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.