On last Thursday's CBS Evening News, Scott Pelley reported this story: "The drug company GlaxoSmithKline agreed today to pay the U.S. government a record $3 billion to settle investigations of its sales and marketing practices. Federal prosecutors had accused Glaxo of manipulating research to promote Avandia, the diabetes drug that has been linked to heart attacks. Under the settlement, Glaxo will not admit wrongdoing." Did Brian Williams report this story on Nightly News? Of course not. One of Brian's main responsibilities as Nightly News anchor is to promote NBC's sponsors and, conversely, to protect them from negative publicity. Glaxo is one of NBC's (and Nightly News's) most frequent advertisers, and Brian has a history of refusing to report bad news about them--specifically with regard to Avandia.
Of course, when the news is good for Glaxo, Brian loves to report it. On the 3/31/10 Nightly News, Robert Bazell (who frequently acts as Brian's main stand-in shill) took more than two minutes to tell us that Avodart (manufactured by Glaxo) may soon be approved to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, in addition to its currently approved use for shrinking non-cancerous enlargements of the prostate. Good news for Glaxo gets reported, bad news gets ignored.
So Brian didn't have time to report the Avandia story last Thursday. But here are a few stories he managed to report on Friday:
***Research shows that the "freshman 15" weight gain theory is a myth. The entire 30-second visual of this story was comprised of clips from "Animal House"--a movie that was released by Universal Studios, NBC's sister company. This was just a way for Brian to promote the movie, sell DVDs, and earn money for Universal.
***We were shown a photo of a dog with big ears. This was actually a story that Brian reported on Nightly News.
***The field from "Field of Dreams" was sold. "Field of Dreams" was--you guessed it--a Universal picture, so for the second time in less than a minute, Brian was using a sham story on Nightly News to promote a Universal movie.
***Brian then spent 10 seconds promoting the new JFK book written by MSNBC's Chris Matthews. Brian's third promotion in less than two minutes.
***We saw obits for Oscar producer Gil Cates and Tom Keith, who did sound effects for Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion" show. With all due respect, neither of these men deserved obits on a network news show.
***Brian told us that sitting around can increase your chances for getting certain types of cancer, so we shouldn't sit around, except to watch Nightly News. Really, he said that.
***Brian spent 20 seconds telling us that fingernails on a blackboard is a really grating sound. We also got to see a demonstration of this. Thanks.
***Then Brian told us that, "In a related story, we made it through the week without mentioning Kim Kardashian."
So Brian had time to promote two Universal movies and Chris Matthews's book, show us a dog with big ears and fingernails scraping on a blackboard, read two gratuitous obits, plug his own broadcast and mention Kim Kardashian. But he didn't have time to report Glaxo's record $3 billion settlement. For Brian Williams, that's just business as usual.