It may be a new year, but it's business as usual for Brian Williams and his Nightly News producers. This week, both McDonald's and Starbucks announced that they will be raising prices on some items in some regions. Of course, Brian did not report this because he does not like to report bad news for NBC's best advertisers. However, when McDonald's announced that they would be spending over $1 billion to renovate their restaurants, Brian eagerly reported it (5/9/11). And when McDonald's announced that they would be making their Happy Meals more healthy (is "more healthy" the same thing as "less unhealthy"?), Brian also reported it (7/26/11). (In both these cases, it sounded as if Brian was reading the McDonald's press releases verbatim.) When Starbucks changed their logo, Brian couldn't wait to report it (1/5/11). And when Starbucks announced that they would be coming out with a new larger size Trenta coffee, Brian also made sure to tell us about it (1/17/11). On the 5/5/09 broadcast, we were treated to a two-minute story about McDonald's exciting new gourmet coffees. Of course, to avoid excluding Starbucks, the story also contained plenty of Starbucks plugs. And when both McDonald's and Starbucks announced that they would be offering free Wi-Fi to their customers, Lester Holt told us all about it (6/14/10). But a price increase for McDonald's and Starbucks? It seems the cat has got Brian's tongue.
Many other exciting things happened this week on Nightly News. Lots of stories about the weather. Promotions abounded for NBC Sports. The American flag flew almost non-stop behind Brian. The Upper Peninsula seceded from Michigan (apparently). Here are the details:
Sunday Jan. 1--The lead story was 1:40 on the "Winter Blast" headed for the eastern part of the country, because cold weather and snow in January is obviously a major story at Nightly News.
***We were treated to a 2:20 "news story" about how 2011 was a bad year at the movie box office. Of course, this was just an excuse to show clips from popular movies like "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo", "Moneyball" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2". The NBC News research department has determined that viewers like seeing movie clips on news broadcasts, and these clips help to boost the ratings. Showing movie clips is also a great way to give some free advertising to the movie studios as a way of thanking them for all their advertising dollars over the years.
***The final story was, not surprisingly, a three-minute "Making A Difference" piece about the Dallas Cowboys' Jason Witten and his SCORE Foundation, which helps victims of domestic violence. This was just a shameless way to promote the Cowboys-Giants game that was following the broadcast. Few things are more important to the Nightly News producers than plugging NBC's Sunday Night Football. Kate Snow introduced the story by saying, "Big game tonight here on NBC as the Dallas Cowboys take on the New York Giants. It's a do-or-die game for both teams." Let's be clear: No one at Nightly News gives a damn about Jason Witten's charitable activities. Their only concern was promoting the game.
Monday Jan. 2--Here's how Brian introduced a story about the murder of a park ranger in Washington's Mount Rainier National Park: "If you've ever vacationed in a National Park, then you know the park rangers are true public servants. They're not in it to get rich. For them, their job is a calling to serve the public and work in a beautiful place." So I guess it's also now Brian's job to promote the National Parks, in addition to his regular jobs of promoting the U.S. military. Brian is a fawning, obsequious sycophant for anyone in a uniform.
***Brian spent 30 seconds telling us all about the Winter Classic hockey game between the Flyers and the Rangers, which had just been televised on NBC. Is there one person on the planet who believes that Brian would have mentioned this game if it had been on CBS or ABC? I didn't think so. Just another example of something that isn't news unless it's on NBC.
***We saw another 1:40 story on the Winter Blast because people across the country really need to know about all the snow in Sherman, NY.
