Saturday, October 29, 2011

Robert Bazell Is A Scumbag

On Thursday's Nightly News, the lead story was about the health benefits of aspirin as a cancer-fighting drug. In truth, this was just a 2:40 product placement for Bayer. The story featured only one national brand of aspirin--Bayer. All the other aspirin brands were generic or store brands like CVS or Sunmark. The story also clearly showed two vintage Bayer newspaper ads and just for good measure, it featured an 8-second clip from a current Bayer TV commercial. This story was a joke. It was nothing more than a shameless way to plug Bayer aspirin. And the fact that they showed it as the lead story is even more shameless. The message was obvious--buy Bayer aspirin and you won't get cancer.

Bayer is by far the most frequent advertiser on Nightly News. They advertise virtually every night--and as often as four times on a single broadcast (in addition to aspirin, Bayer also makes Aleve, Alka-Seltzer and One-A-Day vitamins). And Bayer products sometimes sponsor "Making A Difference" segments. So it was no coincidence that Brian Williams and his producers chose to run this as the lead story, since that was the most effective way to promote Bayer.

It was also no coincidence that this story was reported by Robert Bazell. Whenever the Nightly News producers want to promote a product in the medical or health care field, they give the assignment to Bazell. He's the broadcast's professional shill. He will gladly promote a product by placing it in the best possible light (or conversely, he will protect a product from negative publicity by countering or downplaying the claims against it). So promoting one of Nightly News's best advertisers is nothing new for Bazell. In fact, promoting Bayer aspirin is nothing new for Bazell. Been there, done that. On the 12/6/10 Nightly News, Bazell reported virtually the same story--the health benefits of aspirin. This "news report" began with a five second clip from a Bayer commercial. Then there were three close-ups of Bayer aspirin: A box on a shelf in a Walgreens, a pill in someone's palm and a bottle of Bayer. No other name-brand aspirin was shown in the story, just generic or store brands. Even an animated graphic of a bottle simply labeled "aspirin" was brown and yellow--easily recognizable as Bayer's traditional colors on their aspirin bottles and the main colors on their website. This story was virtually identical to last Thursday's story. Which means that Bazell has shilled for Bayer aspirin twice in less than a year. But wait--there's more. On the 6/8/10 Nightly News, he spent two-and-a-half minutes reporting on an obscure Danish medical study which claimed that Naproxen (sold as Bayer's Aleve brand) may reduce the risk of heart attacks among its users. Needless to say, the story featured plenty of close-up shots of Aleve. Chalk up another Bayer product placement for Bazell. Of course, Bayer is not the only company that Bazell shills for. He has also done "news reports" about Pfizer products, GlaxoSmithKline products and even one for Cheerios (a major Nightly News sponsor).

Bazell's 5/12/09 Cheerios story was so obviously meant to promote the cereal that it was laughable. It was purportedly about how the FDA had reprimanded General Mills for making false claims about Cheerios. But the report intentionally minimized the FDA aspect of the story and instead spent most of its time promoting the positive attributes of Cheerios. This was Bazell's first line: "It is one of America's iconic products--Cheerios." Well, that certainly set the scene. We were then shown 20 seconds of Cheerios commercials while Bazell told us that, "Soluble oat fiber--a key component--can help reduce cholesterol." In other words, Bazell just made the very claim that the FDA had expressly forbidden General Mills from making. He then briefly interrupted his Cheerios love-fest to mention the FDA reprimand: "A letter from the FDA to General Mills, the manufacturer, says that the health claims have gone too far. The big problem is those claims about how much cholesterol can be reduced in how many weeks. They are repeated on the box. The FDA says those are drug-like claims that can only be made after studies have been submitted to the agency and approved." So rather than acknowledging that General Mills made inappropriate claims, he chose to defend the claims as if they were mere technicalities. As Bazell said this, he was sitting at a table with a bowl of Cheerios in front of him, and at least six boxes of Cheerios neatly stacked next to him. He looked like he was in a Cheerios commercial. Actually, he was. Bazell continued, "In a statement, General Mills said, 'The science is not in question and we look forward to discussing this with the FDA and reaching a resolution.'" The science is not in question! Bazell did not take issue with the General Mills statement--he simply accepted it as fact. The General Mills statement also appeared on screen alongside a pleasing graphic of a breakfast table with a bowl of Cheerios, a box of Cheerios and a glass of orange juice. We then saw a close-up of milk being poured into a bowl of Cheerios. There was a brief interview with a doctor who said that three grams of soluble fiber is not really going to help you, but that it's better than eating something that's high in fat. Bazell then twisted this statement into, "Food industry experts say there is no question that Cheerios is a healthy product but the FDA seems to be paying more attention to the claims that companies make." No question! Bazell's commercial--I mean news story--ended with boxes of Cheerios going by on a conveyor belt, a slow pan down a box of Cheerios, and a mother pouring some Cheerios for her toddler. That is unbelievable. The actual point of the story--the FDA's reprimand of General Mills--was completely dwarfed by the positive images and Bazell's unabashed praise of Cheerios. I think it's pretty obvious that Bazell and his producers worked closely with the Cheerios marketing team to devise the best possible on-air strategy for combatting the FDA reprimand while also presenting Cheerios in a commercial-like "news report". (For another Cheerios product placement, see Kristen Welker's 9/24/10 Nightly News report or read about it on an earlier posting of this blog at It's a how-to manual for product placement.)

