
***A Lisa Myers special Education Nation investigative report: "The Ugly Truth Behind Finger Painting."
***Brian Williams Reports: What can our children learn from adorable videos of Pandas?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--9/17 Through 9/23

It's been an exciting week on Nightly News. Here's what you may have missed if you weren't watching:

Saturday 9/17--No Nightly News. The broadcast didn't air because as far as the NBC corporate weasels are concerned, Notre Dame football is much more important (meaning profitable) than news.
Sunday 9/18--As usual, Brian Williams and his producers use Nightly News to promote NBC's Sunday Night Football. The broadcast's final story is a pointless 2:40 "Making A Difference" piece about a Philadelphia Eagles player who helps underprivileged high school seniors find colleges. The story is immediately followed by a promo for the Eagles-Falcons game coming up next on NBC. It is shameful that Nightly News wastes its viewers' time on self-promoting garbage like this instead of reporting actual news. And as if that wasn't bad enough, the story was reported by Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of the former president. Hager has absolutely no talent or ability as a reporter. Obviously, she was only given a job at NBC because of her famous father. She's like a female Luke Russert.
Monday 9/19--The lead story is about how President Obama is asking "rich folks" (Brian's term) to pay more in taxes. Brian ought to know, since he's one of them. We then saw a Nightly News/WSJ poll saying that most Americans support ending Bush tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year. Brian makes 40 times that. This was followed by a discussion between Brian and CNBC's Sue Herera about whether "regular" people actually pay a higher tax rate than the "super-rich". Typical Brian, talking about himself and his super-rich friends again. Later, Brian reported a story about recent public relations blunders by Netflix when they lost over a million customers after raising prices and separating their DVD business from their movie streaming business. Let's see--who else is in the movie streaming business? Oh yeah, that's right--Hulu, which is one-third owned by NBC Universal. So reporting negative news about Netflix clearly benefits Hulu. Once again, Brian is using his broadcast to promote an NBC Universal property.
Tuesday 9/20--Brian spent 30 seconds reporting on the awesome new Heinz ketchup packages (his second "news report" on the Heinz packages). Just his way of saying thank you to a regular NBC advertiser. The final story this night was a "Making A Difference" piece that was a follow-up to a story that had previously aired about the Hidalgo family, who were struggling financially and had two kids who have had to go without Christmas presents. Boo hoo. Apparently, someone who had seen the original report reached out and offered financial help to the Hidalgos, and Nightly News covered this story like a tarp on a rainy baseball field. You see, there's nothing Nightly News loves reporting on more than itself. Neither of these stories had a scintilla of news value, but of course that never matters to Brian and his producers. They know that a tear-jerker feel-good story like this one gets higher ratings than an actual news story. And when Nightly News has an opportunity to report on itself, they shift into high gear. This was an absolutely ridiculous story. Seeing one of John Vann's employees present a check to the Hidalgos was like watching a reality/game show. "Hidalgo family, you've just won thousands of dollars! Now smile and look happy for the cameras!" And if John Vann (the donor) hadn't seen the original Nightly News report, he would have donated his money to some other deserving family instead of the Hidalgos. So the Hidalgos got money that could have gone to another family--maybe a family that needed the money even more than they did. So there's really no net benefit here. But the Nightly News producers don't care about that. All they care about is pandering to the viewers to get high ratings. And by the way, the Hidalgo family weren't the only ones to get paid that day. Their "Making A Difference" segment was sponsored by Alka-Seltzer Plus. So Nightly News earned a pretty penny from this story. How much of that did they give to the Hidalgo family? I'm guessing nothing. This story was just another sad example of how Brian and his producers are turning their news broadcast into a reality show.
Wednesday 9/21--After a story about the release of the two American hikers who had been imprisoned in Iran, Brian told Ann Curry, "Well, after the role you played in this drama what a roller coaster it's been...." The role she played? Is Brian serious? This is hilarious. During a previous interview, Iranian President Ahmadinejad had told Curry that the hikers might be released soon. She had no role in their release. What does Brian think--that Curry cajoled Ahmadinejad into releasing the hikers? Or that he wouldn't have released them if she hadn't asked about them? Ahmadinejad said the same thing to ABC's George Stephanopoulos. No one from ABC News would ever suggest that Stephanopoulos "had a role" in the hikers' release. But then again, ABC News is a professional news organization whose primary obligation is to report news, not to self-promote and pat each other on the back. What a joke. Also on this night, Brian reported the "shocking news" that the group REM is breaking up. Shocking? Of all the important news stories going on, this is what Brian chooses to call "shocking"? He really should take a Xanax.
Thursday 9/22--After telling us that the Dow lost 391 points that day, Brian said, "That wasn't the worst of it," before showing us the losses sustained by the Nasdaq and the S & P 500. Actually, that was the worst of it. Based on the numbers Brian showed us, the Dow lost the most both in actual numbers and as a percentage of its total. Do the calculations yourself: The Dow dropped 391.01 to close at 10,733.83. The Nasdaq dropped 82.52 to close at 2,455.67. And the S & P 500 lost 37.20 to close st 1,129.56. So clearly the Dow incurred the biggest loss. Someone should buy Brian a calculator. Meanwhile, there's some great news--Lake Michigan is now a state. At least according to Nightly News. In a story about the states that have the death penalty, Lake Michigan is colored grayish-brown just like the non-death penalty states. None of the other Great Lakes are colored in, so I guess Lake Michigan is the only Great Lake that has achieved statehood. Congratulations! Also during this story, we got to see (yet again) the clip of Brian asking Rick Perry about the death penalty at the Sept. 7 Republican candidates' debate. This is like the fifth time Nightly News has replayed this clip because there's nothing Brian likes showing more than clips of himself. Later in the broadcast, we saw a story about the changes in Facebook's home page which included interviews with two students from the University of Colorado at Denver. One student was identified as a "University of Colorado Student", while the other was identified as being from the "University of Colorado, Denver". If they both attend the same school, why are they identified differently? Just another example of one Nightly News producer not knowing what another producer was doing. After that, Brian read a story about which people had the longest and shortest commutes. He told us that, "The good people of Maryland have the worst average commute in the country--over a half hour each (way)." That's what I like about Brian--he never misses an opportunity to shamelessly pander to somebody.
Friday 9/23--A story on the previous night's Republican candidates' debate showed the clip of--you guessed it--Brian asking Rick Perry about the death penalty. Gosh, I just can't get enough of that clip. I can watch it over and over and over (actually, I do watch it over and over and over because Brian keeps showing it). Can I get that clip as my screen saver? We also saw a 2:40 story on Cate Edwards. I'm not sure why. What are we supposed to take away from that story? That Ms. Edwards is a nice woman whose head is screwed on straight? How is that news? What a waste of time. Speaking of a waste of time, Brian then wasted 1:46 telling us about the new NASA ringtones, the falling satellite and budget director Jack Lew's messy signature. Maybe he should have attached a "breaking news" banner to that last story. Thanks, Brian. The broadcast's closing story was a very important 2:05 piece about the final episode of "All My Children". Or was that the first story on Extra, the show that follows Nightly News? It's hard to tell, because the two shows are so much alike. Just part of Brian's strategy to make Nightly News indistinguishable from the gossip shows that follow it. And I have to say--he's doing a great job. A story about "All My Children" on Nightly News. What would John Chancellor say? (I'm guessing he'd say that Brian was an asshole.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Brian Williams Shills For Heinz--Again!

