Friday, March 30, 2012

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--3/24/12 Through 3/30/12 (Revised--Full Week)

Q: What do you call an evening newscast that goes an entire week without a single report on Iran, Iraq or Syria? A: You call it NBC Nightly News.  Also this week--Pete Williams dissed Brian Williams three times and Brian made me sick to my stomach.   But the big news was the $640 Mega Millions lottery.  Here's what else happened:

Sat. March 24--Congratulations to the Nightly News producers!  In a story about the Trayvon Martin shooting, they correctly spelled the name of the Orlando Sentinel.  Last Wednesday (3/21), they spelled it as "Sentinal".  This shows real progress.  They should be very proud of themselves.
***In a story about the GOP presidential candidates, Ron Mott reported live from Green Bay, Wisconsin.  At first I was puzzled because there was no huge American flag over his shoulder, a requirement for all NBC News political reports (and most other remote reports).  But upon closer examination, there actually was a tiny flag way, way off in the distance over Mott's right shoulder.  This is completely unacceptable.  NBC News rules clearly state that U.S. Flags must take up no less than 25% of the screen space in any live shot.  I'm certain that some producer was read the riot act over this foul-up for failing to have located a huge flag to use in this report.  Furthermore, all NBC News producers are required to carry their own huge flag to use in remote shots, so the producer responsible for this SNAFU was probably fired.  By the way, at the beginning and end of this report, Mott was identified in a Nightly News graphic as being in "Green Bay. WI".  That's right--the producers used a period instead of a comma.  I guess they were too busy looking for a flag to pay attention to graphics details.
***A story about cheating on Georgia's public school achievement tests carried the "Rock Center" logo at the beginning because Brian Williams is desperate to do anything he can to boost that show's anemic ratings.
***We saw a minute-and-a-half story about Queen Elizabeth "crashing" a wedding because NBC News research shows that people love to watch stories about Great Britain's Royal Family.
***The final story of the night was about a three-year-old girl who suffers from a rare lung disease.  The Nightly News producers constantly exploit sick children for ratings because these stories appeal to the viewers' sense of hope and pity.  Nightly News shows dozens of stories each year about kids with cancer or other serious illnesses.  But this story had an added bonus for the producers because this little girl has a service dog that carries around her oxygen tanks.  So this is like the daily double for the Nightly News producers.  Not only did they get to show plenty of shots of a cute, sick little girl, they also got to show her dog.  It's like a Lassie movie.  And just in case we didn't feel bad enough for little Alida Knobloch, the story included somber guitar music to make us even more melancholy.  Another crafty Nightly News trick.  They might as well have just played some Nick Drake or Kurt Cobain.  A news broadcast that exploits sick children for ratings is just as bad as a scam charity that falsely claims to raise money for sick kids.  They are both vile, predatory and leech-like.  But the Nightly News producers don't care.  All they care about are the ratings.  Well done.
Sun. March 25--There was  no Nightly News this night because golf ran late.  What a surprise.
Mon. March 26--Pete Williams continues to be my hero.  While introducing a story about the Supreme Court hearings on health care, Brian once again tried to sweet-talk Pete with a treacly "Good evening, Pete".  But Pete just ignored Brian and went right into his story.  I guess there's at least one person at Nightly News who understands that the news is about reporting stories, not about anchors and correspondents friending each other on the air.  I bet that every time this happens, Brian stomps his feet and bangs his fists and complains to NBC News President Steve Capus.  "Why won't Pete say 'Good Evening' to me?  Why doesn't he like me?  I'm a nice guy.  Make him say 'Good Evening' to me, goddammit!"
***After Pete's Supreme Court story we were treated to a minute of inane analysis from Savannah Guthrie.  A first-year law student could have given the same analysis.  Brian introduced her by saying, "As a lawyer yourself and a watcher of all things Supreme Court..."  He never misses an opportunity to remind us that Guthrie is a lawyer, like that's so impressive.  Big deal--my Starbucks barista is a lawyer.
***We then got three minutes of Matt Lauer's interview with Sgt. Robert Bales' wife because promoting "The Today Show" is one of Brian's main responsibilities.
***Andrea Mitchell began her report about the Pope's visit to Cuba by saying, "Good evening Brian, and I know you were here the last time a Pope came to Cuba--John Paul II, of course, 14 years ago...."  I'm sure Brian demanded that that line be included in Mitchell's report because he requires all his correspondents to acknowledge his journalistic acumen.  He's like a Mafia Don insisting that his capos pay tribute.