Robert Bazell will plug a product on Nightly News any time he is told to do so. He is absolutely shameless in that regard. And he doesn't care that by doing so he is committing a serious ethical breach. As a science, health and medical reporter, viewers assume that Bazell's first priority is to provide them with accurate and honest information, not to promote Bayer or other Nightly News sponsors. So by serving the advertisers instead of the viewers, he could conceivably be jeopardizing the viewers' health. I can't think of any other way to say it: Robert Bazell is a scumbag. And by the way, if anyone thinks that word is too harsh, I would remind them that NBC News correspondent Kristen Dahlgren used that very word during her report about the Conrad Murray trial on the Oct. 23 Nightly News. So if that word is good enough for Nightly News, it's good enough for this blog.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--10/15 Through 10/21

Here's some of the important stuff you may have missed on Nightly News this past week:

Saturday Oct. 15--Nightly News aired a 2:25 "Making A Difference" story about a woman who makes stained glass angels to give to cancer patients. Seriously? This has to be one of the stupidest and most pointless stories I've ever seen on Nightly News (and that's saying a lot). In what alternate universe does this story belong on a network evening newscast? And do we need any further proof that Anne Thompson is a joke?
Sunday Oct. 16--Anne Thompson was wearing a huge grin on her face while reporting a story about Renee-Nicole Douceur being rescued from the South Pole after possibly suffering stroke. Why? Was there something funny about this story? Maybe Thompson was still thinking about the stained glass angels. Later, Lester Holt took 20 seconds to narrate a story about Bill Clinton's 65th birthday celebration at the Hollywood Bowl. This was just an excuse to show some footage of Bono. Brian has ordered his producers and anchors to show clips of Bono (and Springsteen and Bon Jovi) as frequently as possible because they are all FOBs (Friends of Brian). And of course, at Nightly News, you have to do what Brian wants. The final story of the night was about Bears defensive lineman Israel Idonije. Apparently, he mentors grade school kids. But that doesn't matter. The Nightly News producers were really only interested in promoting the Bears-Packers game that was airing on NBC immediately after the broadcast. Virtually every Sunday, the final story of the night is about an NFL player or team that is playing later on NBC. Using news time to promote football is grossly unethical. Brian Williams doesn't care. Lester Holt doesn't care. NBC News president Steve Capus doesn't care. All they care about is promoting football. Great job, guys. You should be real proud of yourselves.
Monday Oct. 17--The lead story of the night was the death of IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon. Brian spent 3:55 on this, including his ridiculously overlong 60-second intro. But we all know how much Brian likes hearing the sound of his own voice. The next story was a 2:35 piece about Pres. Obama out on the road to promote his jobs bill. So I guess the death of Dan Wheldon was much more important than what the President is doing. At least it is to Brian. Then we saw a story about the shortage of cancer drugs which included lots of footage of kids with cancer. Brian and his producers constantly show stories about kids with cancer because the NBC News research geeks have informed them that these stories get very high ratings by pulling at the viewers' heartstrings. Brian then took 50 seconds to recap what happened in the NFL on Sunday because his main job at all times is to promote NBC's Sunday Night Football, the network's top rated show. The final story of the night was about a Boston firefighter who caught a kid who was thrown out of a three-story window. Clearly, this was a local story, not a national story. It had no business being shown on Nightly News. But again, the NBC research geeks have informed Brian that firefighter stories test well with the viewers, so Brian includes them regularly. This was Brian's closing comment after the story: "Modest man thanking his lucky stahs." So now Brian is doing fake Boston accents on the news? I guess that makes sense. Whenever Brian anchors from Louisiana, he always adopts a fake Cajun accent. I hope he does many more accents in the coming weeks. I'd like to hear him do a funny Indian accent, a silly German accent and a wacky Cockney accent.
Tuesday Oct. 18--Brian told us that, "...Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas and held captive for five years was exchanged today for a thousand Palestinian prisoners..." Not exactly. On that day, Shalit was exchanged for 477 Palestinian prisoners. The other 550 prisoners will be released in approximately two months. I thought accuracy was supposed to be important in news reporting. And by the way, the total comes to 1,027 prisoners, not "a thousand". Someone should buy Brian a calculator. Then we got another story on the death of Dan Wheldon, a 1:40 story on a dust storm in West Texas and 25 seconds of footage of a bear cub running around in an Alaska supermarket. Because Nightly News is a professional newscast. They should have attached a "breaking news" banner to that last story. Brian also spent 25 seconds telling us about the latest falling satellite because alarmist stories make people tune in regularly. The broadcast ended with a 2:35 story on homeless students because...well, I'm not really sure why they aired that story. But it must have had something to do with the ratings.
Wednesday Oct. 19--We saw a 2:05 story about Michelle Obama on the campaign trail because Michelle Obama stories are ratings gold. We also got a 1:35 story about windstorms in Chicago. Really? You don't say. How surprising. Brian then told us excitedly about Starbucks' new Blonde Roast. Brian likes to read press releases from Starbucks. Maybe promoting Starbucks on the air gets him free coffee. He also told us about Carla Bruni's new baby--just in case they didn't mention it on Access Hollywood. The final story of the night was about the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas. I'm not sure why that was on the broadcast. Maybe Brian wants to eat there free next time he goes to Vegas.
Thursday Oct. 20--As part of the coverage of Khaddafy's death, Andrea Mitchell showed us footage of Hillary Clinton arriving in Tripoli on Tuesday. But on-screen, the footage is labeled "March 28, 2011". Oh well, it's only off by about seven months. Brian then spent 1:55 interviewing counterterrorism expert Michael Leiter. During this "interview", Brian spoke for 64 seconds, while Leiter was only allowed to speak for 51 seconds. I always thought that the point of an interview was to hear what the subject, not the interviewer, had to say. I guess I must be wrong. My bad. The final story of the night was a "Making A Difference" piece about a Los Angeles woman who teaches inner-city kids to play music. Hmmm...where have I seen that before? Oh yeah--on Nightly News. Over the past few years, they've done dozens of identical stories about teachers or philanthropists who teach inner-city kids to play music. As Yogi Berra said--it's like deja vu all over again. And the funny thing is that if you add up all those MAD pieces, they don't have a single shred of news value between them.
Friday Oct. 21--We got our second story on the falling German satellite. (The third story will air the following day.) Nightly News certainly has that story covered. The final story was a "Making A Difference" piece about Jon Bon Jovi's pay-what-you-can restaurant in Red Bank, N.J. Really? This is a news story on Nightly News? I think the reason is obvious. Bon Jovi is an FOB (Friend of Brian) so obviously Brian ordered his producers to do this story. And Bon Jovi says he was inspired to open his restaurant by a story he once saw on Nightly News! Awesome! There's nothing Brian and his producers like reporting on more than themselves. As if that's not ridiculous enough, this isn't even the first time that Jon Bon Jovi was the subject of a "Making A Difference" story. On 11/9/09, Brian himself profiled Bon Jovi for MAD. For four minutes and ten seconds. Brian told us about all the great things JBJ has done to make a difference. And back then, JBJ was also inspired by a previous MAD segment he had seen! Wow! It was so cool to see Brian hanging out with his pseudo-pal JBJ. As I recall, during that 2009 MAD piece, JBJ was in the middle of his exclusive artist-in-residence stint with NBC for the purpose of promoting his latest album. So he was showing up on one NBC show after another--Nightly News, 30 Rock, The Today Show, The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien, The Jay Leno Show (which then aired at 10 PM), SNL--even "Inside the Actors Studio" on Bravo (an NBC Universal network) because of (I assume) all his great acting roles. And now here he is again on MAD. So I wonder what JBJ is promoting this time. And is he an NBC artist-in-residence again? And more importantly--when can we see Bono or Springsteen on a MAD segment? This is all so fascinating. Jon Bon Jovi gets a second MAD segment. It must be great to be an FOB.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Stories You Didn't See On NBC Nightly News This Week