On Tuesday's Nightly News, Brian Williams took 30 seconds to tell us all about Heinz's exciting new ketchup packages: "There's a new fast food staple coming our way after years of fighting with the old ones. Heinz is out with a new vessel for fast food ketchup. It's shaped differently, it opens differently, contains three times the amount of product in the old packets. They're already being used at some Dairy Queens, Wendy's gets them later in the year--no comment yet from the really big players--McDonald's and Burger King." The accompanying video showed plenty of promotional footage of people using the new Heinz packets. (I'm surprised that Brian didn't conduct a live in-studio demonstration.) Once again, Brian has read a press release--possibly verbatim--from a regular NBC advertiser. Of course, this isn't surprising. One of Brian's main goals as Nightly News anchor is to use his broadcast to promote the products of regular NBC advertisers. But Nightly News viewers know all about the new Heinz packages. That's because Brian already told us about them on the 2/4/10 Nightly News. That night, he also took 30 seconds of valuable news time to promote Heinz's new packets. He called the packets, "The biggest development in the fast food business in generations." He also told us that, "The days of squeezing out the contents of 29 separate ketchup packs on your McDonald's wrapper will soon come to an end." Of course, Brian could have said "hamburger wrapper" instead of "McDonald's wrapper", but then he would have missed a golden opportunity to plug the Golden Arches, one of Brian's favorite pastimes. It's certainly no surprise that he managed to work McDonald's into Tuesday's story. Like Alec Baldwin's character said in Glengarry Glen Ross, "Always be closing." That's Brian's philosophy. And "always be promoting", too. He's always happy to do an on-screen product placement for a regular advertiser.