***A story on weight loss surgery as a cure for diabetes was titled "Breakthrough?"  Why do the Nightly News producers always use questions as titles for their stories?  They're supposed to answer questions, not ask them.  (Obviously, they do this as a ratings ploy to pique the viewers' interest and keep them from changing channels.)
***Time for another weather update.  There was a cold snap in the Northeast!  In March!  Wow!  Every time the temperature changes by a few degrees, Brian insists on reporting it.  News flash:  People get weather information from their local news, not from national news.  But I guess since NBC Universal paid $3.5 billion for The Weather Channel, they make damn sure to use it as often as possible.
***The broadcast ended with a two-minute report about James Cameron's deep-sea dive.  The story included 20 seconds of movie clips from "The Abyss", "Titanic", "Avatar" and "Terminator".  Because obviously, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the first thing people think of when they think of deep-sea diving.  By the way, CBS News also reported this story, but they didn't include any movie clips.  I guess Scott Pelley is interested in reporting news, not pandering to his viewers with movie clips.
Tues. March 27--Here's how Brian introduced the lead story about the JetBlue pilot who went berserk:  "Most people do the same thing when boarding an aircraft--you glance to the left quickly just to see the folks who are gonna do the flying and once WE'RE assured they look like pilots, WE make OUR way to OUR seats where OUR lives are in their hands."  Wow.  I mean--I know the news is always first and foremost about Brian, but five personal pronouns in one sentence?  Impressive!  That may be a new record.
***Pete Williams--you are the man!  Once again, Pete refused to return Brian's platitudinous "Good Evening".  I think I saw a little wisp of smoke come out of Brian's ears.  And like last night, this story was followed by some vapid commentary from Savannah Guthrie.  I can almost hear Johnny Cochran saying, "If your analysis is weak, then please don't speak."
***Brian took 30 seconds to tell us that chocolate may help people lose weight.  Because he's all about the hard news.
***Brian began the next story by saying, "It's another great time to look at the night sky" because Venus and Jupiter are visible.  Brian is always reporting astronomy-related crap because it's of interest to HIM.  And let's face it--that's really what matters, isn't it?  By the way, Brian already told us about Venus and Jupiter two weeks earlier on the 3/12 broadcast.  Maybe Brian's lobbying to get a planet named after him.  Has the name Narcissus been used yet?
***Stop the presses!  A Colorado third-grader made a half-court basketball shot.  And Brian spent 30 seconds telling us about it.  You won't see this kind of intrepid reporting on ABC or CBS.
***The final report of the night was one of those stories that just makes me want to vomit.  It was titled "Hiring Our Heroes" and here's how Brian introduced it:  "And that brings us to our final report tonight--help for U.S. military veterans.  When you think about it, their job while in uniform is to get the job done.  Now ask yourself, if you're an employer--don't you want someone like that on your payroll?  That's the gist of our company-wide campaign called 'Hiring Our Heroes'--a joint commitment by NBC Universal and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which in the past year has held more than 100 job fairs for vets and their spouses.  Thousands of people have been hired--NBC's Chris Jansing has the story of two of those vets who got the help they needed."  Are you queasy yet?  I'm nauseous just from typing that.  This is another one of Nightly News's sickening rah-rah, gung-ho, eagle-soaring, flag-waving stories meant to stir up patriotic feelings and gain ratings among the NASCAR demographic.  Can someone please explain to me how the hell it's the job of a news organization to launch a job initiative?  And then report on it as if it's actual news?  What an appalling breach of journalistic ethics.  We all know Brian has given himself the responsibility of finding jobs for children of his friends (like Luke Russert) and presidential progeny (like Chelsea Clinton), but now he thinks he has to find jobs for veterans, too?  This is just Brian patting his own back for pandering to the viewers' sense of faux-patriotism.  Nightly News viewers are certainly aware that Brian is a fawning sycophantic toady who gets off by carrying water for the American military.  He has single-handedly turned Nightly News into the propaganda arm of the U.S. armed services.  And now, he's somehow convinced Steve Capus to go along with this grotesque self-promotional display of jingoism.  I guess it's not a big surprise.  Capus will do anything to keep Brian happy (such as continuing to carry the burdensome "Rock Center" on the NBC schedule despite its horrendous ratings).  So he's willing to indulge Brian in this shameless and egotistical pursuit.  And from a ratings perspective, it's probably not going to hurt.  No one ever lost ratings points by waving the American flag around (Brian proves that every night).  I have to say this is one of the most sickening things Nightly News has ever done--and that's saying a lot.  How does the FCC allow this sham news organization to continue operating?  What a waste of three minutes of valuable news time.
