Friday, January 13, 2012

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--1/7 Through 1/13

Here's what you may have missed on NBC Nightly News this past week:

Saturday Jan. 7--There was no Nightly News Saturday because obviously NFL football is much more important than news to the NBC weasels.
Sunday Jan. 8--Nightly News spent nearly eight minutes reporting on the Republican Presidential candidates. Much of that time was devoted to rehashing Sunday's Republican Presidential debate that took place on "Meet The Press" that morning, but they barely acknowledged Saturday night's debate on ABC. (Lester Holt mentioned Saturday's debate once in passing, but never mentioned ABC.) Meanwhile, on ABC's World News Sunday, anchor David Muir not only mentioned the "Meet The Press" debate, but also showed clips from it. Obviously, ABC's main priority is reporting the news while NBC's main priority is self-promotion and playing childish "you-don't-really-exist" games with the other networks.
***We got a 30-second story about an Australian bungee jumper who plunged into an African river when her cable broke. Breaking news if I've ever seen it.
***The final story was a ridiculous two-and-a-half minute piece about law students using dogs to help them relax while studying. The producers played three promos for this story, including two that featured the Osmond's 1972 song "Puppy Love". You're probably thinking that I got confused and I actually saw this piece on Animal Planet, but no, trust me--it was on NBC Nightly News--a supposedly professional news broadcast. Stories on dogs mean good ratings for Nightly News, which is why they've done 14 stories about dogs in the past 5 months. Of course it's not just dogs that help the Nightly News ratings. In the past 10 months, Nightly News has done at least 56 stories about animals, including cats, whales, bears, pandas, penguins, polar bears, koalas and lions. Obviously, ratings matter much more than news to Brian Williams and his producers. And by the way, using pop songs as promos for silly animal stories is a cheap ploy and not something a professional news organization would do. Then again, no one has ever accused NBC Nightly News of being a professional news organization.
Monday Jan. 9--This was clearly a day of reruns at Nightly News. Brian Williams spent 1:45 talking with David Gregory about Sunday's "Meet the Press" Republican Presidential debate. But on Sunday, Lester Holt already had a 1:35 discussion with David Gregory about the debate. There wasn't anything new to report--they just went over yesterday's news. And like Lester on Sunday, Brian refused to mention Saturday's ABC debate because he has a strict policy of not mentioning the other networks.
***We saw a two-minute story about Gabby Giffords' public appearance Sunday to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of the Tucson shootings. The event took place on Sunday and it was covered that night on Nightly News. Monday's story on Giffords was virtually identical to Sunday's story--there was no new information so we mostly saw the same footage that had been shown Sunday. The only real difference was that Miguel Almaguer recorded a new voice-over for Monday's story in a silly attempt to make the stories seem different.
***We also saw a 25-second story about the Australian bungee jumper who plunged into an African river when her bungee cord snapped. Why does that seem familiar? Oh yeah--now I remember. Nightly News reported the exact same story on Sunday. But it must have been really hard to trim those five seconds off of Sunday's story.
***We were shown a 40-second obituary for Tony Blankley. We had already seen a 20-second obit for Blankley on the previous night's broadcast. Was Blankley really so important that he merited obits on two consecutive Nightly News broadcasts? But there was one important difference in the two obituaries. Sunday's obit showed the years "1948-2012" on-screen below Blankley's photo. Monday's obit showed the years "1949-2012" on-screen below Blankley's photo. It's laughable that the Nightly News producers could give Blankley two different years of birth on two different days. But that's how things are at Nightly News. No one cares.
***Luckily, not every story on Monday's broadcast was a rerun from Sunday. We were treated to a marvelous story about how Kate Middleton celebrated her 30th birthday. She went to see "War Horse"! She cried! OMG! By the way, this is only the 22nd Kate Middleton story Nightly News has run in the past seven months, so we're not even close to the saturation point. I'm surprised that Brian didn't lead with this story, considering his obsession with all things Kate.
***Then we saw some mesmerizing footage of George Romney from 1967. I'm not sure why this was relevant, other than to allow Brian to plug a longer version of the Romney story that would be airing later on "Rock Center". Is it really ethical for Brian to take more than a minute from Nightly News in order to plug his prime-time show? Oh well, what do I know. Ethics doesn't matter; plugging "Rock Center" matters.
***Next, Brian spent 30 seconds telling us about recalls of Bufferin and Excedrin. Those brands compete directly with Bayer, which is by far the most frequent advertiser on Nightly News (its pain-relief products include Bayer aspirin, Alka-Seltzer and Aleve). So bad news for Excedrin and Bufferin is very helpful to Bayer. But I'm sure that had absolutely nothing to do with Brian's decision to air the Bufferin/Excedrin recall story. Because Brian doesn't use his broadcast to help his sponsors. Never ever. And if you believe that, there's a bridge over the East River I'd like to sell you.
