On Nightly News this week, we got stories about pandas, polar bears and (of course) dogs. We saw lots of really cool Christmas tree displays. Richard Engel wore his blue shirt a lot. And it was a whole week of "Making A Difference" follow-ups (that's another word for "reruns"). Here are the great highlights:
Sat. 12/17--The lead story was Christmas shopping on "Super Saturday" because obviously the producers thought this was the most important story of the night. In reality, it was just an excuse for Michelle Franzen to promote the great sales being held by some of NBC's best advertisers. Target was giving a $10 gift cards with a $75 purchase! J.C. Penney was slashing prices by 70%! Sears was staying open until midnight! Some of the stories that were deemed less important than "Super Saturday" shopping: The payroll tax cut extension, the continuing protests in Cairo, the flooding in the Philippines and the 2012 Republican presidential race. But at Nightly News, promoting NBC's advertisers is always more important than news.
***Richard Engel wore his blue shirt again while reporting from Kuwait. Engel is a good correspondent, but someone at NBC News should buy him a new shirt. I nominate Brian Williams. With his $10 million-plus salary, Brian can afford to buy Richard a new shirt. Or two.
***Lester Holt spent 20 seconds narrating a story about pandas. He said, "We all agree the hands-down winner for cutest pictures of the day has to be these two giant pandas at a park in China thoroughly enjoying a snow day complete with somersaults and snow cones in between plenty of rest and relaxation." Because Nightly News is always about the hard news.
***We were treated to a 2:40 story about dogs who were diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving in military combat. The NBC News research department has obviously informed the producers that viewers like seeing stories about dogs (and they help boost the ratings), so the producers use any excuse to put dogs on the broadcast. As if these poor dogs haven't been through enough, now they get to be exploited for ratings by Nightly News. Good thing they're dogs--they don't know they're being exploited by the Nightly News producers.
***The "Making A Difference" report was "Be A Santa To A Senior"--about school kids who give presents and sing Christmas carols to senior citizens. Two minutes and twenty seconds of more hard news. And by the way, why not be a Santa to a dog with PTSD? Dogs need Santa, too.
Sun. 12/18--The Nightly News producers constantly bombard the viewers with images of the U.S. flag. It's just another way for them to boost the ratings by appealing to our sense of rah-rah, gung-ho, God-Bless-America patriotism. On this broadcast, we were shown eight images of the U.S. flag in the first forty-five seconds of the broadcast. That may be a new Nightly News record. But then again, maybe not.
***Richard Engel wore his blue shirt again. I hope it doesn't dissolve into gossamer and blow right off his back some night in the middle of a live report.
***George Lewis spent two minutes reporting a story about California college students who get to live cheaply in mansions because of the depressed housing market. Awesome. Any real news going on?
***The final story was a 2:15 piece ostensibly about the nostalgia trend in current movies. This story consisted of two full minutes of movie clips from "My Week With Marilyn", "The Tree of Life", "The Artist", "Midnight in Paris", "War Horse" and "Hugo". As many as half the Nightly News broadcasts in any given month contain movie or TV clips. Again, the NBC News research department has informed the producers that people love to see movie and TV clips on the news and that they boost the ratings. So Brian Williams and NBC News president Steve Capus have made a conscious decision to turn Nightly News into the first half-hour of "Access Hollywood". And a little free advertising is a great way to thank the movie studios for all the ad dollars they've spent with NBC Universal over the years. Who knows--maybe the movie studios pay NBC to run these sham newsfomercials about their films.
Mon. 12/19--In a story about Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, Chuck Todd informed us that, "Romney spent most of today in TV studios". As he said this, we saw a clip of Romney entering the Ed Sullivan Theater to tape a segment with David Letterman. But there was absolutely no mention of Letterman or any shots identifying the theater as the Ed Sullivan Theater. This is part of NBC News's calculated policy to always avoid showing any of NBC Entertainment's competitors. If Romney was taping a segment for "The Tonight Show" or "Late Night", you know the producers would have shown a 15-second promotional clip of Romney with Jay Leno or Jimmy Fallon. But they're actually scared to show David Letterman. How petty can the Nightly News producers be?
***Brian then took 1:30 to tell us about the snowstorm in the Southwest and middle plains states. By contrast, CBS Evening News spent less than 20 seconds on this story, because that's what it deserved. Snow in the west. Okay, we got it after the first 20 seconds.
***Brian then spent 22 seconds showing us a National Geographic photo of a dragonfly. I guess he didn't want to forget to pander to the entomologist segment of the audience.