Wed. March 28--In keeping with their policy of boosting ratings by scaring viewers, the Nightly News producers used the title "Air Scare" for the lead story about the JetBlue pilot who went berserk.  They also used the title "Flight Risk?" because the producers somehow think it's a good idea for a title to ask a question.  The story included a clip from "The Today show" because--well, you know.  In his intro to the story, Brian told us that "Airline Captains...are responsible for all souls on board."  Why would he use a ridiculous word like "souls"?  He uses this word frequently.  Maybe all the coverage of the Pope has put Brian in a very ecclesiastical frame of mind.
***After the JetBlue story, Brian showed a graphic of all the planes in the air at the time.  He said, "Take a look at this graphic from our friends at Flight Tracking website...."  I guess since Pete Williams won't be Brian's friend, he's desperate to show us that he has lots of other friends.
***Speaking of Pete Williams--he again dissed Brian by ignoring his "Good evening, Pete".  Pete's disdain for Brian is pretty obvious.
***After yet more inane commentary from Savannah Guthrie, Brian said, "Thank you, counselor, for your counsel during this case."  That idiotic statement sounds like something out of "Ally McBeal".
***Just in case you had recovered from the previous day's sickening "Hiring Our Heroes" segment, it was time for another round.  Here was Brian's intro:  "Aboard the aircraft carrier/museum USS Intrepid here in New York today, an effort to help some of the Nation's veterans find civilian jobs back home.  It's part of 'Hiring Our Heroes', a joint project by NBC Universal and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  More than 4,400 vets and their spouses attended job fairs today in New York, Chicago, Ft. Hood, Texas--16,000 more participated on line.  Our own parent company, by the way, Comcast NBC Universal today pledged to hire 1,000 vets over the nest three-year period."  He went on to say, "If you've seen a Sgt. Major in the army over in the field, you would hire that person so fast 'cause they can get anything done."  I'm pretty sure that Brian had an erection while saying this.  This isn't a news story, it's a promotional announcement for NBC.  I spent so much time vomiting from last night's "Hiring Our Heroes" report that I could only manage to dry heave during this report.  Naturally, the story ended with a plug for "Rock Center".
***Brian then spent 20 seconds telling us that the airplane manufacturer Hawker Beechcraft was filing for bankruptcy.  Does anyone other than Brian care about this?  Brian is an aviation geek, so he thinks that everyone is interested in stories like this.  Because the news is all about Brian.  Always.
***To end the broadcast, Kevin Tibbles spent two minutes telling us about the half-billion dollar Mega Millions jackpot.  He asked passersby what they would do with the money, then had his blood pressure checked to make sure he could stand the stress of winning.  Tibbles has become the Nightly News go-to guy whenever an insipidly stupid story needs to be reported.  Remember his 3/9/12 "news story" about Barbie's 53rd anniversary?  Or his awesome 4/6/11 report about Pringles?  Or his 12/16/09 breaking news story about Rudolph, the blind and deaf dachshund?  Yes, Tibbles has done some great work at Nightly News.  Peabody material.  At every news network, there's always one person who the producers assign to the silliest, most inane stories because they know he or she will report a story no matter how idiotic is is.  At Nightly News, Tibbles is that person.
Thurs. March 29--The first two stories (totalling more than four minutes) were about new CDC statistics on autism.  Not exactly what I would consider lead story material.  Then, when Lester (who was anchoring that night) began introducing the next story (about the Trayvon Martin shooting), the graphic box over his left shoulder and the graphic wall behind him still read "Diagnosis: Autism".  I guess the graphics technician must have fallen asleep.  Can anyone blame her?  Someone get this person a double espresso--stat!
