Sunday, February 12, 2012

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--2/4 Through 2/10 (Revised)

This past week, Nightly News spent more time reporting on Bruce Springsteen than they spent reporting on Australia, South America, Africa and Eastern Asia combined.  That makes sense.  Brian Williams knows that he gets high ratings reporting on entertainers and celebrities and low ratings reporting foreign news.  And for Brian, it's all about the ratings.  Always.  Well, there probably wasn't much going on in those places, anyway.  Just a hunch--I'm guessing that in the months leading up to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics (to be televised by NBC), Nightly News will spend a lot of time reporting on South America.  Here's what happened on Nightly News this week:

Sat. Feb. 4--Breaking news!  There was a "Winter Blast" in Denver!  Obviously the producers decided to report this story because a snowstorm in Colorado is such an anomaly.  Especially in winter.
***We got to see an awesome "Super Bowl Preview".  I'm sure this story was included on the broadcast because it was important, not because it was a shameless way to spend 2:45 promoting NBC's Super Bowl coverage.  Funny thing--Nightly News didn't do a Super Bowl preview last year when the game was on CBS.  Oh well, I guess they were too busy doing stories on Mary Thornberry that week to bother with the Super Bowl.
***The final story was about the kids from an Indiana high school football team who were selected to be stand-ins for the Super Bowl players when NBC was preparing their coverage and setting up their camera angles.  What a surprise--another Super Bowl story.  Who would have thought.
Sun. Feb. 5--No news today because of the Super Bowl.  Duh.  Obviously, a news broadcast would have interfered with NBC's 11 straight hours of Super Bowl coverage.
Mon. Feb. 6--I  guess everyone at NBC was hung over from the Super Bowl because Nightly News reported just six stories this night--and only three could be considered actual news.  They reported on Syria, President Obama and the Washington man who killed himself and his sons by blowing up his house.  Fair enough--those stories are newsworthy.  But the other three stories--about JFK's intern, the Super Bowl Chrysler ad and WW II veterans (which together took up more than 10 minutes of news time)--had no news value and did not belong on a network newscast.
***During the story about Matt Lauer's interview with President Obama, Brian and Chuck Todd referred to it three different times as the "Super Bowl interview".  Um, guys, the game's over.  You don't have to promote it anymore.  How nice that the leader of the free world is reduced to being a pawn in NBC's non-stop back-slapping self-promotion.  And apparently there was a "turf war" between Matt and Brian for the right to interview the President on that day.  It seems pretty obvious who the NBC executives consider their "golden child".  Sorry, Brian--it's not you.
***We saw a three-minute story about Mimi Alford, the JFK intern who doubled as the President's sex toy.  (In his intro to the story, Brian mispronounced her name as "Minnie" before correcting himself.)  This story was really just a promo for a longer version of the story that would be airing on "Rock Center" later in the week.  Brian seemed to think that the interview was some sort of scoop.  I guess he didn't notice that Ms. Alford was using Nightly News to promote a book she had written about the affair.  And why is this news anyway?  The affair had already been revealed years ago.  Clearly, Brian is obsessed with JFK.  This is the fourth JFK story Nightly News has reported in the past two weeks.  For Brian, it's a lot easier (and cheaper) to report 50-year-old news than to report current news.  Naturally, the story (and the broadcast) ended with a promo for "Rock Center". 
***After that, Brian spent 40 seconds rehashing the Super Bowl.  First he told us that it was "the most-watched television program in American history."  That's nice--a news anchor who shamelessly brags about his network's ratings.  How humble.  (Funny thing--I never hear Brian bragging about ratings for programs on other networks.)  Then he said, "Nielsen estimates 111.3 million of US watched as the Giants defeated the Patriots in an epic battle in Indianapolis."  Us.  Because the news is always about Brian. 