***The "Making A Difference" story was Chelsea Clinton's report on Annette Dove, who founded the TOPPS charity for children in Arkansas. For some reason, this story seemed familiar. Oh yeah--that's because Chelsea reported the exact same story a week earlier. This was just an excuse to put Chelsea back on Nightly News under the guise of a "follow-up report". Obviously, Chelsea is ratings gold so Brian will put her on the air as often as possible. The story ended with Brian creepily and fawningly telling Chelsea what great work she's doing. "Job well done!" Kiss ass much, Brian? When Chelsea said that Ms. Dove has received almost $200,000 from Nightly News viewers, Brian audibly gasped--as if this is the first time he's hearing that. He's a joke. There are NBC correspondents who have been reporting for years without ever hearing Brian praise their work. But after one week, Chelsea is clearly the teacher's pet. She's doing a credible job of presenting her stories, but it's just a shame that she would allow herself to be exploited by a news organization that only cares about her for her ratings value. She could do so much more in the private sector. I noticed that during the story, Ms. Dove used the phrase "Making A Difference", because she was obviously coached to do so by the segment producer.
Tues. 12/20--Tonight we got a 2:10 report on the snowstorm in the Southwest, because obviously Monday's 1:30 just wasn't enough. I guess NBC figures that since they paid $3.5 billion for The Weather Channel, they better use it every night on Nightly News.
***In a story about the death of Kim Jong-il, Brian introduced Andrea Mitchell as "Our Chief Foreign Correspondent". Actually, she's the NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent. Richard Engel is NBC's Chief Foreign Correspondent. Apparently Brian is just too important to bother getting these things right.
***Robert Bazell spent 1:50 telling us about a scientist who created a hyper-contagious version of the bird flu. Sounds familiar. Oh yeah--now I remember--Bazell did this same story on 12/15. I guess tonight's story was for the benefit of anyone who missed the original story.
***Brian reported on some newly discovered Earth-sized planets because it gave him an opportunity to hone his comedy routine. "Daytime highs averaging 800 degrees and 1400 degrees, but it's a dry 800 and 1400." Stop, you're killing us.
***Brian then told us about a power outage at Candlestick Park that took place during Monday Night Football. Promoting Monday Night Football helps generate interest in NBC's Sunday Night Football. All part of the master plan to relentlessly promote NBC Sports. Think the NBC Sports promotions are shameless now? This is nothing. Wait until the Summer Olympics.
***After that, Brian spent 20 seconds telling us about a Florida family with a mega-Christmas light display. Something tells me this won't be the last time this week that we hear a story like this.
***The "Making A Difference" report was a follow-up to last year's story about a woman who started a charity that provides Malawian girls with dresses. That's nice, but it's not news. It wasn't news a year ago, and it still isn't news today. Instead of reporting this trite story, Nightly News could have reported some actual news from Africa. But why would they? Actual news doesn't get high ratings like these non-news "Making A Difference" stories do. Again, the story's subject, Rachel O'Neill, used the phrase "Make a Difference" because obviously she was told to do so by the producers. This MAD segment was sponsored by Alka-Seltzer Plus because it's always good to exploit African children in order to sell cold medication.
Wed. 12/21--The lead story was about fatigue in airline pilots. Here's how Brian introduced the story: "...(N)ow the FAA has stepped in to change some old rules governing pilots and affecting the safety of every one of US." He used "us" because Brian always has to turn news stories into stories about HIM. The news is always about Brian. And Brian twice called this an "important story". Aren't all stories on a network news broadcast supposed to be important? Not at Nightly News. I guess Brian felt the need to differentiate this story from all the unimportant garbage he wastes time on every night--whales, pandas, dogs, Will & Kate, returning soldiers who surprise their kids and people who are "Making A Difference".
***Brian spent 40 seconds narrating an obituary for Ralph MacDonald, who wrote "Just The Two Of Us" and co-wrote "Where Is The Love". No disrespect to Mr. MacDonald, but this is not a resume that merits an obituary on a network news broadcast. But Brian gets to do whatever he wants. End of story.
***We got a 45 second story about a Russian student who bought an $88 million apartment in New York City. The producers should have attached a "Breaking News" banner to that one. I think Brian's just jealous because his offer of $86 million was rejected.
***Brian then spent 30 seconds telling us about a Baltimore street with a mega-Christmas light display. And people say Nightly News isn't a serious news broadcast.
***The final story was a "Making A Difference" piece about Fairy DogParents, an organization that helps needy people with their dog-related expenses. We already saw a MAD piece about them on the 12/28/10 Nightly News. Apparently, Brian and his producers felt we needed to see another story about this organization. The story was reported by Anne Thompson. An idiotic story from an idiotic correspondent. Makes sense. This is what Nightly News is wasting our time on.
Thurs. 12/21--On The CBS Evening News, Scott Pelley told us that an infant had died after ingesting tainted baby formula purchased at a Lebanon, Missouri Walmart, causing Walmart to pull that product from all 3000+ of their U.S. stores. Brian did not report this story because he does not like to report negative stories about Walmart, a major advertiser on NBC Universal stations and networks.