***Brian devoted the final three-and-a-half minutes of the broadcast to stories we may have missed over the past week. Here's how he introduced the story: "Finally tonight, with thanks to my friends Lester and Harry and Kate for filling in here and allowing me to sneak away and enjoy the holidays with my family"--remember, the news is always about Brian and his family--"as we hope you got to do as well, it's a tough time of year to follow the news closely. But of course that's why we're here. We thought we'd take a moment now to bring you up to speed on a few things that either somehow got by or went by too fast." First of all, I love how Brian uses the word "we". Clearly, this is his doing. These idiotic news recaps are his and his alone. They're just an opportunity for Brian to show everyone how funny he thinks he is. The first 35 seconds was comprised of previously-shown footage of Kim Jong-il's funeral. Brian thought it was so amusing that Kim's body was carried in a Lincoln Continental hearse. "He might have been the repressive leader of a dark sinister regime and a mortal enemy of the U.S. but for that final smooth ride, Kim Jong-il chose Detroit's best. Talk about kickin' it old school." This is a supposedly professional news anchor, by the way. I wasn't aware that "kickin' it old school" was a news term. I guess it is when you're desperate to show the viewers how hip and cool you are. Next we saw 20 seconds on China's planned moon mission followed by 30 seconds about a reporter for the Russia Today network who did some person-on-the-street interviews. Brian made a point of telling us how similar her report was to Jay Leno's Jaywalking routine. This is news? Here's a news flash for Brian: Jay Leno did not invent the person-on-the-street interview. But it gave Brian an opportunity to plug "The Tonight Show" and show some footage of Leno, and that's really all that mattered. Next we saw a 20-second bit about the cleanup after New year's Eve in Times Square. Of course, this was just a plug for a longer piece on that subject that would be appearing later on "Rock Center". Plug, plug, plug. That's Brian's mantra. After that, it was 20 seconds on how Cee Lo Green changed some of John Lennon's "Imagine" lyrics during his New Year's Eve performance and ten seconds about some Denver Marriott guests that had been locked out of their rooms on New Year's Eve. Kate Snow had already reported this story on the previous night's Nightly News, but I guess a story doesn't count unless Brian himself reports it. Then Brian told us about the closing of the Jaws ride at the Universal Orlando theme park, because it's always a great idea to use Nightly News to plug an NBC Universal property. Next he said, "If we covered celebrities, we'd mention the divorce of Katy Perry and Russell Brand, but sadly we don't". Gosh, that's clever--not. What a cheap and crass way to throw in some celebrity news. The final 30 seconds of this shameful piece was devoted to a YouTube video of a dog that likes listening to guitar music. It was worth it because it gave Brian the opportunity to mention Bud Light. Twice. And that was the final three-and-a-half minutes of the broadcast. Keep in mind that this was the first weekday broadcast after the slow Christmas and New Year's news cycle. So we might have expected Brian to end the broadcast with three-and-a-half minutes of real news instead of wasting that time by showing us how clever he thinks he is. Not a chance.
Tuesday Jan. 3--The first thirteen minutes of the broadcast was devoted to covering the Iowa caucus. And for the entire time Brian was on-screen, he had a ridiculous animated flag waving behind him in the background. Obviously, the NBC News research department has informed Brian and his producers that viewers like to see the U.S. flag. So Brian makes a point of exploiting the flag as part of Nightly News's rah-rah, gung-ho, eagle-soaring, God-Bless-America faux patriotism. Part of the Iowa coverage included Tom Brokaw's tediously overlong 4:15 story about the people of Perry, Iowa. Honestly, does anyone really care what the people of Perry, Iowa think? Isn't there any real news to report? At the end of Brokaw's piece, Brian said, "And Tom, a quick word on behalf of the good people of Iowa...." Is there any group that Brian will not pander to? Apparently not.
***A 1:40 story about the murder at Queen Elizabeth's Sandringham estate was just an excuse to show video of the Royal Family, including, of course, Kate Middleton and her late mother-in-law, Diana. In the second half of 2011, Nightly News showed more than 35 minutes worth of Will & Kate stories, so there's no reason to expect 2012 to be any different. (Of course, that 35 minutes was in addition to all the Will & Kate stories Nightly News showed in the first half of the year, before and after the wedding.)
***Brian ended the broadcast with a plug for NBC's caucus coverage, but he made sure to tell us, "You'll be able to see your shows tonight, as we'll be coming on with periodic updates as the results come in...." Because God forbid anyone should miss one of NBC's anemic entertainment shows.