***The final story of the night was a 2:45 piece about the popularity of the PBS series "Downton Abbey". Wow, 2:45--that's really long. They could have aired two actual news stories in that time. But I'll say this--at least Stephanie Gosk had the ethical integrity to disclose that "Downton Abbey" is produced by a company owned by NBC Universal. So the piece was shown for the sole purpose of promoting an NBC property, but at least Gosk told us the truth. I'm not sure how Brian allowed that disclosure into the story--I'm guessing he wasn't aware of it until it actually aired. Meanwhile, on Monday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met in Berlin to discuss ways to salvage the economic future of Europe. Brian didn't report this story because obviously it wasn't important enough. But at least we know all about Kate's 30th birthday and "Downton Abbey". Great job, Brian. Keep up the good work.
Tuesday Jan. 10--While talking to Brian about Jon Huntsman, Andrea Mitchell mentioned that Huntsman's father made a fortune by inventing the fast food clamshell package. Brian immediately chimed in with "the Big Mac container" because he's incapable of passing up a chance to plug McDonald's. How much does McDonald's pay Brian to plug their products, anyway?
***A story about the Supreme Court case involving censorship on network television contained a 15-second clip of Bono cursing during the 2003 Golden Globe Awards. Certainly there was no shortage of clips the producers could have used for this story (remember Janet Jackson at the 2004 Super Bowl?). But obviously Brian ordered his producers to use the Bono clip because Brian makes a point of including Bono (and Springsteen and Bon Jovi) on as many of his broadcasts as possible each year. Brian gets to do whatever the hell he wants. And don't you forget it.
***During a story about snow in Alaska, the Nightly News producers correctly spelled "Juneau" on a map. On the 12/25/11 Nightly News, the producers spelled the state capital as "Juno". You know--like the movie. So I congratulate the producers for getting it right. See--not everything I write about Nightly News is harsh and critical.
***The final story was Brian's two-and-a-half minute overly-long profile of Dorothy Robie, co-owner of Robie's Country Store in Hooksett, New Hampshire. The store is a regular stop for politicians campaigning in the New Hampshire primary. Note to Brian: It might have been more informative to spend that time reporting on the actual candidates, rather than on someone who has only briefly met the candidates. At the end of the story, Brian's closing comment was, "How 'bout that--a picture of Mitt Romney's fathah," using his best fake New England accent. Wherever he goes, Brian loves to make fun of the local yokels.
Wednesday Jan. 11--The lead story was outgoing Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour's pardon of 214 prisoners before leaving office. Brian ended the report by calling it an "amazing story". Five seconds later, introducing a story about the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist, he said, "Americans woke up to an amazing story this morning from overseas...." I guess "amazing" was the Sesame Street Word of the Day. Here's an idea for Brian: Just report the news. We'll decide what's amazing.
***A story about Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and the other Republican candidates included a clip of Michael Douglas from "Wall Street". This isn't surprising--Brian has a huge man-crush on Douglas and shows his clips frequently on Nightly News (in addition to being introduced by Douglas each night at the beginning of the broadcast).
***We got a 2:15 story on Michelle Obama because the NBC News research department has informed Brian and his producers that stories on Mrs. Obama are very popular and generate high ratings.
***Pete Williams continues to be my hero. Once again, when Brian introduced him with a treacly "Good evening, Pete", he held his ground and refused to say "Good evening, Brian". At least there is one person at Nightly News who understands that news is about reporting important events, rather than feeding the ego of an anchor who is desperate to convince the viewers that the correspondents really, really like him.
***Brian began a story on Hostess's filing for bankruptcy by saying, "A lot of us like their products a lot more than we'd be willing to admit in public...." A lot of us. Because the news is always first and foremost about Brian.
***Brian then took thirty seconds to report the breaking news story of a little girl at the Wellington Zoo who was watching a snarling lion through the glass partition. Brian then told us that the Wellington Zoo was in New England. Actually, it's in New Zealand. He was only off by around 9,000 miles. Seriously, someone needs to buy Brian an atlas. By the way, last June 17, Brian reported a breaking news story about...a little boy at a Colorado zoo who was watching a snarling lion through the glass partition. I think it's fair to say that Brian has the little-kid-watches-snarling-lion-behind-glass-partition stories totally covered. Because Brian is all about the hard news.
***The crack investigative team at Nightly News brought us a 2:10 story about the dangers of yoga. Imagine--people can get injured doing yoga. Who knew? Why wasn't this the night's lead story? Why aren't the "occupy" people making this their lead message?
Thursday Jan. 12--Here's how Brian began the night's lead story about the U.S. Marines who urinated on Taliban corpses: "If you have a combat veteran in your household or your family perhaps they can tell you what happens over there--what happens to young men who volunteer for duty at 18 years of age and find themselves in withering daily combat fighting an insurgency in an unforgiving place sometimes over multiple combat tours." Not surprisingly, Brian is making excuses for the Marines' actions. Because Brian is the Chief Propagandist for the U.S. Military. I'm surprised he didn't stand up and scream "Ooh-rah!"