Meanwhile, the Aug. 24 New York Times carried an article on Heinz in their business section. The article told us that Heinz's profits for the first quarter were down 6%. It also told us that Heinz would be raising prices, cutting jobs and closing plants in 2012 in order to improve its bottom line. Brian Williams did not report any of this. That's because Brian has a policy of not reporting negative news about NBC advertisers unless absolutely necessary. Brian would much rather read a press release about Heinz's new ketchup packets than tell us about plant closings, layoffs and price increases. Keep up the great work, Brian.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--9/12 Through 9/16

Here's what you may have missed on Nightly News this week:

Monday 9/12--After Robert Bazell's story on advances in treating Alzheimer's disease, Brian Williams interviewed Dr. Suzanne Craft, an Alzheimer's researcher at the University of Washington who was featured in Bazell's story. The interview ran 2:05, during which Brian spoke for 1:05 and Dr. Craft spoke for 1:00. In what sort of upside-down topsy-turvy bizarro world does the interviewer speak for longer than the interview subject? The whole point of an interview is to hear what the subject has to say. That's why she's being interviewed. But not in Brian's world. Brian's goal is to speak for as long as possible--certainly longer than the interview subject--so he can show off (what he thinks is) his vast wealth of knowledge on all subjects. Remember that 80's song "Talk Talk" (by the band Talk Talk)? That song could have been written about Brian. "Talk talk talk talk. All you do to me is talk talk."
Tuesday 9/13--Viewers were treated to a story about good samaritans in Utah who lifted a burning car off of an injured motorcyclist. This story deserved about 15 seconds of airtime, but Nightly News stretched it out to 2:05. For Brian and his producers, this kind of sensationalistic happy-ending story is easier than reporting real news. And it gets better ratings, too. Also on this broadcast, we saw the third story in five days on the Jackie Kennedy interviews from 1964. For Brian and his producers, reporting eight minutes of 47-year-old news is obviously a lot easier than reporting current news. How many times do we need to hear Jackie talking about what JFK really thought of Lyndon Johnson or what J. Edgar Hoover told Robert Kennedy about Martin Luther King? Once would have been enough.
Wednesday 9/14--Brian showed us a 30-second clip from a video of Amy Winehouse singing a duet with Tony Bennett followed by a 50-second story about the new redesign of the Easy-Bake Oven. The final story was a 2:15 piece on blue whales in California (the second blue whale story Nightly News aired this week). Who says Brian and his producers don't report hard news?
Thursday 9/15--The lead story was about the HPV virus, because Brian will report on whatever is trending on Google or Yahoo. And after the story, Brian said, "A very important story for us to do." It's crass and unprofessional for an anchor to praise his own stories. But I guess Brian felt the need to differentiate one of the few important Nightly News stories from the rest of the stories--such as "news reports" about McDonald's new restaurant renovations, a 61-year-old college placekicker, the destruction of the tree from "The Shawshank Redemption", Beyonce's pregnancy, the benefits of chocolate, college students that were born in 1993, Robert Redford's 75th birthday, Bert and Ernie not being gay, a French vending machine that dispenses baguettes, the peacock that escaped from the Central Park Zoo, Burger King firing their spokes-king, Pringles potato crisps, a penguin that is returned from New Zealand to the Antarctic, doggy date night...well, you get the idea. Obviously, I could have gone on much longer listing ridiculously trivial Nightly News stories, but I think I made my point. Note to Brian: Calling one story "important" only highlights how unimportant most Nightly News stories really are. Also on Thursday, Brian showed yet another clip from his interview with Pres. Obama, which had been taped almost a week earlier. Political interviews are like fish--they're only fresh for a day or two. After that, they begin to smell. Move on. A related story about African American support for the President included a comment from Joy-Ann Reid, managing editor of Obviously, Reid was only included in this story as a way to promote her website, which is owned by NBC. Just another shameless plug for an NBC Universal property. We then saw stories about walruses and a cat that made its way from Boulder, CO to NYC (separate stories--the walruses weren't with the cat). The final story was another two minutes on the motorcycle rider that was pulled from under a burning car. Maybe NBC should just give this guy his own TV show.
Friday 9/16--Nightly News ran a story about the death penalty in Texas just so they could show the clip of Brian asking Texas Gov. Rick Perry about the death penalty at the Republican Candidates' debate nine days earlier. Dude, that moment has totally passed. How many times are they going to show that clip? Unfortunately, a lot more times. There's nothing Brian and his producers like showing more than old clips of Brian. Look--there's Brian and Richard Engel in Cairo's Tahrir Square! Look--there's Brian with President Obama! Look--there's Brian with President Truman! I think the Nightly News producers may have seen "Forrest Gump" and "Zelig" a few too many times. Also on this broadcast we saw two pointless stories that wasted a total of five minutes. One was a "Making A Difference" piece about an elementary school program in North Carolina that promotes healthy eating for kids. Great idea for a school program. Bad idea for a news story. Not really newsworthy. The final story was about high school football in drought-and-fire-plagued Texas. This story only ran because Nightly News aggressively promotes NBC's Sunday Night Football by showing constant "news stories" about football--high school, college or pro. It's just another way to plug football on NBC. Is anyone really surprised?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Congratulations Diane Sawyer!