Wednesday Jan. 4--Brian mentioned the NFL twice while talking about the previous night's Iowa caucus (talking about Rick Santorum's leap to the front of the pack, he said, "As they say in the big leagues, 'Welcome to the NFL.'"). Because at all times, Brian's job is to remind viewers about NBC's NFL games. And naturally, Brian had his animated flag background behind him during the caucus stories.
***While telling us about Tuesday's meteor shower, Brian inadvertently described it as a "media shower".
***Next, we saw thirty seconds each on the President playing beach football, Natalie Wood's death and some killer whales off the California coast. This was the eighth story on whales that Nightly News has shown in less than four months. That's a bit much, don't you think? But the whale stories get good ratings, so of course we can expect to see many more.
***The final story was a pointless "Making A Difference" piece by the equally pointless Anne Thompson. Has she ever reported a story that actually matters? This story was about a woman who makes tutus and capes to give to sick kids in the hospital. That's nice, but it's not news. Brian and his producers absolutely LOVE doing stories about kids with cancer because the viewers connect emotionally with those stories, and they get high ratings. The MAD piece was sponsored by Aleve, so Nightly News actually got paid for exploiting kids with cancer. Nice.
Thursday Jan. 5--In a story about the downsizing of the U.S. Military, Brian said, "It will affect all the American sons and daughters who raise their hands to fight our wars." Where's my barf bag? As usual, Brian continues to act as the chief propaganda minister for the U.S. Military. Later, Brian said this to Col. Jack Jacobs: "Jack, you and I have both been to the battlefields in both of these dual wars overseas..." Let's see--between Jack Jacobs and Brian Williams, which one is the Medal of Honor combat veteran and which one is the sycophantic wannabe who dresses up in combat attire and plays soldier?
***We saw a story about an 18-year-old single mother in Oklahoma who shot and killed an intruder in her home. During the story, we were shown a map of states that allow residents to use deadly force to defend themselves in their homes. Michigan was one of the states highlighted, but only the lower part of the state. The Upper Peninsula was not highlighted. Maybe the U.P. seceded from the state. Or maybe the stupid Nightly News producers are really in need of an atlas.
***We were treated to a two-minute story about the mild weather across the country. So when there's freezing temperatures and snow, Nightly News reports it. And when there's mild weather, Nightly News reports it. That's ridiculous. Weather is a local story. People watch their local news to get the weather. People in Florida don't really care what the weather is in Maine. The only reason Nightly News spends so much time reporting the weather is because NBC Universal paid $3.5 billion for The Weather Channel.
***The final story of the night was a two-and-a-half-minute piece on snowboarder Kevin Pearce's recovery from a head injury he sustained two years ago. We all wish him well. But this isn't news and it doesn't belong on a network news broadcast.
Friday Jan. 6--In the lead story, Tom Costello reported on the job market from Vienna, VA. However, a Nightly News graphic informed us that he was in "Manchester, NH". Oh well--the producers were only off by 400 miles.
***In a story about the New Hampshire primary, we were shown a clip of Richard Land's appearance on "Andrea Mitchell Reports". But the on-screen credit line did not place the show's title in quotes. On Tuesday, a clip from Mitchell's show did use quotes in the credit line. So I guess the Nightly News producers place titles in quotes when they feel like it. There are no rules at Nightly News. Quotes, no quotes. Advisor, adviser. Traveling, travelling. Every day is an adventure.
***Brian spent over a minute discussing the Republican candidates with David Gregory. The sole purpose of this exchange was to plug the candidates' debate on Sunday's "Meet the Press". But Brian never once mentioned the debate taking place on ABC Saturday night. I thought it was the job of a news anchor to report news--like a debate. But apparently Brian's job to plug his network's shows, not inform the viewers. It is appalling that Brian intentionally ignores news because it happens on another network.
***Surprise--we got a 2:15 story on the mild weather across the country. What did Nightly News report on before NBC acquired The Weather Channel? Actual news? By the way, at the beginning of this story, it had a "Decision 2012" banner at the bottom of the screen. Really? The mild weather is related to the election?