Here are some stories you didn't see recently on Nightly News (and are not likely to see for obvious reasons):

***Michael Douglas's son Cameron, who is already serving a five-year prison sentence for dealing meth and cocaine, pleaded guilty to possession of drugs in prison and is expected to receive an additional 12 to 18 months on his sentence. Many news organizations reported this story, but Brian Williams will never report it because Michael Douglas is an FOB (Friend of Brian). Brian doesn't report negative stories about his friends and their families, and he obviously quashed this story as a favor to Michael Douglas, who introduces Brian almost every night on Nightly News.

***According to an article in The New York Times this week, McDonald's has indicated that it may be necessary for them to raise menu prices for the third time this year. Brian will not report this because he only reports good news about McDonald's, like the launch of their new gourmet coffees, how they spent a billion dollars to renovate their restaurants or how their Happy Meals are now healthier. McDonald's is one of NBC's best advertisers, so you won't hear this story on Nightly News.

***On Friday, CBS News reported that Walmart is drastically cutting their employee health benefits (The New York Times also reported this on Friday--on the front page of their business section). Employee health insurance premiums will increase by 20%-60%, company health savings contributions will decrease by 50% and Walmart will no longer provide health insurance for new part-time employees who work less than 24 hours per week. Brian will not report this because he doesn't like to report bad news about Walmart, one of NBC's biggest advertisers. Of course, he's happy to tell us when Walmart is planning to sell healthier food or slash their prices because Walmart pays NBC for positive news coverage with their millions in ad dollars each year.

Brian and his producers often decide what stories to report on Nightly News based not on the newsworthiness of the stories, but on how much the stories can help their sponsors. Conversely, they also protect their sponsors (and FOBs) by refusing to report negative stories. That's how Brian and his producers operate. Welcome to Nightly News. New studio, same old tricks.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Kristen Welker Is A Joke

Here's how Lester Holt introduced Sunday's Nightly News story about Herman Cain: "Herman Cain faced some tough new questioning today on his policies including his 9-9-9 tax plan, the war in Iraq and abortion...." Then Kristen Welker began the report by saying, "Under the strongest microscope yet, newly-minted GOP front runner Herman Cain appeared on NBC's 'Meet the Press' and acknowledged that his controversial revenue plan would increase taxes on some Americans." "Tough new questioning"? "The strongest microscope yet"? Give me a break. This is just typical Nightly News mumbo-jumbo meant to promote "Meet the Press", another NBC News show. The questions asked by David Gregory had all been asked before. Are we supposed to believe that Gregory is some sort of super genius who can come up with questions that no one else would consider asking? Are we supposed to believe that no one else questioned Cain's 9-9-9 plan? Not ABC News, CBS News or CNN? Not The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The Huffington Post or The Chicago Tribune? In fact, the media have been disputing this plan ever since Cain announced it. The Oct. 13 New York Times ran a front page story (written by Trip Gabriel and Susan Saulny) on Cain and his 9-9-9 plan that included an interview with Cain--three days before his "Meet the Press" appearance. Here are some excerpts from the Times article:
*** "Now both he and his proposal are getting intensive new scrutiny as Republicans continue to flirt with their candidates less than three months before casting the first votes of the primary season."
*** "The 9-9-9 little more than a sketch of what would be a radical and complex overhaul of the tax system."
*** "The plan could have major economic and political challenges: It might result in a substantial revenue loss for the government and shift the tax burden to lower- and middle-income people."
*** "Their (9-9-9) plan has drawn fire from both right and left. Conservatives are wary of a national sales tax, concerned that it would create another, easily increased method of taxation. Among the critics are The Wall Street Journal editorial page and Bruce Bartlett, an official in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, who contributes to the Economix blog for The New York Times."
*** "Critics, especially liberals, say the plan offers a huge tax break for the wealthy while imposing a steep, regressive new sales tax on the middle-class and working poor, with everyday items like milk and bread being subject to a 9 percent tax."

