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?

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