On this Thanksgiving week, I think we should all give thanks for Nightly News. Because without this joke of a broadcast we wouldn't be truly able to appreciate some of the serious news broadcasts we see on PBS, BBC and Democracy Now. So without further ado, here's what happened on Nightly News this week:
Sat. 11/19--No Nightly News aired today because Notre Dame football is much more important (translation: profitable) than news to the clowns in the NBC executive offices. The Iranians could have launched a nuclear attack against Israel and the jokers at NBC wouldn't cut away from football. After all, nuclear attacks against Israel aren't very profitable.
Sun. 11/20--A story about the Republican candidates at an Iowa "Faith and Family" forum was just an excuse to show a clip of Jon Huntsman on the previous night's "Saturday Night Live". As always, one of the main functions of Nightly News is to promote NBC sports and entertainment programs. We also saw another story on Natalie Wood's death because Brian Williams knows that viewers prefer to see entertainment stories (even if they're 30 years old) instead of actual news. A story about people preparing to shop on Black Friday showed ad clips from Best Buy, Target and Walmart because the Nightly News producers do everything they can to help promote their sponsors. The final story of the night was another story about pandas (the last Nightly News panda story was less than two months ago on Sept. 29). The NBC News research department has obviously informed Brian and his producers that animal stories test very well with viewers and result in high ratings, so Nightly News makes a point of showing animal stories almost every night. More shameless pandering (or panda-ing) from Brian and his producers. Lester Holt introduced the panda story by telling us that, "They're cute, they're cuddly, they're adorable..." True, but that doesn't make them newsworthy. By the way, this story included old recycled panda footage that had previously been shown in the Sept. 29 story.
Mon. 11/21--Here's what Brian said to Richard Engel during Engel's report from Cairo: "So Richard...the last time you and I walked through [Tahrir Square], it was a sunny afternoon--we met and talked to a lot of people...." As always, Brian tries to turn every news story into a story about HIMSELF. His favorite expressions are "For those of us...", "If you're like me..."and "Most of us..." because they allow him to transform a story into a story about Brian Williams. Why would anyone care about the last time Brian walked through Tahrir Square? We don't. The story is supposed to be about the Egyptian people, not about Brian Williams. But it's Brian's show and he gets to do whatever he wants. Then Brian spent 40 seconds talking about NASCAR because the NBC research geeks have told him that a lot of Nightly News viewers are also NASCAR fans. So Brian pretends to like NASCAR. You know, for the ratings. After that, Brian read a 40-second obituary for financier Ted Forstmann. Seriously? He deserves an obit on Nightly News? I don't think so. The final story was a a 2:15 piece about military personnel who get reunited with dogs they were with in Afghanistan. Yet another pointless "news story" that's really just a shameless excuse to show dogs for ratings purposes. On Nightly News, it's dogs, dogs, dogs.
Tues. 11/22--Brian ended his chat with The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore by saying, "Thanks, pal." How many times a night does Brian describe someone as "my friend"? I have never seen anyone so desperate to make people think he is well-liked. Then, Brian spent a minute showing clips of Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone on CNBC's "Squawk Box" because it's Brian's job to use his broadcast to promote CNBC. There was no news value to this story--it was pure promotion. The final story of the night was something Brian introduced as, "A piece of video we thought you should see." Was it footage from the current uprising in Syria? Was it footage from the new country of South Sudan? Was it footage from the thawing political situation in Myanmar? No. It was YouTube video of a couple of kids messing up their living room with a bag of flour. Seriously. You probably think I'm making this up, but I'm not. This is what Brian felt merited two minutes of news time on his broadcast. And Brian ended the story by telling us that the mother and her kids would be guests on the next day's "Today" show. Even by the abysmally horrendous standards of Nightly News, this represents a new low. A story completely devoid of any news value whose only purpose was to promote "The Today Show"? You've got to be kidding me. It's hard for me to understand how people can tolerate something like this. Why aren't thousands of viewers marching up to 30 Rock with pitchforks and torches demanding that Brian Williams and NBC News president Steve Capus be replaced? If anyone needs further proof that Nightly News is a joke and should be taken off the air, this is it.
Wed. 11/23--In a very important news story, Savannah Guthrie informed us of the following: "Today in Washington, the President did what presidents have done for the last 64 years now, pardoned the national Thanksgiving turkey." So if the tradition started 64 years ago, then Pres. Truman would have been the first president to pardon a turkey, right? Wrong. There is not a single shred of evidence in the Truman Library (or anywhere else) that supports this. Every news source credits Pres. George H.W. Bush as being the first president to pardon a Thanksgiving turkey. Even MSNBC's "First Read" blog states that, "President Harry Truman is often cited, incorrectly, as the first president to pardon a Thanksgiving turkey." Maybe Guthrie should read the "First Read" blog. Oh well, she was only off by 42 years. No big deal. Then Guthrie spent 30 seconds promoting the Thanksgiving Day Parade, which would be televised the following day on...you guessed it...NBC. The broadcast ended with a "Making A Difference" piece about some people in Illinois who help a family harvest their crops. Wow, that's an important piece of news.