So I'm sorry to burst Lester Holt's and Kristen Welker's bubble, but David Gregory was not the first person to question Cain's 9-9-9 plan, although Holt and Welker would have us believe that he was.

Poor Lester Holt. He used to be a respected journalist. But he had to sell his soul to the NBC devil when he became the Nightly News weekend anchor. Now, he's forced to meekly promote NBC sponsors, NBC sports and entertainment shows and to be a rah-rah cheerleader for all things NBC. It's sad to see, but that's the price he had to pay.

And Kristen Welker simply has no credibility as a journalist. Her shameful promotion for "Meet the Press" is a clear indication that she will say anything her producers tell her to say. This certainly isn't the first time Welker has shilled for NBC or its sponsors. On the 8/12/10 Nightly News, Welker did a two-and-a-half minute "news story" about Jackie Evancho, "America's newest singing sensation" (Ann Curry's words) who was then appearing on NBC's "America's Got Talent". Here's how Welker began her story: "America couldn't believe its ears when this very big and seemingly seasoned soprano voice came out of a very small girl on NBC's 'America's Got Talent'". It was shameless for NBC to use its news broadcast to promote one of its entertainment shows and it was shameless of Welker to report this story. During that report, Welker also told us that, "on any given night, there are 12 million people watching" America's Got Talent. But according to one of NBC's very own press releases (reprinted on the website for TV By The Numbers []) NBC claimed that the Tuesday (8/10/10) AGT had 10.5 million viewers, and the Wednesday (8/11/10) AGT had 10.7 million viewers. Additionally, also according to TV By The Numbers, the Tuesday (8/3/10) AGT had 9.56 million viewers (from 9-10 PM) and 10.81 million viewers (from 10-11 PM). The Wednesday (8/4/10) show had 9.96 million viewers. None of those shows reached 11 million viewers, never mind 12 million. So Welker's claim was disputed by NBC's own press release, as well as by Nielsen. I guess Welker and her producers are just plain old liars. But when it comes to shilling for NBC, lying is part of the job.

And then there was the 9/24/10 Nightly News. On that broadcast, Welker reported a story that was ostensibly about the credit card-versus-cash shopping habits of American consumers. In actuality, this was nothing more than a 2:20 product placement for Cheerios, one of Nightly News's (and NBC's) best advertisers. The story begins with a couple in the cereal aisle of a Los Angeles Target store, where we see a massive wall of Cheerios comprising 50 facings. (It is absurd to think that any store would display 50 facings of a cereal. This aisle was clearly manipulated by the NBC production staff.) The camera then follows the couple through the store--zooming in on the Cheerios box in their basket. At the checkout, we get a close-up the cashier swiping the Cheerios box past the scanner. At the end of the story, the mother is clearly shown feeding Cheerios to her infant. There is little doubt that General Mills paid NBC News to feature their Cheerios brand in this story. Welker contributes to the product placement by saying things like, "Every cent counts when Sarah and David Winfrey go shopping," and, "The young parents...are always looking for discounts and learning to live within their means." By making these statements as the couple shops for Cheerios, Welker is reinforcing to the viewers that Cheerios are a good value. She was as complicit as the NBC producers and ad executives in bamboozling the viewers into thinking that this was a news story, when it was really a paid product placement. So since Welker has already acted as a shill for Cheerios, "America's Got Talent" and "Meet the Press", are we supposed to believe that she has any credibility as a reporter? Kristen Welker is not a journalist, she's a publicist. She's a joke.

I will say this: At least Sunday's story about Herman Cain managed to spell his name correctly. During last Wednesday's Nightly News story about Cain, an on-screen graphic spelled his first name as "Hermain".

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Hermain" Cain "Dissaproves" Of Nightly News

On Wednesday, Nightly News unveiled a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. At one point during this story, an on-screen graphic informed us that 51% of Americans "Dissaprove" of the job that Pres. Obama is doing. "Dissaprove"? Is that anything like "Disapprove"? I think that 100% of Americans "Dissaprove" of the Nightly News producers' appallingly sloppy spelling. Three minutes later, a story about Herman Cain displayed an on-screen transcript of some comments Cain made on his radio show last year. The producers attributed the comments to "Hermain" Cain. Who's "Hermain" Cain? Is he Herman Cain's evil twin. Or perhaps he's Cain's evil Twain. Later in the broadcast, during a story about domestic violence laws in Topeka, Kansas, a graphic identified a domestic violence victim named Claudine Dumbrowski as "Rita Smith" from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Victim, advocate...whatever. In Thursday's story about the "Occupy Wall Street" protests, Rep. John Larson of Connecticut was identified in a graphic as "Jon Larson". No one cares at Nightly News.

In the past few weeks, Brian Williams has reported several times on the recent decision by Netflix to separate their video-on-demand service from their mail-order business, and to raise the price on the combination of both services. Brian derisively told us about the decision, he told us about the backlash and he told us about the Netflix CEO's decision to reverse the original decision. But here's a story Brian didn't report: This week, Universal Studios (sister company of NBC) discarded a plan to release movies on-demand only three weeks after their release in theaters (the current delay from theaters to video and on-demand is four months). Apparently, Universal reversed their decision under severe pressure from theater owners. So when Netflix caves in to pressure and reverses a decision, Brian reports it, but when Universal caves in to pressure and reverses a decision, Brian ignores it. That makes sense. Netflix is a competitor of Comcast and NBC Universal. Brian is always happy to report stories that portray a competitor in a bad light. But he won't report negative stories about anyone in the Comcast/NBC U family. Because that's just the kind of guy he is.