***We then saw a ridiculous "Road to Retirement" piece. As usual, Anne Thompson spent two-and-a-half minutes telling us what she could have said in 20 seconds. Lots of people don't have enough money to retire. Really--you don't say, Anne. Thanks so much. By the way, I wonder how Brian's retirement fund looks. Pretty healthy, I'm guessing.
***Brian spent 30 seconds on an obituary for pro bowler Don Carter. Because Brian is first and foremost about reporting important news.
***The final story was a 2:15 piece about a wolf from Oregon that wandered down to California looking for a mate. Wow--they should have put a "breaking news" banner on that one. Will Brian ever stop pandering to viewers with silly stories about animals? Of course not. He ended the story by saying, "What a good wolf." Brian is an idiot.
Here are a few of the Nightly News stories we saw during Christmas week:
Saturday Dec. 24--A two-minute story on Prince Philip's health scare (naturally) included footage of Will & Kate.
***Kevin Tibbles wasted 2:45 of our time on a story about a family that dresses up for its annual Christmas card each year. At the end of the story, Tibbles dressed up as a reindeer to be in their 2011 card. Great reporting. I hope the Peabody evaluation committee was watching.
***The final story was about returning soldiers who surprise their kids, spouses and parents by showing up unannounced and doing things like jumping out of big Christmas boxes to their kids' amazement. It's hard to imagine a bigger waste of two minutes of news time. Just shameful.
Sunday Dec. 25--We were treated to a 2:15 story about Kate Middleton's first Christmas as the future Queen of England. Because that's important news.
***The "Making A Difference" story was about a North Carolina man who repairs bikes for needy kids. Another important story.
Monday Dec. 26--An Australian woman woke her fiance from a coma by giving him Ambien. This is what merits two-and-a-half minutes on Nightly News.
***In the "Far From Home" series, we met a soldier who enlisted at age 33. Fascinating. Please tell us more.
***The "Making A Difference" story was a 2:30 piece about an organization that donates wedding dresses to military brides. I guess there was no real news this day.
Tuesday Dec. 27--We were treated to a 2:30 story about people returning items after Christmas. Oh joy.
***A 2:20 story about the wealth gap between members of Congress and the rest of America made me wonder about the wealth gap between Brian Williams and the rest of America. In this story, a professor named Alan Ziobrowski was identified in a Nightly News graphic as being from "Georgia State Univeristy [sic]".
***A 2:30 story titled "Trading Places" informed us that the people of Portland, Maine often barter services in lieu of cash. Really? I had no idea.
***The final story was a two-and-a-half minute piece on Siku, the polar bear cub. Yes, folks, Nightly News is a serious broadcast.
Wednesday Dec. 28--Where is winter? Why is there no snow? The producers took 2:20 to tell us.
***A story about films selected by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry was just an excuse to show clips from "Forrest Gump", "Silence of the Lambs" and "Bambi".
***In an obituary for Cheetah the chimp, Lester Holt told us that Cheetah died at 80. But below Cheetah's photo were the years "1929-2011" which would have made him 82. But I guess any chimps watching the broadcast would not have noticed the error.
***Anne Thompson brought us the fascinating story of an Air Force cook who retired after 37 years. What a waste of two minutes. If I could get back all the time Anne Thompson has wasted on Nightly News over the years, I could take a vacation. To Saturn.
Thursday Dec. 29--A 2:40 story on capacity crowds at Florida theme parks was a thinly-disguised plug for Universal Orlando, owned by NBC's parent company.
Friday Dec. 30--Harry Smith took 30 seconds to tell us about the death of a Medal of Honor recipient. Obviously, Brian made him report this story.
Saturday Dec. 31--We got an important story about the origins of "Auld Lang Syne". It included clips from "When Harry Met Sally" and "It's A Wonderful Life". Thanks, Nightly News producers. Not just for this story, but for all the great stories you brought us in 2011!