***Then Brian spent more than two minutes fawning over the Clint Eastwood "Halftime In America" Chrysler ad that aired during the Super Bowl.  He called it "a big, sweeping and impactful ad."  He showed us 45 seconds of the ad, including a 30-second continuous clip.  So much for anchor neutrality.  But don't let Clint Eastwood's appearance in the ad fool you.  Brian Williams is Chrysler's most avid pitchman.  He has made it his mission over the years to relentlessly promote Chrysler on his broadcast.  On the 2/7/11 Nightly News, Brian devoted a whopping 3:15 to shamelessly promoting the Eminem "Imported From Detroit" Chrysler ad that aired a day earlier during the 2011 Super Bowl.  And who could forget the 11/13/07 Nightly News, which Brian anchored from a Chrysler plant in Detroit?  That broadcast was nothing more than a 30-minute commercial for Chrysler.  The broadcast ended with an "interview" Brian conducted with Jim Press, then Chrysler's #2 executive.  This "interview" began with Brian asking Press softball questions and concluded with Brian and Press talking about how great Chrysler cars and trucks are.  What an incisive interview.  Why doesn't the Nightly News announcer just say, "And now, here's Brian Williams for Chrysler."  I'm just wondering--how much does Brian get paid to be Chrysler's shill?  His partisan support of NBC's sponsors is a gaping violation of journalistic ethics.  I'm sure he doesn't care.
***The broadcast ended with a ridiculously long 4:15 piece about World War II veterans in New Hampshire who are contributing their stories to a book about the war.  Here's how Brian introduced the story (with a waving flag animation behind him):  "It might be the greatest slow motion tragedy of our times and we can't stop it.  The greatest generation is fading from the scene--World War II vets are dying at the rate of 740 a day...."  And here's another of Brian's sappy, Hallmark-style quotes:  "Long ago he was a young man--brave, scared, proud to be a part of a fighting force on a foreign shore trying to save the world."  Sheesh.  I'd ask who wrote that crap, but it's obvious that Brian wrote it.  Once again, he's pandering to the viewers because the NBC News research department has informed him that rah-rah gung-ho stories about veterans are popular and get high ratings.  So altogether, Brian wasted more than 10 minutes with his ridiculous stories about JFK's intern, the Clint Eastwood Chrysler ad and WW II vets.  How much real news could he have reported in that time?  And it's even more appalling when you consider that Nightly News did not air on Sunday, so Brian had 48 hours of news to catch up on.  And this is the garbage he chose to waste valuable time on.  Appalling.
Tues. Feb. 7--Kelly O'Donnell reported on that day's caucuses and primaries from St. Charles, Missouri.  After her report, Brian said that she was reporting from St. Charles, Minnesota.  Can someone please buy this guy an atlas?  Brian later corrected himself, no doubt after his producers pointed out his error.
***In a story about the Obama administration's decision to require religious institutions to provide birth control, David Axelrod was identified in a Nightly News graphic as a White House "advisor".  On the Jan. 28 broadcast, a "Meet the Press" promo identified Axelrod as a White House "adviser".  No one cares at Nightly News.
***Pete Williams continues to be my hero.  Every time Pete reports a story (such as this night's story about same-sex marriage), Brian segues to him with a treacly "Good evening, Pete".  But Pete never takes the bait.  Instead of responding with "Good evening, Brian", Pete just launches right into his story.  You go, Pete!  Why does Brian feel the need to exchange pleasantries with every correspondent he talks to?  Can't he friend them in private?
***Brian spent 26 seconds reporting about the events in Syria.  A few minutes later, he spent 30 seconds reporting on the parade given for the New York Giants after their Super Bowl victory.  The Giants get more air time than Syria--I think that tells us everything we need to know about Brian and Nightly News.
***Nightly News correspondent/shill Tom Costello spent 2:20 reporting on the dangers of sodium in food.  As usual, Costello's main job was to protect the NBC sponsors by not showing any name-brand products.  Costello reports frequently on hidden dangers in consumer foods and never shows any actual products.  NBC's pals at Kraft and Frito-Lay wouldn't like that.
***Brian spent 20 seconds telling us that Michelle Obama would be participating in a physical fitness challenge on that night's "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon".  In the past week, Brian has also promoted Mrs. Obama's appearances on "The Tonight Show" and "Ellen".  He is a shameless shill.