Also this week, the New York Times reported that the publisher of the European edition of the Wall Street Journal (a paper owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation) has resigned after suspicious practices were uncovered between the Journal and a Dutch company. According to the Times, "Under the deal, the Journal used a third party to channel money to a Dutch consulting firm, which bought thousands of copies of the Journal each day for as little as one euro cent (1.37 American cents). The practice helped bolster the Journal's subscription rate in Europe." the Times also reported that, "...the circulation deal also led to an agreement that provided the Dutch company, Executive Learning Partnership, with two positive articles in exchange for its financial support." So the Journal paid cash and provided positive news coverage in exchange for a circulation increase. That seems pretty shady. Especially in light of the recent Murdoch/News of the World hacking scandal. This past summer, Brian reported frequently about the News Corporation's hacking scandal. For a while, it seemed that Rupert Murdoch was getting more air time on Nightly News than Pres. Obama. So you would think that Brian would be all over this story. But actually he's ignoring it. The reason is obvious. Nightly News is partnered with the Wall Street Journal. They just released a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. If Brian reported on the Wall Street Journal Europe's circulation scandal, he would risk damaging his own credibility. It's self-interest--nothing more.

On Friday, ABC's Nightline aired a story about the possible side effects associated with the birth control/premenstrual dysphoric disorder pill called Yaz. One woman in the story claimed that taking the medication put her in a coma and caused her to go blind. According to the website, an 18-year-old girl from New Jersey died from blood clots allegedly as a result of taking Yaz. There are currently thousands of lawsuits claiming that the pill's manufacturer did not provide an adequate warning label and that the pill caused injury or death. So when will Brian Williams report this story? He won't. Yaz is manufactured by Bayer, one of Nightly News's most frequent advertisers and sponsors. Brian does not report negative stories about his regular sponsors. It's one of his Ten Commandments--Thou Shalt Not Report Negative Stories About Sponsors. (Another of his commandments: Thou Shalt Constantly Promote NBC Sports and Entertainment Shows On Nightly News.) You will never, never, ever see this story on Nightly News. Brian will make sure of that.

Here are some of the other great things that happened on Nightly News this week:

Saturday Oct. 8--Nightly News did not air because obviously college football was more important (more profitable) to the NBC weasels.
Sunday Oct. 9--Nightly News aired a 25-second story on Paul McCartney's wedding and a 2:20 story on the Michael Jackson tribute concert because viewers like entertainment stories and they help the ratings. As usual, the final story of the night was a football story (about NFL refs) because Nightly News cares more about promoting their Sunday Night Football (which follows the broadcast) than about actual news. It's hard to imagine how anyone at Nightly News can look at themselves in a mirror without feeling a deep sense of shame over their relentless and shameless promotion of football at the expense of real news.
Monday Oct. 10--Brian began the broadcast with a four-minute story on women and vitamins. Seriously, Brian? You need four minutes to tell this story? Any other news broadcast could have told it in thirty seconds. A story on the "Occupy Wall Street" protests showed a close-up of a little girl picking her nose and eating it (at minute 9). This is what Nightly News shows during dinnertime? Do any of the producers actually bother to watch what they put on the air? We also saw another 25-second story about Paul McCartney's wedding, which was identical to Sunday's story. Did we really need to see this again? Then Brian used the phrase "richly rewarded" twice in 15 seconds--first in a story about the new iPhone 4S and then moments later in a promo for the next story. For someone whose job involves communicating, Brian doesn't seem to have a very broad command of the English language. The final story of the night was a silly piece about a pizza parlor owner who begged his customers to frequent his restaurant so he wouldn't go out of business. There was absolutely no reason for this story to air on a news broadcast. But then again, that's true of most Nightly News stories.
Tuesday Oct. 11--We saw a riveting piece about Michelle Obama joining some kids for jumping jacks on the White House lawn, "led by our friend Al Roker". Wow, that was awesome. Then it was time for Brian to once again pander to the people in Detroit: "We thought this needed to be said--these are good days for our friends in Detroit." He then proceeded to kvell over the recent success of the Lions, Tigers and Red Wings. Brian's rule: When you have nothing important to say, pander. And he used the phrase "our friend(s)" twice in 15 seconds. Next, Brian said that some photos of Martian sand dunes remind him a lot of the Jersey Shore. I guess--if the Jersey Shore is a vast wasteland of nothingness. After that, he showed us a video of a South African antelope knocking a guy off his bicycle. Three times. Because Brian is all about hard news. The final story of the night was a "Making A Difference" piece about "Reach Out and Read", a program that encourages military parents to read to their kids, either in person or on recorded DVDs. Yeah, we know, because Nightly News already did this story about 18 months ago. On the 3/22/10 broadcast, they did a story about "United Through Reading", an organization that produces DVD recordings of deployed military parents reading to their kids. It's bad enough that Nightly News showed this story once. But twice? Neither story had even a scintilla of news value. Here's what Brian said after the story: "As we honor the service of everyone in uniform." It's sad that Brian still doesn't understand the role of a news broadcast. A news broadcast is supposed to report important stories taking place across the country and around the world. It is NOT supposed to "honor" any person or entity. News is supposed to be objective. But Brian doesn't care. He does what he wants. So as a ratings gimmick, he's turned Nightly News into the propaganda arm of the U.S. Military in order to pander to the rah-rah gung-ho ultrapatriotic feelings of viewers. I'm waiting for Brian to start chanting "USA! USA!" Shameful.
Wednesday Oct. 12--While presenting the results of a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, the producers spelled "disapprove" as "dissaprove". A story about Herman Cain identified him in a graphic as "Hermain" Cain. A story about domestic violence in Topeka, Kansas misidentified a victim of domestic abuse. In other words, business as usual for the Nightly News producers. We then got 80 seconds on all the places Michelle Obama sneaks out to shop at (did Brian really pronounce Target as "Tar-JAY"?) and 20 seconds on the new Girl Scout merit badges. Fascinating!
Thursday Oct. 13--In a story about the "Occupy Wall Street" protests, a Nightly News graphic misspelled Rep. John Larson's first name as "Jon". A story about Kodak's struggles to stay relevant included Paul Simon singing "Kodachrome" and a clip from "Mad Men"--for no other reason than because Brian likes Paul Simon and "Mad Men". It must be really great to have your own news broadcast where you can include anything you like in any story. Brian then spent 25 seconds telling us about the upcoming price increase in peanut butter. Any breaking news about jelly? A story about British Prime Minister David Cameron saying that women should be allowed to succeed to the British throne was just an excuse to show some video of Will & Kate's wedding. The final story was about the Royal Wedding in Bhutan because the NBC News research department has informed Brian that any story about any royal event will generate big ratings.
Friday Oct. 14--A story about Pres. Obama and South Korean President Lee touring a GM plant in Michigan showed Mr. Lee wearing a Detroit Tigers cap, obviously as a way to pander to the locals. Wait a second--pandering to people in Detroit is Brian's job! Who does Lee think he is? The nerve of him. Brian then spent 37 seconds telling us the important news that in 1988 George H.W. Bush considered Clint Eastwood as his running mate. Brian could have dug deeper--was Sylvester Stallone ever considered? After that, Brian narrated a 30-second video of a toddler playing with an iPad. Is there any discernible difference between Nightly News and the Animal Planet show "Puppies vs. Babies"? Clearly, no. The final story of the night was about Michelle Obama--"The First Lady of Fashion". Puh-LEEZE. This is ridiculous. But again, since the research department told Brian that she's great for ratings, he puts her on the broadcast as often as possible. She's like American royalty! Do we need any further evidence that Nightly News is a joke?