***The Trayvon Martin story was titled "New Evidence?" because phrasing the title in the form of a question draws the viewers in much more so than with a simple declarative title.  Just another trick to boost ratings courtesy of the Nightly News producers.  At the end of this story, Ron Allen said, "We should point out that Sanford police only made those tapes available because of a Freedom of Information request by NBC News and other journalists."  I love how Allen threw in "and other journalists" at the end--as if NBC News was the prime mover in the FOI request and the other "journalists" were just a couple of 1940's-type hacks with "press" cards in their fedoras.  I'm pretty sure that all the other major networks also made FOI requests.
***Next, it was time for yet another story on gas prices.  Tom Costello took 2:45 to say what could have been said in thirty seconds.  Costello basically regurgitated old information that had already been previously presented in the nine stories on gas prices that Nightly News ran in February.
***Then we got another report on the "Bully" movie from the vapid Kate Snow.  I guess the two-and-a-half minutes Nightly News devoted to that movie on March 10 wasn't enough, so we needed another three minutes.  And the story ended with a twenty-second promo for a longer "Bully" story on Sunday's "Dateline" because obviously we just can't get enough of "Bully".  I suspect that Brian is the one behind the scenes pushing "Bully" on us because it seems pretty clear that he was bullied as a child.  And maybe even as an adult.
***An obituary for Earl Scruggs was really just an excuse to entertain the viewers with clips from "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Bonnie and Clyde".  In fact, almost 25% of the story was comprised of movie and TV clips.  That sounds about right.
***The final story was about the modern-day gold rush in Elko, Nevada.  I guess this is what passes for news at Nightly News.  Hey, the Discovery Channel called--they want their programming back.
Fri. March 30--On this busy news day, what story do you suppose Nightly News lead off with?  The elections in Burma?  The situation in Syria?  No.  Nightly News lead off with two stories (comprising nearly five minutes) about the Mega Millions drawing.  In the first story, Stephanie Gosk interviewed people about what they'd do with $640 million (maybe she should have asked Brian, since he's one of the few people who actually has that much money).  In the second story, Suze Orman gave us some helpful advice to use if we win: "Once you've won, it's different.  Now you're in this whole different state of 'Oh my God, I have this money!'"  And this: "Here's the bottom line--money alone will never, ever, ever make you happy, but lack of money will make you miserable."  Hey, thanks, a lot Suze.  Awesome advice.  Oh, by the way, Orman has a show on CNBC so don't forget to watch that.  And remember to order the shady Suze Orman debit card so she can profit from your tailspin into bankruptcy.
***OMG!  Nightly News did a story about Iran--the first Iran story they've done in two weeks!  What's the deal--is Iran sponsoring a $640 million lottery?  I can't imagine why else they'd bother to report on Iran.
***The broadcast ended with...that's right--another story about the Mega Millions lottery drawing.  With this two-minute story, Nightly News has spent nearly seven minutes this night reporting on the lottery.  That's almost a third of the entire broadcast.  Well, if something is really important, you gotta go with it.  And this story was reported by Kevin Tibbles so you know it's special.  It included a clip of Frank Sinatra singing "Luck Be A Lady" as well as clips from the movie "It Could Happen To You" and the old "Let's Make A Deal" TV show.  And before the previous commercial break, the exit music previewing this story was Pink Floyd's "Money".  Because at Nightly News, you can't tell a story without pop songs and movie clips.  Great job, Kevin.  You should be so proud.
***So let's recap.  This week, Nightly News did not mention the coup in Mali.  They did not do a single story about Syria.  But the producers gave us nine minutes worth of Mega Millions lottery stories.  That's why I love Nightly News.

Friday, March 23, 2012

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--3/17/12 Through 3/23/12 (Revised--Full Week)

Not surprisingly, Nightly News spent more time this week reporting on the warm March weather than on Syria, Iraq and Iran combined.  The producers have their priorities, after all.

Sat. March 17--After several minutes of reports on the massacre of Afghan civilians by Sgt. Robert Bales, Lester Holt said, "Another big story we've been following today, the continuing late winter warming trend."  So at Nightly News, warm weather in March carries the same news value as the killing of 17 innocent people.  I'm surprised they didn't put the weather story first.
***Ron Mott ended his report about the GOP Illinois primary with a live shot  where he was standing in front a huge American flag.  It is comical how the Nightly News producers make a point of inserting a U.S. flag into every possible shot.  Pander, pander, pander.  That's the Nightly News motto.