Congratulations to Diane Sawyer. ABC announced this week that in November, Sawyer will be conducting the first sit-down interview with Congresswoman Gabby Giffords since the Tucson shooting last January. I only wish that I could have been a fly on the wall at 30 Rock when Brian Williams learned that Sawyer beat him to the Giffords interview. I'm pretty sure that Brian's head spun around, his eyes popped out of his head and smoke came out of his ears. It must have looked like a scene out of "Beetlejuice". Brian spent a significant amount of time schmoozing Giffords' family, friends and staff in order to try to get this interview. Brian spent so much time with Giffords' Chief of Staff, Pia Carusone, viewers might think he really cared about her. Of course he didn't. He was only putting in time with Carusone in order to pave the way for a future interview with the Congresswoman. And now Giffords went and promised the interview to Sawyer. I guess Giffords wanted to appear on a professional news broadcast like ABC World News, not an amateur broadcast like Nightly News where her interview might be sandwiched between a story about a singing New York City construction worker and a story about the propriety of wearing flip-flops to work. Wow, Brian must be fuming. But these exclusive A-list interviews tend to balance out over time among the big networks. ABC may have gotten the Giffords interview, but on Sept. 6, Nightly News scored a major coup by snagging the first network interview with Mishka the talking dog. And as far as Brian is concerned, that's far more important than Gabby Giffords.

Of course, the $64 question is whether Brian will even acknowledge Sawyer's interview with Giffords after it airs on ABC. Like a petulant child, Brian tends to ignore major news stories when they air exclusively on another network. In July, Dominique Strauss-Kahn's accuser broke her silence and told her story exclusively to ABC's Robin Roberts. Although Nightly News spent a significant amount of time reporting on the DSK story over a period of several months (on July 1, they devoted more than a third of the broadcast to DSK) Brian never once mentioned the fact that his accuser had finally told her story. Even when the charges against DSK were dropped, Brian still didn't report on anything his accuser had said to Roberts. So although Nightly News has reported the Gabby Giffords story extensively, it's entirely possible that Brian will ignore Giffords' interview with Sawyer because A) He's really mad that he didn't get the interview and B) He doesn't want to promote the interview on ABC World News (and the inevitable hour-long specials that ABC will create to extend the life of the interview).

But perhaps Brian and his producers can come up with some aggressive counter-programming. On the night that ABC airs Sawyer's interview with Giffords, look for Brian to conduct an exclusive Nightly News interview with Plishka the talking cat.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--9/4 through 9/9

Here's what's been happening this week on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams:

