Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Not-Really-Nightly News

Of the 105 weekend days in 2011, NBC did not air Nightly News on 18 of them (on the east coast, and possibly nationally). So 17% of 2011's weekend days were without an evening newscast on NBC. Obviously football, golf, hockey and horse racing were much more important than the urgent news events happening across the country and around the world. By more important, of course, I mean more profitable. The NBC weasels care so little for their weekend newscast that they're willing to forego it just for the sake of money. Unfortunately, in 2012, NBC will be pre-empting many more than 18 Nightly News broadcasts. An NBC source tells me that in the coming months, NBC will be pre-empting weekend newscasts in order to bring us the U.S. Indoor Tiddlywinks Championships, the National Collegiate Thumb Wrestling Finals, the PBA Underwater Bowling Tour, World Cup Uphill Skiing, the Ironman Backwards Triathlon, Ice Dancing With the Stars, the Sarah Palin Invitational Alaskan Trout Fishing Championships, Beer League Softball, the Kickball World Cup Finals, the Masters Miniature Golf Tournament, Canadian Junior Curling, Beach Hockey, Minor League Newcomb and Penultimate Frisbee. And of course, in a few months, it will be March Madness, so NBC will be airing the sweet sixteen and final four of NCAA Tetherball. I can't help wondering--why does NBC bother with Nightly News at all? If money is so important to the NBC suits, why don't they just cancel Nightly News altogether and air a more profitable show in its place? How about Celebrity Horseshoes?

Meanwhile, Monday's Nightly News included reruns of four stories that had already aired on Sunday's broadcast:
***On Monday, Brian Williams spent 1:45 talking with David Gregory about Sunday's Republican Presidential debate that took place on "Meet the Press". But on Sunday, Lester Holt already had a 1:35 discussion with David Gregory about the debate. By the way, Nightly News did not show any clips from Saturday's ABC debate; in fact they barely acknowledged it. Lester and Brian each made a single passing reference to Saturday's debate, without ever mentioning ABC. By contrast, on Sunday's ABC World News, anchor David Muir made multiple references to the NBC debate and even showed clips from it. I think it's obvious which network is interested in news, and which network is only interested in rabid self-promotion and childish behavior like, "If I ignore ABC, then they don't exist".
***Monday's two-minute story about Gabby Giffords' public appearance Sunday (to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of her shooting) was virtually identical to Sunday night's story. Monday's story used most of the same footage that had been shown Sunday; the only real difference was that Miguel Almaguer recorded a different voice-over for Monday's story in a silly attempt to make the stories seem different.
***Sunday's Nightly News featured a 30-second story about the Australian bungee jumper who plunged into an African river when her bungee cord snapped. Monday's Nightly News...featured a 25-second story about the Australian bungee jumper who plunged into an African river when her bungee cord snapped. Wow--it must have been really hard to trim those five seconds off of Sunday's story.
***Sunday's broadcast included a 20-second obituary for Tony Blankley. Monday's broadcast included a 40-second obituary for Tony Blankley. Was Blankley really so important that he merited obits on two consecutive 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 is 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 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. I'm sure Brian's decision to report this story had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that these brands compete directly with Bayer. Absolutely nothing. (With its pain-relief products like Bayer aspirin, Alka-Seltzer and Aleve, Bayer is by far the most frequent advertiser on Nightly News. So bad news for Excedrin and Bufferin is very helpful to Bayer.) And 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 courtesy to disclose that "Downton Abbey" is produced by a company owned by NBC Universal. So while the piece was shown for the sole purpose of promoting an NBC property, 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.

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