***The broadcast ended with a 2:20 profile of Nicole Lyons, a female race car driver.  She was one of's 100 history makers chosen for Black History Month.  Let me get this straight. (an NBC-owned website) arbitrarily chooses history makers and then Nightly News reports on them?  That's just a mutually self-promoting scam.  And by the way, this story had zero news value.  But Brian loves to show racing stories because they allow him to pander to the important NASCAR demographic.  And we all know that Brian gets to air stories on whatever he wants.
Wed. Feb. 8--What a surprise--another story on JFK's intern.  This time, Ms. Alford was given a 4:05 chunk of airtime to promote her book.  So in the span of two weeks, Brian has reported five stories (totalling more than eleven minutes) on JFK.  That's even more than the four stories he's reported on Michelle Obama in that time!  Obviously, the JFK story was meant as bait to lure viewers to that night's "Rock Center" (which has been moved to Wednesdays to try to improve the anemic ratings it was generating on Mondays).  In case there was any doubt, the story ended with a shameless plug for "Rock Center". 
***Brian showed us photos of the Northern Lights taken from space.  This was the fifth story on the Northern Lights that Nightly News has run in the past two weeks.  Brian thanked his "friends" on the International Space Station for the photos.  I'm sure they think of Brian as their friend, too. 
***Brian read an obituary for Nello Ferrara, the inventor of Atomic Fireballs, Red Hots and other candies.  No disrespect to Mr. Ferrara, but does this really belong on a network evening newscast?
***The final story was a 2:05 "Making A Difference" piece about a group of San Diego women who began getting together for dinner and started raising money to help needy girls and women around the world.  Now, Dining for Women has more than 8,000 members in 38 states.  It's really great that these women are helping people in need.  But why is this on a news broadcast?  Has anyone ever noticed that Nightly News shows hundreds of minutes of "Making A Difference" stories every year and not one of them has ever contained even a shred of actual news?  Obviously, these MAD pieces are included because they're viewer favorites that earn high ratings.  Viewers connect with these sappy "people helping people" stories on an emotional level, and that translates to ratings.  Brian and his producers understand that viewers are bored with real news so they pad the broadcast with garbage like this (not to mention stories about famous actors, musicians, cute animals, British Royals and other ratings-grabbers).  It's a formula that works.  Nightly News may not be a real news broadcast, but it certainly gets high ratings.  And that's what matters most to Brian and his producers.  The broadcast ended with another promo for "Rock Center".  Did you expect any different?
Thurs. Feb. 9--Here's some breaking news that Brian reported:  "As we mentioned, there's music news for Bruce fans.  The Boss will be sporting an entire brass section when the Wrecking Ball tour sets out later this year."  Wow!  A story about Bruce Springsteen!  Awesome!  Of course, this isn't news, but it gave Brian yet another opportunity to show some totally rad concert footage of his pretend-pal Bruce.  Don't forget--no one tells Brian what to do.  He gets to report on whatever the hell he wants.  So he's going to show us as many stories about Springsteen, Bono, Bon Jovi, Michelle Obama, Michael Douglas, John and Jackie Kennedy, Kate Middleton, Meryl Streep and George Clooney as he damn well pleases.  And don't you forget it, pal.
***You can add Steve Jobs to the above list.  He's another one of Brian's favorites.  This time, Brian brought us a 45 second story about the FBI file on Jobs.  People said he was arrogant!  He used drugs!  He didn't support an out-of-wedlock child!  He twisted the truth to achieve his goals!  As if any of this was news.  I can't wait to read the FBI file on Brian.
***Next, we got an important story about L.A. County officials raising the fine to $100 for throwing a football or frisbee in any undesignated area of L.A. beaches during the summer.  Oh no, say it ain't so.
***The broadcast ended with a pointless "Making A Difference" story about a former marine who helps returning soldiers find jobs in agriculture.  He should be congratulated.  But this isn't news.  This was a waste of 2:15 of valuable news time.  By constantly doing these hokey "golly-I-sure-do-love-America" stories, Brian proves that wrapping himself in the flag is a ratings bonanza.  By the way, on this night, Nightly News did not air a single story about Greece, Syria or any other foreign country.  Not one report from outside the U.S.  But we learned all about the L.A. school sex scandal, the measles outbreak in Indiana, the dangers of C-sections and that Gabby Giffords' aide will run for her congressional seat,  Foreign news bad, Springsteen good.  Thanks, Nightly News producers!  Great job!