Sunday 9/4--In a story about the oil boom town of Williston, ND, CNBC's Brian Shactman told us that, "Walmart sells out of items every day--the Williston McDonald's--one of the country's busiest--paying $15 an hour to attract workers." Obviously, the Nightly News producers insist that their correspondents make a point of plugging regular NBC sponsors (such as Walmart and McDonald's) frequently during news stories. That's known as product placement. I wonder how much the sponsors pay NBC for these placements. Also on Sunday, we saw a 2:05 story about an injured penguin that convalesced in New Zealand before being returned to the Antarctic. During the broadcast, the producers aired three promos for this story because clearly it was a very important news story.
Monday 9/5--I have nothing bad to say about this broadcast. That's because there was no broadcast. Golf ran late in the New York market, so Nightly News did not air. This is the second time in 48 hours that Nightly News was pre-empted by sports. On Saturday, there was no Nightly News because of Notre Dame football. Clearly, golf and football are more important (translation: more profitable) than news to the NBC weasels who are huddled together in their underground holes deep below 30 Rock.
Tuesday 9/6--A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll informed us that Michele "Bachman" is polling at around 8%. This is the third time in three months that Nightly News has misspelled Michele Bachmann's name. On the June 26 broadcast, her last name was also spelled as "Bachman", and on Aug. 10, a "Meet the Press" promo spelled her first name as "Michelle". It is beyond comprehension that a network news organization cannot correctly spell the name of a major presidential candidate. Does anyone at Nightly News even care? Also on this broadcast, we were treated to an exclusive 2:30 "interview" (Brian's word) with Mishka the talking dog. This was the second Nightly News story on Mishka in less than a month. That's more stories than Nightly News reported in the past five years about the Sri Lankan civil war (which ended in 2009 and claimed more than 50,000 lives). But obviously Brian and his producers believe that Mishka is much more important than 50,000 Sri Lankans. Is there anyone out there who doesn't think that Nightly News is a joke?
Wednesday 9/7--Brian anchored the first part of the broadcast from the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA, in advance of the Republican candidates' debate, which he was co-moderating. I'm surprised Brian didn't allow Mishka to ask questions of the candidates. Later in the broadcast, Jim Miklaszewski did a 2:30 profile on soon-to-be Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer. Obviously, this story was done at Brian's insistence in order to promote the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, on whose board Brian sits. Once again, Brian is using his broadcast to promote one of his personal pet projects. We were also treated to a 1:40 story on the upcoming auction of Liz Taylor's jewelry because Nightly News is all about reporting hard news.
Thursday 9/8--At the end of Anne Thompson's report about flooding in Pennsylvania, a caption informed us that Thompson was in Forty Fort, PA. Seconds later, another caption informed us that she was in Wilkes-Barre, PA, which is several miles away. Wow, that Anne Thompson moves fast. Later in the broadcast, we heard some tapes of air traffic controllers and pilots from 9/11/01, accompanied by Nightly News's on-screen transcripts. One transcript read, "It looks like that aircraft crashed into the Penatagon [sic], sir." The "Penatagon"? What's a "Penatagon"? How many sides does a "Penatagon" have? Is Jim Miklaszewski now the NBC News "Penatagon" correspondent?
Friday 9/9--Pete Williams is my hero. No matter how many times Brian segues to him with a treacly "Pete, good evening" introduction, Pete never takes the bait. He simply launches into his report without offering the seemingly obligatory "Good evening, Brian" reply. That's because Pete Williams is a serious journalist, not a television personality. Bravo, Pete Williams. This broadcast also showed us once again that the Nightly News producers desperately need to read the book "Transcriptions for Dummies". In the on-screen transcripts of Jackie Kennedy's 1964 taped remarks, the producers use double quotation marks (") for a quote within a quote. Someone needs to tell the producers than a quote within a quote is set off with a single quotation mark ('), not a double quotation mark ("). Sadly, there are a lot of things that the Nightly News producers need to be told. Finally, it was appalling to see Brian use the somber 9/11 anniversary as a way to plug upcoming NBC shows. He shamelessly offered promos for three different specials--Tom Brokaw's Friday Dateline, Brian's "exclusive" interview with President Obama (scheduled to air on Nightly News Sunday and Monday), and Brian's three-hour 9/11 special airing Sunday morning. To Brian, the 9/11 anniversary is just another event to be milked for ratings, like football or the Olympics. How disrespectful.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Breaking News At NBC: Poland Annexes Singapore

During Wednesday's Nightly News story about infant mortality rates, the producers listed several countries on-screen, along with each country's flag. But next to "Singapore", the producers actually displayed the flag of Poland ("Poland" and its correct flag were shown in the next shot). If these two nations share the same flag, does this mean that Poland has annexed Singapore? That would certainly be breaking news. Unfortunately, the real explanation is much less dramatic. The Nightly News producers simply couldn't be bothered to research the correct flag for Singapore, even though that information could be found in about ten seconds by googling "Flag of Singapore". In fact, the two flags bear only a minimal similarity. Poland's flag is white on the top half and red on the bottom half, and may be found with or without the national coat of arms centered on the white portion (the flag with the coat of arms is "for official use abroad and at sea", according to Wikipedia). The flag of Singapore is red on the top half and white on the bottom half, with a white crescent and five stars (in white) on the left side of the upper portion. So one flag is white on top, while the other is red on top. Not really very similar at all. But the Nightly News producers just didn't care enough to get this right. Appalling. Ironically, that night's broadcast featured an "Education Nation" segment. What kind of message are the Nightly News producers sending to schoolchildren? That it really doesn't matter if you show the wrong flag for Singapore?