***Hallelujah!  Nightly News spent a minute reporting on Syria.  This is the first Syria story they have done in a week.  Obviously, Syria is not considered to be a "big story" like the warm weather in March.
***We were treated to 35 seconds of video of various St. Patrick's Day celebrations, including the obligatory shots of the Chicago River dyed green and the President drinking a pint of Guinness.  It's not difficult to figure out why we were shown this story.  Brian Williams is of Irish descent and every year he orders the Nightly News producers to do a story on St. Patrick's day--even when he's not anchoring.
***It had been a whopping 48 hours since Nightly News did a story about Kate Middleton, so we were treated to some footage of her visit to the British Army's Irish Guards on St. Patrick's Day.  Can you believe that some news organizations actually spend more time reporting on Syria than on Kate Middleton?  Obviously, Nightly News isn't one of them.
***A story about the harmful effects of sugary sodas was relegated to the lower-rated weekend broadcast.  With fewer people watching, the negative impact on NBC sponsors like Coke and Pepsi was minimized.  CBS News reported this story on the previous Monday because their producers are concerned with reporting news, not protecting their sponsors.  The Nightly News story included a clip from "The Today Show", because promoting that show is one of the main goals of the producers.
***In the final segment, Lester spent 2:45 reporting on the 40th anniversary of "The Godfather".  The Nightly News philosophy is to constantly show "news stories" about movies.  By pandering to the viewers' thirst for entertainment stories, Brian and his producers maintain high ratings.  (Let's not forget that one night earlier, Nightly News devoted two minutes of valuable news time to the hubbub surrounding the premier of "The Hunger Games".)  And just for good measure, they included a clip from "The Sopranos" as well.  Bravo.  Well done.
Sun. March 18--There was no Nightly News this night because golf ran late.  Obviously, golf is more important (meaning more profitable) than news to the NBC weasels.
Mon. March 19--The lead story was the weather.  What a surprise.  Brian spent 20 seconds of his intro talking about the weather in Chicago because one of his main jobs is pandering to the "good people of Chicago".  Apparently, the NBC News research department has informed Brian that the Chicago ratings are crucial for Nightly News, so Brian always makes a point of talking about Chicago.  There are important news stories going on all around the world and Nightly News leads with nearly four minutes on the weather.  As if we need further evidence that Nightly News is a joke. 
***Here's how Brian introduced a story about antibiotics: "There's health news tonight having to do with the most dire warnings yet on this growing problem of infections that are totally resistant to treatment with antibiotics."  Along with the title "Overmedicated?", the story also was titled "Antibiotic Warning".  This is just another Nightly News alarmist story designed to boost ratings by scaring viewers into watching.  You can always identify one of these silly stories because the title contains a question mark.  In the past five weeks, similar stories included "Hidden Dangers?" (of lipstick), "Warning Signs?" (of autism), "Hidden Risks?" (of dirty surgical instruments) and "Danger at Sea?" (cruise ships).  Any Nightly News story title that includes a question mark in its title should not be taken seriously.  Of course, most Nightly News stories should not be taken seriously anyway, but that's a separate issue.  In this story, Nancy Snyderman also did her best to sound the alarmist trumpet with statements like, "...antibiotic resistance could mean the end of modern medicine."  I expect this crap from Brian because he has no ethical compass, but Snyderman is a doctor and is supposed to report responsibly.  Brian ended the story by calling it "a clear and present danger" because his lack of originality requires him to frequently use movie titles in lieu of actual thoughts.
***Brian told us that Patrick Cox of TaxMasters filed for bankruptcy.  What?  Who?  Why is this news?
***He then took 45 seconds to report the death of Medal of Honor winner William Charette.  Brian always reports the deaths of MOH winners because he serves on the MOH Foundation's Board of Directors.  So he's promoting an organization with which he is affiliated--an organization that relies heavily on public contributions.  Plugging the MOH Foundation is just a way for Brian to raise money for his organization.  Sounds like an unethical conflict of interest.  Funny thing--I don't see MOH deaths reported on any other network broadcast.  But then again, the other news anchors are not fawning, obsequious, pretend-military-wannabes like Brian.
***Here's how Brian teased a story about the FAA's promise to reevaluate the use of personal electronic devices on planes: "Up next here tonight--is it possible WE'RE going to be allowed to leave a few things on during taxi, takeoff and landing?"  And here's part of his narration for the story: "The FAA is gonna review what WE can use and what WE have to power down on planes during taxi, takeoff and landing."  We, we, we.  Because the news is always about Brian.