Friday, October 7, 2011

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--10/1 through 10/7

Here's some of the great things you may have missed on Nightly News this past week:

Sat. 10/1--Nightly News presented a 2:20 story about school districts that raise money by allowing product sponsorships on buses, lockers and elsewhere in the schools. Does anyone else see the irony in this? Nightly News is a sponsorship-acceptance machine. How many times did we see the University of Phoenix logo during the previous week's Education Nation series? So far this year, 29 Nightly News broadcasts have had a full or partial sponsor (Tums, Cheerios and various Bayer products were among the most frequently seen sponsors). Nightly News criticizing schools for accepting sponsorships would be like Bernie Madoff criticizing someone for operating a Ponzi scheme. It's completely hypocritical. Also this night, we saw a story about the Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton throwing the ceremonial first pitch of the A.L. Division Series to 6-year-old Cooper Stone, whose father was tragically killed at a Rangers' game earlier in the season. Kate Snow informed us that Hamilton was "the season's MVP". Really? She must have ESP (or is it ESPN?). Major League Baseball has not yet announced this year's MVPs, so Snow has quite the scoop. Actually, Hamilton was last year's MVP, so Snow just got her facts mixed up. What a surprise at Nightly News.
Sun. 10/2--A story about the candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president featured a clip of Mariann Hedstrom, who was identified in a graphic as being from the "National Federation of Republicn [sic] Women". What are "Republicn" women? Are they anything like Republican women? We also were treated to another story about the structural stability of the Washington Monument after the recent earthquake--the sixth such story in the past week. Okay--we get it. The Washington Monument may be structurally unsound. Enough already. The final story of the night was a 2:35 "Making A Difference" piece about Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and his charitable activities. Right before the Jets-Ravens game. On NBC. As usual, Nightly News used valuable news time to shamelessly promote their Sunday Night Football game. There was not a shred of news value to the story, but the producers don't care. At Nightly News, self-promotion is what's really important. This is appallingly unethical. The FCC should revoke NBC's right to air a news broadcast.
Mon. 10/3--Someone at Nightly News wasn't paying attention. During a report on the "Occupy Wall Street" protests in New York, we clearly saw a protester's sign that derisively listed some corporate CEOs along with their exorbitant salaries. One of the CEOs listed was Jeff Immelt of General Electric (former majority owner and current minority owner of NBC). Brian Williams and his producers always go out of their way to protect and promote G.E., so someone must have been asleep in the control room to allow this sign to appear on the air. Can anyone forget the 3/4/09 Nightly News, when Brian and CNBC's David Faber spent two minutes desperately and shamelessly trying to prop up G.E.'s falling stock price by telling us what a grand and stable company it is? And now Poor Jeff Immelt had to see himself mocked on Nightly News. I assume someone lost their job over this. We also got to see 30 seconds of old video of Princess Diana with young William and Harry, because Nightly News never misses an opportunity to show gratuitous clips of the British Royal Family. Did they really need to show this? Well, people like it and it helps the ratings. End of discussion. The broadcast ended with a 2:20 "Making A Difference" story about a special performance of the Broadway show "The Lion King" that was performed especially for autistic children. That's a nice thing to do. Wait a second--five minutes earlier Nightly News aired a commercial for the Blu-Ray DVD edition of "The Lion King" movie. Obviously, the Nightly News producers aired the Lion King MAD story in order to attract some of that lucrative Disney advertising money. I wouldn't be surprised if a deal was made. "We'll figure out a way to promote 'The Lion King' Broadway musical if you buy ad time on NBC." Well done, Nightly News producers.