It's certainly ironic that the producers would get a nation's flag wrong. Because every night on Nightly News, they bombard the viewers with image after image of the American flag in a desperate attempt to increase their ratings by appealing to the viewers' sense of rah-rah gung-ho patriotism. They figure if it works for Fox News, it can work for NBC News. They often show a waving flag animation behind Brian or Lester. Or a tattered flag waving in the breeze at a disaster site. Or a flag conspicuously in the shot when a Nightly News correspondent is reporting a story. Or a flag in the shape of Arizona whenever Nightly News reports a Gabby Giffords story. Or a flag in the shot every time they show a political candidate speaking. If there is any possible way to include a flag in a news story, the producers and camera operators do so. I'm sure that the NBC camera people are under strict orders to immediately find flags wherever they are. And for all we know, they bring along their own flags to insert into shots if there isn't one on display nearby. Using the American flag as a ratings gimmick is shameful. On Monday's broadcast, Brian Williams took thirty seconds to tell us that, "In Washington D.C....our cameras found Old Glory had survived near-hurricane conditions but was still flying over the U.S. Capitol." After telling us that the tattered flag was burned and replaced with a new one, Brian ended by saying, "And tonight the colors are flying proudly again on a new flag." Meanwhile, that shot of the Capitol flag had already been shown for fifteen seconds in a previous story. Forty-five seconds of footage of the Capitol flag? Is he kidding us? And he actually used the phrase "Old Glory". That's just gross. A news anchor is supposed to report the news, not pander to the viewers with his ridiculously flowery patriotic prose. Brian sounds like a bad Hallmark card. Is he involved in some sort of bizarre competition to see which TV personality can come up with the most sickening faux patriotism? Why doesn't he just stand up and sing "God Bless America"? That is absolutely unprofessional conduct for a news anchor. But if it can get Brian a few micropoints in the Nielsen ratings, he's all for it.

So if the Nightly News producers can spend so much time brandishing the American flag on their broadcast, is it asking too much for them to display the proper Singaporean flag? Sadly, the answer is "yes".

On Thursday's broadcast, Brian wasted 100 seconds combined on the obituary of David Reynolds (the founder of Reynolds Wrap); a 61-year-old college football placekicker; and the safest and least safe cities for driving. Great job, Brian. You must be so proud.

On Friday's broadcast, Harry Smith reported this story: "The government agency that regulates mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is suing seventeen of the world's largest banks including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. The suit is aimed at recovering some of the money Fannie and Freddie lost when the mortgage bonds that the banks sold them went bad. The lawsuits claim that the banks made false and misleading statements when they sold those mortgage bonds making them seem much safer than they actually were." However, Smith did not mention that General Electric was one of the seventeen institutions being sued. Obviously, he did not include them on the list because GE owns 49% of NBC Universal. Just another instance of Nightly News intentionally omitting facts in order to protect one of its owners.

I understand that Labor Day weekend is a slow news time, but does Nightly News have to resort to repeats? On Friday, Smith took 27 seconds to show us a photo supposedly of a shark swimming alongside surfers. Lester Holt reported an identical story on June 26. How many "shark swims with surfers" stories does Nightly News need to report?

But my favorite part of Friday's broadcast was seeing Anne Thompson reporting from Point Pleasant Beach, N.J. Thompson's story was just a two-and-a-half minute ad for the businesses on the town's boardwalk. "Come on down, we're open," they all want us to know. Obviously, the only reason Nightly News reported this story was to try to boost sales for the merchants in one of Brian's "beloved Jersey Shore" towns. Before and after Hurricane Irene, it's all about the Jersey Shore. It's shameful that almost every story on Nightly News has a hidden agenda to promote or protect an entity that benefits NBC, one of their sponsors or Brian Williams personally.