Fri. Feb. 10--Finally!  The Nightly News producers discovered the crisis in Greece.  The other networks have been covering this story for weeks, but not Nightly News.  If only the producers had used their heads, they could have turned the crisis in Greece into a promo for this summer's London Olympics by showing footage of the 2004 Athens Games.  Do I have to tell them how to do everything?
***The idiotic Anne Thompson reported a story about a Philadelphia Cardinal who died one day after a judge ruled that he could testify in a lawsuit alleging child sex abuse by priests.  Anyone who's ever seen Thompson's fawning and obsequious coverage of the Pope (or any matter relating to the Catholic Church) knows that she is far too biased to report objectively on the subject.  She should go back to reporting about the nice weather in winter and walking her rental dog in Central Park.  Of course, that's not going to happen.  Brian's own rabidly pro-Catholic stance insures that he will continue to assign shills like Thompson to cover his beloved church.
***We then got a two-and-a-half minute story about a Norovirus outbreak on a cruise ship.  I don't know why Nancy Snyderman needed so much time to report this story.  Maybe it has something to do with Nightly News demonizing cruise ships after the Costa Concordia tragedy.  Cruise ships are the new Jerry Sandusky!  Well, at least we got to hear Dr. Nancy say "diarrhea". 
***Brian then spent 35 seconds telling us about some Boeing test pilots who used their flight route to trace the Boeing logo "over an eight-state area".  Actually, according to the on-screen map that accompanied the story, it was across a nine-state area.  I guess Brian dosen't think too much of South Dakota.  Brian said that, "Our friends at the website 'FlightAware' alerted us to this...."  Really?  I wonder if Brian's "friends" at FlightAware know his other "friends" from the International Space Station who took those photos of the Northern Lights.  He has so many friends!
***The next story was very important.  Brian told us that, "We now know that New York fans 'held it in' the whole time because water usage in the city of New York spiked 13% in those first moments after the [Super Bowl] game."  Really?  Forty-five seconds about Giants fans not peeing until the game ended?  I think Walter Cronkite turned over in his grave.  Of course, this was just another excuse for Brian to spend more time talking about the Giants' victory.  "One of the best football games in Super Bowl history not to mention the world champion New York Giants' stunning victory.  It was also THE most-watched TV show of any kind for all time."  Good thing he's not biased or anything.  By the way, Brian always gives selective information about NBC ratings.  According to a blog on (  "The ratings for Super Bowl 46 were very strong, but not quite strong enough to set a new record.  The Giants’ 21-17 win over the Patriots came in with a 47.8 overnight rating and 71 share of the viewing audience, according to the Associated Press. That’s just off the record 47.9 overnight rating for the Packers’ victory over the Steelers last year, a mark that game shares with Super Bowl 21 when the Giants beat the Broncos."  So it wasn't the highest-rated Super Bowl in history.  Sorry, Brian.  I hope you're not too devastated.  That reminds me of two years ago when Brian spent countless minutes on Nightly News bragging about NBC's ratings for the Vancouver Olympics without ever mentioning that NBC lost $225 million on the Games.  Brian is a deceptive weasel.  I can only imagine all the things he withholds from his wife.
***At the risk of sounding repetitive, the night's final report was a pointless 2:20 story--with no news value--about veterans.  Where have I heard that before?  Oh yeah--Monday and Thursday.  And lots of other days.  So this was the third story this week about veterans.  This time, it was about some people in San Diego who pitched in and raised money to give a second wedding to a wounded vet.  But I'll let Brian describe it:  "We try, as you may know, to focus as much attention as possible on our returning veterans.  Tonight we have a genuinely heart-warming story about how a community pulled help a wounded hero and his bride to have the wedding of their dreams."  Are you as sickened as I am?  Isn't there anyone at NBC News with the guts to tell Brian that his job is to report news, not to warm our hearts?  Brian doesn't care.  Warm hearts equal high ratings.  Another great week at Nightly News.

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