Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Brian Williams Loves Pink Slime and Jay Leno

On Tuesday, Pfizer announced that they are recalling a million packets of birth control pills because a mix-up between active and inert pills could cause some women to get pregnant. At CBS, Scott Pelley reported this story the day it broke. But Brian Williams did not report this story until Wednesday. He delayed the story (and probably tried to figure out a way to squash it) because Pfizer is a major advertiser on Nightly News and Brian does not like to report negative stories about his advertisers. Of course Brian is always happy to report positive stories about his sponsors. For Brian, it is more important to help his advertisers than to report news. Meanwhile, the Nightly News story barely lasted 20 seconds. If you blinked, you might have missed it. Brian may have been unable to avoid reporting the story, but he made sure to keep it as short as possible.

Recently, McDonald's announced that they would be discontinuing their use of the so-called "pink slime" food additive. "Pink slime" is made by treating otherwise inedible food scraps with ammonium hydroxide, a chemical that is found in fertilizers, household cleaners, floor strippers and explosives. And McDonald's was using this toxic gunk in their hamburgers. Yummy. Brian Williams refused to report this story because one of his main jobs as Nightly News anchor is to protect major NBC advertisers like McDonald's (for more information, see this previous Nightly Daily blog post: I suppose Brian could have presented this as a positive story--McDonald's has stopped using a toxic chemical in their food--but that would be like reporting that someone has finally stopped beating his dog. More people would focus on the negative activity than on the cessation of that activity. So don't look for this story anytime soon (or anytime at all) on Nightly News.

Here's how Brian began his introduction to Tuesday's lead story about the Florida primary: "For the good people of Florida, it's all over as of tonight..." And last Friday, this was how Brian began his introduction to a story about a Kentucky town that has become infested with birds: "Finally tonight we're gonna take you to a town with a big problem. It's in northern Kentucky where good people live...." Good people? Is there any level to which Brian will not stoop in order to pander to the people of a particular state or region? That is just desperate and pathetic.

On Tuesday, the nincompoop Anne Thompson reported a story about the balmy weather in January. (Has she ever reported a story on anything that actually matters?) At one point during the story, Thompson is shown walking in Central Park with a dog on a leash. Using a dog to get cutesy pander-points in a news story is just sad. I doubt the dog was even hers. It was probably a rental. What will she do in her next story? Walk through the park with a panda? A koala? A polar bear cub?

On Wednesday, Brian did a story about David Letterman's 30th anniversary on late-night television--without ever once mentioning CBS--his home for the last 19 years! That is incredible. Brian began by saying, "A big anniversary is being celebrated at a rival network," before going on to tell us that Letterman, "started here at NBC". In fact, in this story about Letterman, NBC was mentioned three times and CBS was mentioned zero times. And the only clip in which we actually hear Letterman talking was from a 1978 appearance on Tom Snyder's Tomorrow Show where Letterman dryly says that, "My ultimate desire is to anchor the Nightly News on NBC." Sorry Dave, you are way too intelligent for that job.

But of course in order to counterbalance the Letterman story, Brian immediately followed it with a story about Jay Leno. Obviously Brian couldn't do a story about "a rival network" without also doing one about NBC. There was no legitimate reason for the Leno story, but then again most Nightly News stories lack legitimate news value. Brian airs stories based on the ratings they bring him, not because the stories are newsworthy. On this particular Tonight Show, Michelle Obama was a guest, which is enough of a reason for Brian to make a story out of it. The clip featured Mrs. Obama talking about her husband's penchant for singing and, of course, included a clip of the President doing his Al Green impersonation at the Apollo (this was at least the third time Nightly News used the clip of the President singing). This story was like the trifecta for Brian. He got to show Mrs. Obama (a Nightly News darling who generates high ratings for Brian), he got to promote Jay Leno and The Tonight Show and he got to show the President singing. Awesome. I wonder if it ever bothers Brian that he is perceived as a joke because he wastes most of his broadcast promoting NBC shows and desperately chasing ratings. Probably not.

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