Here are some things you may have missed recently on Nightly News:
Saturday 10/22--Nightly News aired yet another story on the death of IndyCar racer Dan Wheldon. This is the fourth story (totalling more than eight minutes) they have done on Wheldon in the past week. Everyone knows how much Brian Williams likes racing (because he tells us about it constantly). So obviously Brian's overreporting of the Wheldon story (and insistence that Lester Holt also continue to report it) is just another example of Brian giving lots of air time to stuff he likes. Lester also told us that, "Another defunct satellite's hurtling toward the atmosphere...." Yeah, we know because Kate Snow told us about the satellite the night before. Do we really need to hear about it again? Unfortunately, one of the main jobs of the Nightly News anchors is to scare and alarm the viewers so they'll tune in each night for more information on the latest piece of falling space junk. The final story was a 2:20 piece about blue penguins in New Zealand who are living near an oil spill. People have been knitting sweaters for the penguins to wear so that when they preen, they won't be able to ingest any oil that's on their bodies. That's nice. But how is this news? Actually, it isn't. This is the second penguin story Nightly News has done in six weeks (the last one was on 9/4). Obviously, the NBC News research department has informed the Nightly News producers that penguins are good for ratings.
Sunday 10/23--We were treated to a 2:05 story on a shark attack in Australia--the second consecutive day Nightly News has reported this story. Apparently, hurtling satellites and shark attacks merit multiple days of coverage on Nightly News. Be afraid--be very afraid. While reporting on the Conrad Murray trial, Kristen Dahlgren told us that one witness had called another witness a "scumbag". Thanks for sharing, Kristen! The final story was a 2:30 "Making A Difference" piece about an Ohio farmer who brings pumpkins to pumpkinless kids in Paterson, NJ. Wow, he really is making a difference. This story just reinforces the fact that Nightly News is first and foremost about reporting hard news.
Monday 10/24--Brian read a 40 second obituary for Paul Leka, who had co-written the song "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye". Really? This is the most important story Brian could find to spend 40 seconds on? I find that hard to believe. But once again, when you're Brian Williams and you have your own entertainment and variety show (AKA Nightly News), you can report whatever you want. Brian then spent 45 seconds giving us a tour of the new Nightly News studio, which of course turned into a plug for "Rock Center". And finally, we were treated to a 2:30 "Making A Difference" story about a 7-year-old kid who races go-karts to raise money for kids with cancer. There is no subject Brian likes reporting on more than kids with cancer. Clearly his pals in the research department have told him that these types of stories score very high with viewers. So Brian uses kids-with-cancer stories to boost his ratings. What other reason could there be for the abundance of these stories on Nightly News? They certainly aren't newsworthy. It's just exploitation. Real nice, Brian.
Tuesday 10/25--During a story about President Obama, Kristen Welker made sure to plug the President's appearance on The Tonight Show that night. She will shamelessly plug anything (some of her past plugs have included Meet the Press, America's Got Talent and Cheerios). Brian then spent 35 seconds reporting an important story about how Necco is abandoning their attempt to use all-natural ingredients in their wafers. Good thing, because I must have missed this story when the PBS NewsHour reported it. Listen--I used to live near the Necco factory in Cambridge, MA. Every time I walked by, it smelled awesome. But that doesn't make it news, okay? After that, Brian reported a story about blue whales. I guess the blue penguin story went so well that he decided to try blue whales. This is the third whale story that Brian has reported in the past month. You know why--people like them...high ratings...blah blah blah. While reporting this story Brian told us, "(The whale) passed very close to the glass bottom boat then came back for a second pass just in case anyone missed the money shot the first time." Now, I don't know the origin of the phrase "money shot", but I do know that it is most closely associated with the porn industry. And I know that Brian knows that, too. Why is Brian intentionally using a porn term on Nightly News? Shouldn't he be saving that for "Rock Center"? Later, Brian spent 30 seconds showing us video of a wedding in Arizona that was disrupted by a dust storm. Great. The final story was about the 40th anniversary of the book "Our Bodies, Ourselves". Brian called it a book about "sex, plumbing and menopause". That doesn't seem particularly sensitive or appropriate. But then again, Brian is a guy's guy who likes to throw around terms like "money shot" on Nightly News. So I guess it's okay to say "plumbing".
Wednesday 10/26--Brian reported that from 1979-2007, the share of income for the top 1% of U.S. earners grew by 275%. He ought to know--with his 8-figure salary, he's definitely in the top 1% of earners. That's known as first-hand experience. The "Making A Difference" story this night was about a man who is running 42 miles a day to raise money for Parkinson's research. That's great. But why is this on a network newscast? Wasn't there any real news to report?
Thursday 10/27--The lead story was the health benefits of aspirin as a cancer-fighting drug. The story featured shots of only one national brand--Bayer. It also featured shots of some old-time Bayer print ads and a clip from a current Bayer TV commercial. Bayer (and their other products like Aleve, One A Day vitamins and Alka-Seltzer) is one of the biggest advertisers on Nightly News. They advertise up to four times on a broadcast. Clearly, this was just a big product placement for Bayer products. It was a way for Brian (and Robert Bazell, the professional shill who reported the story) to give a big "thank you" to the great folks at Bayer for all the ad money they've spent with Nightly News over the years. What a good friend Brian is. Then Ron Allen reported a story on Ruth Madoff and made sure to tell us that Mrs. Madoff would be appearing on The Today Show the next day. Great job, Ron. Plug, plug, plug. After that, Brian spent 30 seconds on a breaking news story about a black lab puppy who was found riding on top of a train. And another 30 seconds on a story about a humpback whale. The fourth whale story in a month! Nightly News loves those whales! Nightly News--your source for important information all the time. The final story was a "Making A Difference" piece about a company that bakes elaborate birthday cakes that go to children in crisis. That's a nice thing to do. And this story has zero news value. It does not belong on a news broadcast. But as far as Brian is concerned, kids in crisis are almost as good as kids with cancer for generating high ratings.
Friday 10/28--The final story of the night was an extremely important 2:15 report about the change in the British law of succession that would allow a first-born daughter to eventually become monarch. Obviously, this was just another excuse to show footage of Will & Kate. Because Will & Kate are good for ratings. During the July sweeps period, Nightly News showed eleven Will & Kate stories (totalling a whopping 24:02). So is it any surprise that they would air this story? Of course not. Just wait until Will & Kate visit a pediatric cancer ward. Brian will devote an entire broadcast to that.