***We saw a 2:40 story about snow in the Midwest, New England and Alaska. In January. As if this is some sort of breaking news. Within this story, there was a fifteen-second clip of Al Roker, Ann Curry and Matt Lauer battling the elements outside on The Today Show. By contrast, The CBS Evening News spent a total of 20 seconds reporting on the winter weather. Because that's all the story deserved. The Nightly News clip from The Today Show was almost as long as CBS's entire weather story! We can only wonder if Nightly News is going to waste as much time reporting on snow in January as they did reporting on hot weather in August.
***A story on the second anniversary of the Haiti earthquake showed old footage of--surprise--Brian Williams in Haiti. Whenever Nightly News does a follow-up story like this, Brian orders his producers to include old footage of him because the news is always about Brian. By the way, in a few weeks it will be the second anniversary of the day Brian completely dropped the Haiti earthquake story to start covering the Vancouver Olympics. I wonder if he'll mention this anniversary on the air.
***Brian then spent 50 seconds reporting on the Russian space probe that will fall to earth on Sunday. Brian spends an awful lot of time reporting on space junk falling to earth. But, as we all know, Brian gets to do whatever he wants. Brian ended the story by telling us that the probe may hit Madagascar. "If so they'll have to move it, move it," he said. Brian is apparently so desperate to appear hip and cool that he has now taken to incorporating Black Eyed Peas lyrics into his news stories. I can't wait to hear Brian say, "You can go hard or you can go home" to describe the next Republican candidate to drop out of the presidential race.
***Brian spent more than a minute telling us about a ringing cell phone that disrupted a performance of the New York Philharmonic. I'll say this: A ringing cell phone at a Philharmonic concert is almost as annoying and incompetent as a fire alarm blaring continuously through an evening newscast. If you don't get the reference, watch a rebroadcast of the 11/29/11 Nightly News (or search Google or Youtube for key words like "NBC Nightly News fire alarm Brian Williams").
***The broadcast ended with a 2:05 story about Samantha Garvey, a high school senior who is a semi-finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search despite being homeless. We all wish her well, but in what alternate universe is this considered news?
Friday Jan. 13--Leading into a story about the Republican Presidential candidates, Brian told us that Peter Alexander was in "Columbia, South Carolina", although the caption below Alexander clearly read "Hilton Head, SC". Oh well, Brian was only off by 160 miles. That's much less than he was off by when he told us that Wellington was in New England.
***Brian and his pals at The Weather Channel needed more than a minute-and-a-half to tell us about a few inches of snow in Cleveland. In January! Well I never heard of such a thing!
***In another pointless piece from the "Duh, really?" file, dimwit Anne Thompson took nearly three minutes to tell us that we should start saving for our retirement. But this piece wasn't on Nightly News because it was an important news story. It was just a marketing magnet. In the commercial break immediately before this story, a Charles Schwab commercial aired with the tag line "Let's Talk About Retirement." Obviously, Nightly News only included this "news story" as a way of attracting sponsors like Charles Schwab. It's called a tie-in. So it doesn't matter that the story had no actual information to offer. That wasn't the point of the story. Bringing in new sponsors was the point of the story. The Nightly News ad sales reps, rather than the news producers, probably came up with the story concept. And it worked. Well done.
***Next, we saw another story about Samantha Garvey, the high school senior who was profiled on Thursday's broadcast. She won't be homeless much longer because Suffolk County officials gave her family a home! So now we've spent nearly four minutes over two days learning all about Samantha Garvey. Because obviously, there was no real news to report. Brian ended the story by saying, "We'll stay on this story." Gee, ya think? Obviously, Samantha Garvey is the new Mary Thornberry. Viewers may recall that last February, during the uprising in Cairo, Nightly News spent an astonishing 14 minutes reporting seven stories about Thornberry, an American who was temporarily trapped in her Cairo apartment. They shamelessly milked the story and made it into a running soap opera, culminating with Brian's three-and-a-half minute interview with Thornberry on the 2/7/11 Nightly News. Considering that Brian and his producers have only 22 minutes each night to report all the important news going on across the country and around the world, it's journalistic malpractice to include pointless stories about Mary Thornberry and Samantha Garvey. But Brian knows that human interest stories (no matter how irrelevant) garner higher ratings than actual news, so he's not about to abandon this practice anytime soon.
***The final three minutes of Nightly News (obviously, the word "News" in the show's title is only a suggestion) was devoted to the 60th anniversary of The Today Show. To put it bluntly, this sickening story was just NBC masturbating itself. Look--there's Barbara Walters! And Katie! And Meredith and Bryant! Awesome! So let's recap Friday's broadcast. After the 10-minute mark, the "news stories" we saw were about snowy weather in January, how to prepare for retirement, Samantha Garvey's life story and The Today Show's 60th anniversary (there was also a 50-second obituary for news correspondent Richard Threlkeld thrown in). Meanwhile, on Friday Standard & Poor's downgraded the credit rating of France and eight other Eurozone countries, but Brian never mentioned this because obviously it wasn't important enough. But at least we know all about Samantha Garvey and The Today Show's 60th anniversary. And that's what's really important.

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