***The broadcast ended with a 2:10 story about Kate Middleton.  Brian tries to put Kate on the broadcast as often as possible because she delivers good ratings.  (In the second half of 2011, Nightly News reported 21 Kate stories, totalling more than 37 minutes.)  Here's part of Michelle Kosinski's narration: "A fashion icon who does her own hair and makeup, buys inexpensive clothes--even second hand.  Her dress today--borrowed from mom."  This is what passes for news on Nightly News.  Imagine--other networks are wasting time reporting stories about Iran, Iraq and Syria instead of Kate Middleton.  They should be ashamed of themselves.
Tues. March 20--The lead story was the cancer-fighting properties of aspirin.  This is only a slightly less ridiculous lead story than the weather.  Obviously, the whole point of the story was to promote Bayer aspirin (Bayer is the most frequent advertiser on Nightly News, often running 3 or 4 commercials a night).  And just in case we didn't get the Bayer connection, the producers showed an animation of an aspirin bottle that was yellow and brown--immediately recognizable as Bayer's colors.  They even shaped the brown portion of the label in exactly the same way it is shaped on a Bayer bottle.  Subtle.
***At the end of a story about a tornado in Texas, Brian told us that it was "85 degrees in Chicago today, by the way."
***Two-and-a-half minutes later, Brian began a story about the Illinois primary by saying, "In Illinois today, it's another summer-like day in March...."  So in less than three minutes, Brian twice told us about the weather in Illinois.  Keep pandering to those Illinois viewers, big guy!  Then, with his usual waving flag animation behind him, Brian introduced Peter Alexander, who was standing with a gigantic U.S. flag waving behind him.  Two flags waving on screen at once!  More pandering.  Why doesn't Alexander just wrap a flag around himself like a toga? 
***In that same story, Brian told us that Peter Alexander was in Schaumburg, Illinois.  But an on-screen graphic told us that he was in "Ft. Leavenworth, KS" and Alexander himself said, "Brian, good evening to you from Chicago."  So where was he?  Schaumburg?  Ft. Leavenworth?  Chicago?  That's three different locations we were given.  Are we supposed to guess?  I thought Matt Lauer was the "Where in the world is he" guy. 
***As Brian introduced the next story about women's reproductive rights, he still had the waving flag animation behind him.  So Brian is trying to turn women's rights into some sort of faux-patriotic issue?  Pathetic.  Also in this story, a shot of Rick Santorum standing in front of a huge U.S. flag was superimposed over a U.S. flag animation.  Doubly pathetic.  I think that if Betsy Ross was alive today, she'd tell Brian Williams, "Knock off the flag bullshit, asshole.  You've even made me sick of the flag."  Also during this story, a clip from "Andrea Mitchell Reports" included comments from Eva Longoria, because showing celebrities is what Nightly News is all about.  And like the 5/18/10 Nightly News "Making A Difference" profile of Longoria, there was no mention made of her work on "Desperate Housewives" because Nightly News has a policy of not mentioning shows on rival networks.
***A story about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin ended with Brian reading a promo for Martin's parents' appearance on Wednesday's "Today Show".  Because Nightly News is really just a vehicle to promote NBC's entertainment shows.
***Here's the next story Brian read: "Big news in the fast-food community tonight--there's been a change near the top--Wendy's has bumped Burger King from the #2 spot, edging out Burger King in sales for the first time since Wendy's was founded by Dave Thomas back in 1969.  McDonald's, though, trumps both and by a big margin."  As he read this, there was a huge Wendy's logo over his left shoulder, soon followed by the logos of all three restaurants.  Brian is the only news anchor who regularly reports on the goings-on in the fast food industry.  One reason he does this is to pander to the blue-collar viewers who eat at those places.  But the main reason is to give free ad space to regular Nightly News advertisers.  Brian is a de facto spokesman for McDonald's--he often reads press releases for them--seemingly verbatim.  "big news in the fast-food community" isn't really news at all, except on Nightly News.
***Next, we saw a 45-second story about Queen Elizabeth's speech on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee.  I guess on those days when Kate Middleton isn't making any public appearances, the Queen will have to do.