Tues. 10/4--A 2:30 story detailed the health problems that can be caused by metal-on-metal hip replacements. The story specifically mentions the manufacturer DePuy, but not Smith & Nephew. Smith & Nephew is a regular Nightly News advertiser, DePuy is not. The producers had an obligation to disclose that one of their sponsors is a manufacturer of metal-on-metal hip replacements but they did not do so. Clearly, Nightly News is protecting their sponsor. That's unethical. Later, Brian spent 15 seconds telling us about a new "Sesame Street" character. It's nice that Brian is willing to promote "Sesame Street" and PBS, right? Not really. NBC Universal is a part owner of the PBS Kids Sprout network, which airs "Sesame Street". So Brian is really just promoting an NBC property. Same old, same old. The final story of the night was about a Michigan girl who is the placekicker on her high school football team and was also voted the school's homecoming queen. Can someone please explain to me the news value of this story and tell me why on earth it appeared on a network newscast? Seriously--I'd like to know.
Wed. 10/5--Here's what Brian said after telling us about an early snowstorm in northern California: "And a heads-up for our friends in Chicago--while today was one of those great sparkling fall days, it could go south at any moment...." Doesn't he ever get tired of pandering? Apparently not. Later, Brian told us about a labor dispute between 20th Century Fox and the voice actors on "The Simpsons". "The producers reportedly want to cut their multi-million dollar salaries in half." I guess this story really hit home for Brian--I can imagine how he would feel if NBC wanted to cut his multi-million dollar salary in half. The entire 30-second story was comprised of "Simpsons" clips. Because viewers enjoy that sort of thing. Next, Brian began an obituary for A.C. Nielsen Jr. by boasting that he had 7.649 million viewers for the previous night's broadcast. Does Brian ever miss an opportunity to brag about his ratings? No. That's the kind of thing I would expect to hear from Donald Trump or Simon Cowell. But from a network news anchor, it just comes across as petty, crass and shamelessly self-promoting. In other words, business as usual at Nightly News. And on the subject of Nielsen, Brian should have mentioned how Nightly News deceives the public (and Nielsen) by fudging their ratings numbers. When Brian and his producers anticipate a lower-than-desired rating for a particular broadcast, they submit it to Nielsen intentionally misspelled as "Nitely News". That way, the lower rated "Nitely News" broadcast is counted in a separate category from the other "Nightly News" broadcasts and thus does not detract from the overall rating of the show. I guess this must have slipped Brian's mind or else he surely would have mentioned it.
Thurs. 10/6--There's not much to say about this broadcast since most of it was devoted to the life and philosophy of Steve Jobs. Although Brian did include clips from an interview he conducted with Jobs back in 2006. Does Brian ever miss an opportunity to show old clips of himself? Apparently not.
Fri. 10/7--Brian spent 30 seconds reading an obituary for the character actor Charles Napier, which included clips from "The Blues Brothers", "The Silence of the Lambs", and "Philadelphia". No offense to Mr. Napier, but he really doesn't deserve an obit on a network newscast. So why was he given one on Nightly News? Because "The Blues Brothers" is a Universal movie, and several of the Hannibal Lecter films (although not "The Silence of the Lambs") are from Universal Studios, as well. So Brian was just doing his part to promote one of NBC's sister companies. Moments later, Brian spent 20 seconds telling us that Prince Harry was in the U.S. for military training. Because...well, you know. Also on this broadcast, after detailing the Yankees' loss to the Tigers in the A.L. Division Series, Brian informed us that Alex Rodriguez earns $55,000 per at-bat. Why does Brian always feel the need to mockingly point out the salary excesses of athletes (on the July 31 Nightly News, he felt obligated to tell us that Peyton Manning's new 5-year $90 million contract will pay him $633 for every second he's on the field)? I think Brian actually fantasizes that he's some sort of clock-punching hourly-wage-earning blue-collar factory worker right out of a Springsteen song who enjoys grumbling about athletes' mega-inflated salaries. Maybe Brian should head down to Zuccotti Park and hang out with the "Occupy Wall Street" people. I'd love to see that. They'd boot his multi-million dollar ass right out of the park in no time flat. By the way, here's a fun fact: Brian earns nearly $50,000 for every Nightly News broadcast he anchors. That's more than most Americans earn in a year. Just a suggestion, but maybe Brian shouldn't be so quick to ridicule Alex Rodriguez or Peyton Manning for their outrageously inflated salaries.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--9/24 through 9/30

Here's some of the great stuff that happened this week on Nightly News:

Sat. 9/24--Mike Taibbi took us on a tour of Khaddafy's private plane. Somehow, it looked familiar. Then I remembered--it was identical to a plane that was owned by Brian Williams when Brian was featured on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" several years ago. Small world. Here's how Lester Holt began the story about the NASA satellite that finally crashed to earth: "After days of hysteria, we can all rest a bit easier." Hysteria? I don't think so. No one really cared that much about it. The only "hysteria" was in the minds of Brian and Lester, as they desperately attempted to boost the Nightly News ratings by drastically overreporting this non-story. Come to think of it, I believe I saw a similar NASA satellite in Brian's garage during that "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" program.
Sun. 9/25--There was no Nightly News this night because golf ran late. Obviously, golf is much more important than news (important means profitable) to the NBC weasels. Meanwhile, on ABC World News, David Muir interviewed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That's funny because on a "Meet The Press" promo during Saturday's Nightly News, we were informed that David Gregory would be conducting an "exclusive" interview with Netanyahu on Sunday. Just another example of NBC News claiming one of their interviews was "exclusive" when it obviously wasn't.
Mon. 9/26--Here's how Brian introduced the first of the week's Education Nation stories: "The reason we're here--our 2011 Education Nation summit--starting the national conversation--it was really started here last year--about the state of our education system--future of the country along with it." Wow. Even for someone with an ego as massive as Brian's, that's a ridiculously overblown statement. Does Brian really believe that NBC started the national conversation on education? I think that conversation has been going on for more than 200 years. And does he really believe that NBC is influencing the future of the country? Puh-leeze. Let's be clear: NBC's Education Nation summit is a trite self-promotional exercise dreamed up by the NBC marketing geeks as a way to increase ratings during the September sweeps period. NBC created this "summit" so that they could report on it as if it was a real news event--which it most certainly isn't. It's like Shark Week on the Discovery Channel or a wrestling story line on WWE SmackDown--a completely fabricated promotional event designed for only one purpose: to boost ratings and ultimately earn money. Brian's bombastic pronouncements about Education Nation's scope and influence are laughable. Also on this broadcast, we saw a 2:50 story (the lead story, in fact) about the damage sustained by the Washington Monument during the August earthquake in Virginia and a story about Medal of Honor winner Dakota Meyer's wish to join the New York City Fire Department. That's great. Maybe next week, Meyer will want to be a cowboy or an astronaut. A story on women's rights in Saudi Arabia featured comments from "Gayle Tzemach-Lemmon" (as she was described in a Nightly News graphic). Actually, Ms. Tzemach Lemmon's last names are not hyphenated. Oh well, no big deal. Accurate, inaccurate, whatever. The producers don't care.
Tues. 9/27--Brian referred to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as "The Big Man from New Jersey". That hardly seems like a respectful or professional way to describe the chief executive of a U.S. state. Viewers were also treated to another 2:50 story on the damage sustained by the Washington Monument and another story on Dakota Meyer's flirtation with the FDNY. Why do I feel that every time I watch Nightly News, I'm seeing reruns? No other network is reporting Dakota Meyer's job search because it isn't news--it's only news to Brian. But I guess when you're Brian Williams, you can report whatever you want. If a Medal of Honor recipient stubs his toe, Brian reports it as news. Later, we saw Anne Thompson's "Making A Difference" story about a dying 85-year old woman who wanted to see her grandson's high school band perform. So the band came to her hospice and put on a show. Really. I mean it. This is what gets two minutes of airtime on Nightly News. A story with absolutely no news value. But of course, Brian and his producers aren't interested in airing news--they're interested in airing feel-good tear-jerker stories that are specifically designed to boost ratings. Anne Thompson is a joke. Brian Williams is a joke. Nightly News is a joke.
Wed. 9/28--Another story on the Washington Monument. Oh goody. We also saw a 2:18 story about Reebok being fined $25 million by the Federal Trade Commission because of false statements they made while promoting their toning sneakers. This isn't news, but Brian always likes to help NBC's regular sponsors (such as Nike) by reporting damaging information about their competitors. Mission accomplished. Later, Brian aired a 35-second video of bear cubs wrestling at Yosemite. Because Nightly News is a serious news broadcast.
Thurs. 9/29--The first five minutes of the broadcast was devoted to the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor. Ninety seconds of this consisted of Savannah Guthrie regurgitating the already-stated facts of the case. A story on the increase in multi-racial and mixed race Americans included pictures of Seal & Heidi Klum and David Bowie & Iman--none of whom were born in the U.S. and only two of whom are naturalized American citizens. Well, at least it's an opportunity to show celebrity photos. And that's really what's important. We then got a total of 2:12 on these stories: Michelle Obama goes shopping in a Virginia Target store; the structural damage to the Washington Monument (I feel like I've heard this before--it must be deja vu); the next satellite that will fall to earth; and a 30-second video of Panda cubs. Thanks for reporting the hard news, Brian.
Fri. 9/30--A Nightly News map of Yemen omitted the apostrophe in "Sana'a" (they spelled it as "Sanaa"). We also got another story on the Washington Monument. That makes five reports totalling seven-and-a-half minutes for the week. I can't wait for next week so I can see more stories about the Washington Monument. And bear cubs wrestling. Maybe there will be some bear cubs wrestling Pandas at the Washington Monument. If that happens, I guarantee that Nightly News will cover it. Hell, they'd probably make it into a special report.

Norway Totally Rules At Nightly News

During one of Monday's Education Nation reports, Brian Williams told us that among the world's countries, U.S. students ranked 25th in math. The Nightly News producers illustrated this point by placing the U.S. flag below the flags of all the countries whose students outrank us in math. But the Norwegian flag was shown twice in the array. Why? Are the Norwegians so awesomely super-duper in math that their flag needs to be shown twice? No--sadly it's just another example of the Nightly News producers not caring about what they are doing.

Later in the broadcast, Lee Cowan reported a story on trigger laws, which allow parents to fire teachers or close failing schools if 51% of them sign a petition. Here's what Cowan told us: "California, Texas and Mississippi all have trigger laws on the books and at least 22 other states are considering it." But the accompanying map showed a total of 22 states shaded in red--including California, Texas and Mississippi. If 22 other states are considering trigger laws, there should have been 25 states shaded in red. I guess what Brian said earlier about the U.S. lagging in math skills is really true. His own producers can't even count to 25.