***Richard Engel reported from the Nightly News New York studios wearing a different blue shirt than the one he has been wearing in his recent reports from Afghanistan and Kuwait (today's shirt was a lighter shade of blue). I'm guessing it was one of his Hanukkah gifts.
***Brian told us that "83.6 million of US are projected to be on the roads at some point this holiday season...." Again he used "us" to make the news about him.
***In yet another unnecessary story about the weather, Brian said, "Sporty weather in the South...." I think he meant to say "spotty". I'm guessing that Brian's favorite Spice Girl is Spotty Spice.
***Kerry Sanders reported an absolutely pointless 2: 20 story about the increasing popularity of pawn shops. Clearly, this story was meant to capitalize on all the pawn shop reality series currently on the air. The story featured a clip from the History Channel's "Pawn Stars", in addition to gratuitous clips from "Trading Places" and "Just Go With It". This just reinforces the fact that the Nightly News producers create "news stories" based on what's trending on Google, Twitter, Yahoo, etc., as a way to pander to popular tastes and preferences. Shameless.
***Brian took 25 seconds to report the breaking news story about a woman who won a Ford pickup truck at an upstate New York hockey game when she shot a puck into a small goal. Obviously, Brian considers this important news. And, of course, it gave him an opportunity to plug the Ford F150 pickup truck (twice) as well as the local Ford dealership.
***Brian then took 25 seconds to tell us about Siku the baby polar bear who was born last month at a wildlife park in Denmark. I guess there were no panda stories to report on this day.
***Brian also spent 30 seconds telling us about the TSA Singers (a chorus of actual TSA employees), who serenade travelers at LAX airport. He said, "...(B)ecause my family and I will be passing through a TSA checkpoint in the next few days, thank you TSA for your holiday spirit." So now the news isn't only about Brian, it's also about his family. This is a professional network news anchor?
***As if he hasn't already wasted enough valuable news time, Brian took another 20 seconds to show us a Christmas light display from the Thompson family in Virginia. Because to Brian, the news is a fucking joke.
***Finally, it was time for another ridiculous "Making A Difference" story. Here's how Brian introduced it: "Tonight, the heartwarming story of a family that had fallen on hard times...and the strangers who saw the story of their plight." Someone should inform Brian that his job is to report news, not to warm the viewers' hearts. This was actually the third Nightly News story on the Hidalgo family. Earlier this year, we were first told about their hard times: Dad's out of work, not enough money to send the kids to college, no Christmas presents, house being foreclosed on. Then on 9/20/11, we got a follow-up after a family saw the original story and offered money to help the Hidalgos--and Nightly News covered this story like a tarp on a rainy baseball field. Now, we get yet another update--as if anyone was asking. You see, there's nothing Nightly News loves reporting on more than itself. None of these three stories had a scintilla of news value, but of course that never matters to Brian and his producers. They know that tear-jerker feel-good stories like these get higher ratings than actual news stories. And when Nightly News has an opportunity to report on itself, they shift into high gear. This follow-up to a follow-up was just absolutely ridiculous. Seeing one of John Vann's employees (on the 9/20 story) present a check to the Hidalgos was like watching a reality/game show. "Hidalgo family, you've just won thousands of dollars! Now smile and look happy for the cameras!" And if John Vann (the donor) hadn't seen the original Nightly News report, he would have donated his money to some other deserving family instead of the Hidalgos. So the Hidalgos got money that could have gone to another family--maybe a family that needed the money even more than they did. So there's really no net benefit here. But the Nightly News producers don't care about that. All they care about is pandering to the viewers to get high ratings. Note to the Nightly News producers: Instead of reporting three stories about the Hidalgo family, how about using that time to report one actual news story?
Fri. 12/23--A story about riots and injuries that occurred as shoppers tried to buy the newly re-released Air Jordan sneakers included ad clips for the sneakers. Of course it did, since Nike is a regular NBC advertiser. What a great way to say "thank you" to one of your sponsors.
***We were treated to a two-minute story about "Layaway Angels" who pay off other people's layaway purchases. This was a story on an evening network newscast. Really.
***Kate Snow (filling in for Brian) spent 20 seconds telling us about a Christmas light display on a street in San Antonio that honors each branch of the U.S. armed services. How heartwarming.
***We then got a 50-second story about the "Seinfeld" holiday Festivus--including 25 seconds of "Seinfeld" clips. This story was included for one reason and one reason only--to sell "Seinfeld" DVDs and make more money for NBC Universal. That's truly in the Christmas spirit.
***Finally, it was time for yet another "Making A Difference" story. It was about the Barnes & Noble CEO who built and gave away homes to needy people in New Orleans. As usual, this story was not in any way, shape or form newsworthy. As usual, the Nightly News producers don't care.