***Michelle Obama is another suitable substitute for Kate.  With no Kate news to report, Brian spent 45 seconds telling us about Mrs. Obama's appearance on David Letterman's show talking about her incognito shopping trips to Target.  Maybe the producers should have used a "breaking news" banner for that one.
***Brian then took 25 seconds to tell us about some Medal of Honor winners who rang the closing bell at the NYSE.  Again, this isn't news on any other network, but every time a MOH winner coughs, Brian reports it.  He called them "heroes in the balcony".  Is that anything like a fawning sycophant in the anchor's chair?
***The final story was another report about the search for Amelia Earhart.  This was basically the same story Nightly News reported on 12/18/10.  But Brian knows that the viewers' memories are short so he repeats stories over and over and over again.  It reminds me of the Ani DiFranco lyric (from "Little Plastic Castle"): "They say goldfish have no memory/I guess their lives are much like mine/And the little plastic castle is a surprise every time/And it's hard to say if they're happy/But they don't seem much to mind."  That sounds about right--as far as Brian is concerned we're nothing more than goldfish.  This story was reported by the banal Chris Jansing, who is quickly emerging as a rival to Anne Thompson in the category of reporting pointless stories with no news value.
***In Iraq, more than 50 people were killed Tuesday in terrorist attacks meant to protest the upcoming Arab League Summit in Baghdad.  Brian completely ignored this story, but at least we know all about the weather in Chicago and Michelle Obama's shopping trips to Target.  Great work, Brian.
Wed. March 21--The lead story on the shooting of Trayvon Martin included a 22-second clip of his parents on "The Today Show".  It's shameful (but not surprising) that Brian is using this young boy's death to promote NBC's morning program.
***In the same story, a video clip of a witness describing what he saw was attributed (in a Nightly News graphic) to the "Orlando Sentinal [sic]".  It's appalling that the Nightly News producers cannot manage to correctly spell the name of the Orlando Sentinel.  Have they ever heard of Google or Wikipedia?
***A follow-up to the Trayvon Martin story included a banner ad for (owned by NBC) because the producers apparently have no qualms about using Trayvon's death to promote an NBC website.
***A story about the Republican presidential race included another clip of Donald Trump in order to promote "Celebrity Apprentice".
***Brian began a story about allergies by saying, "We have been reporting for days on end about the freakish warm weather that has enveloped so much of the country very early in the season--like 85 degrees in Chicago."  Once again, Brian found a way to insert Chicago into a story.  What a surprise.  One night, I'd like to see Brian mention Chicago during every Nightly News story.  And he even brags about the fact that Nightly News has spent days reporting on what is essentially a silly non-story.  I guess he's proud of his poor choices as managing editor.  The idiotic Chris Jansing then went on to report about the bad allergy season in Atlanta.  There was something familiar about this story...oh yeah, now I remember.  Five weeks ago (on 2/14/12) the equally idiotic Anne Thompson did a report on...the bad allergy season in Atlanta.  Jansing's report even incorporated previously-used footage from Thompson's report, but of course the Nightly News producers never indicated that the footage was old.  Thompson's original story was pointless, so doing a rerun of a pointless story is...what?  Doubly pointless?  Pointless squared?  And what a sad commentary on Jansing's status at Nightly News.  She gets to rehash old Anne Thompson stories.  That's sort of like the third-string player who every couple of games is given a few minutes of garbage time.
***Next, Brian took 1:44 to tell us about the suspension of New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton for allowing his players to put a bounty on opposing players.  Brian uses any excuse to cover the NFL on Nightly News because it's a great way to promote Sunday Night Football--NBC's highest-rated show.  In his intro, Brian described the Saints as "one of the great and storied football teams of all of football" and "a legendary team".  What idiotic things to say.  It's a football team, you moron, not the Supreme Court.
***After that, Brian spent 20 seconds telling us that Sen. Barbara Mikulski has become the longest-serving woman in Congressional history.  I wonder why that sounds familiar.  Now I remember--Lester Holt already reported this story on Saturday--the actual day Sen. Mikulski became Congress's longest-serving female member.  Brian frequently re-reports Lester's stories because a story isn't official unless it's reported by Brian himself.
***Brian then told us about the cast of "Mad Men" ringing the opening bell on Wall Street.  This was really just a promo for Brian's "Mad Men" story that would be airing later that night on the barely-watched "Rock Center". 