Thurs. 11/24--Here are some of the stories Nightly News brought us on Thanksgiving: Shopping on Black Thursday, the troops in Afghanistan eating their turkey dinners, homeless female veterans who have a hard time finding work and a boys' high school football team that is coached by a woman. I guess the producers ran these stories because Thanksgiving is a slow news day, right? Wrong. It may be a slow news day in the U.S., but everywhere else in the world it's a regular news day. So instead of airing these idiotic stories that have no news value, why didn't the producers show us the important news from around the world? Because this is Nightly News and they don't do things like that. The final story of the night was a two-minute piece about some beagles that were freed from a research lab in Spain and transported to the U.S. to be adopted. Okay, first of all that's not news. It's just another excuse to show dogs. Remember--viewers like dogs, so dog stories get high ratings. And that's what Nightly News is all about. Ratings. In the past two months, Nightly News has shown 21 stories about animals (dogs and whales are the most popular, but we also saw stories about pandas, penguins and bears). But I have a question for Brian Williams, Steve Capus and the Nightly News producers: How much money does NBC Universal (and Nightly News in particular) earn each year from companies that test their products on dogs and other animals? That would certainly include cosmetics companies like Revlon, Estee Lauder, Clinique, Lancome, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, L'Oreal and a host of other NBC advertisers. And then there are pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Bayer. All of these companies test their products on animals, perhaps even beagles. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the beagles in the story were rescued from one of these companies. I noticed that Miguel Almaguer did not mention the specific company that they came from. He was probably instructed not to divulge the name in order to protect an NBC advertiser. So the Nightly News producers run a story about rescuing lab dogs, while they are accepting ad dollars from companies that test their products on animals. That is the very definition of hypocrisy.
Fri. 11/25--The lead story--yet again--was Black Friday shopping. In this story, we saw five different shots of people with Dynex televisions (Dynex is the Best Buy house brand). We saw multiple shots of customers wearing Best Buy hats. We saw lots of people shopping in Best Buy stores. John Yang told us that, "Electronics stores like Best Buy seem to be early Black Friday winners." Do you see a pattern here? Obviously, Nightly News is promoting Best Buy (during the past week, they also promoted Walmart, Target, Kohl's and other retailers). How nice--Brian and his producers are helping out some Nightly News advertisers. What a friendly thing to do. Later, Brian spent a combined sixty seconds on obituaries for Maggie Daley (wife of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley) and retired Four-Star General Ralph E. Haines. It must be great to have your own TV show--you can report on anything you want! After that, Brian spent another 40 seconds telling us about those beagles that were rescued. Apparently, the previous day's story wasn't comprehensive enough. Brian ended the story by begging the viewers to contribute money to the Beagle Freedom Project. Here's an idea: Before begging the viewers to donate money, why doesn't Brian, Steve Capus and the NBC executives agree that they will no longer accept advertising from companies that test their products on animals? That would have a far greater impact than the few thousand dollars the viewers could donate. I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen. By the way--one of the commercials that ran right after the beagle story was from Aleve (a Bayer product). How many beagles were tortured or killed in order to allow Aleve to come to market? The final story of the night was a piece about all the great holiday movies for kids. The story ran 2:15, and 1:25 of that was devoted to movie clips, including 45 seconds of clips from the new "Muppets" movie and 20 seconds from "Hugo". We also saw clips from "Puss in Boots", "Happy Feet Two", "We Bought A Zoo" and "Arthur Christmas" (and that doesn't include the ten-second clip of the Muppets on Jimmy Fallon's show. After all, as long as they were promoting movies, why not also promote Fallon?). So on one level, this story was meant to satisfy the viewers' desire for more and more entertainment news at the expense of real news. But there's something else going on here. The five weeks from Thanksgiving through the end of the year are among the most lucrative and competitive for the movie studios. As such, they spend a disproportionate amount of money on advertising during those weeks. Obviously, the NBC advertising sales department got together with Brian Williams, Steve Capus and the Nightly News producers and figured out a way to include movie clips on Nightly News as a part of ad sales packages. Instead of simply buying straight commercials, the movie studios were offered the opportunity to buy a combination package that includes commercials and promotional clips as part of Nightly News stories. So the 45 seconds of "Muppets" clips we saw were actually part of a paid ad package that Disney purchased. Paying to have a movie promoted on Nightly News is quite attractive to a movie studio, since an appearance on a news broadcast adds a legitimacy that a commercial lacks. Remember--there are no coincidences on Nightly News. Everything you see on the broadcast is put there for a specific reason to promote a specific product. So happy holidays from your pals at Nightly News! Don't say they never gave us anything.