***The broadcast ended with Kevin Tibbles' ridiculous story about the residents of a Wisconsin town who have been hearing unexplained loud booms.  The story included an 18-second clip from the movie "Tremors" because ultimately, Nightly News is an entertainment show.  I think we can add Tibbles' name to the "pointless roster" that already includes Anne Thompson and Chris Jansing.  Brian introduced this story by saying, "Finally tonight, a story about a nice place they're calling a 'boom town' jokingly...the good people in one town in Wisconsin would right now give anything to find out what's making that noise...."  For Brian, one town's misfortune is just an opportunity to pander to the "good people" who live there in the hope of getting them to become Nightly News viewers.
Thurs. March 22--A story about the Trayvon Martin shooting included commentary from Joy-Ann Reid, managing editor of  First and foremost, it is the responsibility of the Nightly News producers to use their broadcast to plug other NBC properties.
***A follow-up story about the Trayvon Martin shooting included a clip of one of the sponsors of the Florida "Stand Your Ground" law.  He was identified on-screen as "State Representative Dennis K. Baxley (R) Florida".  On Wednesday's broadcast, Baxley was identified as "Representative Dennis Baxley (R) Ocala-Marion County, Florida".  Why do the producers use two vastly different descriptions on consecutive days?  Did it take them 24 hours to uncover his middle initial?  No one at Nightly News cares.
***A story about the cause of Whitney Houston's death was just an excuse to show two minutes of non-stop Whitney Houston photos and video clips.  This could have been reported in twenty seconds.
***An education report on student debt presented information that was credited (on the bottom of the screen) to "TICAS (The Institute of College Acces [sic] and Success)".  Okay--first of all, the correct name of the organization is "The Institute For College Access and Success".  It would have taken a Nightly News producer 15 seconds to use Google or log onto the TICAS website to get their correct name.  But, of course, the most galling part of this SNAFU is that the producers misspelled "access" in a report about education.  What kind of idiots work at Nightly News?  Seriously--I'd like to know.  I never see misspellings on The CBS Evening News.  But, then again, CBS News is a professional news organization. 
***A story on marriage in the U.S. included twenty seconds of clips from "Sex and the City" and "Runaway Bride" because obviously the Nightly News producers couldn't possibly explain the complicated marriage situation without help from a movie and a TV show.  Well, what did we expect from a Chris Jansing story?  Brian introduced the story by saying, "There's a new snapshot out tonight of the way WE Americans live and love...."  Of course.  The news is all about Brian.
***Brian took nearly 90 seconds to read obituaries for the inventor of the Mr. Coffee machine and the former president of Lender's Bagels.  Funny thing--I didn't see these obits on CBS.  I think we all know why.  Scott Pelley is concerned with reporting news, not trying to make himself look cool by reporting pop culture garbage.
***Next, Brian spent 40 seconds telling us about a possible breakthrough in the search for a baldness cure.  Edward R. Murrow, your legacy is safe. 
***The final story of the night (from the idiotic Anne Thompson) was about repopulating bison herds in Montana.  Oh now I understand why Nightly News did not report any stories about Iran, Iraq or Syria.  It's because they had to tell us about bison.  And Mr. Coffee, Lender's Bagels and a baldness cure.  Makes perfect sense.
Fri. March 23--Joy-Ann Reid of was featured twice in Trayvon Martin stories.  Brian ended the second story by saying, "Our thanks to our friends Joy-Ann Reid and Savannah Guthrie for being here with us to talk about this tonight."  I have never seen a news anchor as insecure as Brian Williams.  It's sad how desperate he is to convince us that he is friends with every single Nightly News correspondent. 
***After spending 2:37 on a story about Sgt. Robert Bales' massacre of Afghan civilians, Brian spent another 1:08 talking about the story with Col. Jack Jacobs.  Jacobs had nothing of value to offer, but Brian likes having him around because of his stalker-like obsession with Medal of Honor winners.
***Nightly News wasted two-and-a-half minutes on yet another pointless story about military wives.  They do these stories every few weeks as a way of appealing to the rah-rah gung-ho flag-waving Nascar demographic that Brian is so eager to pander to.  Naturally, the story ended with a lingering shot of U.S. flags.
***Next, Brian spent 25 seconds telling us how some British MP's want to rename Big Ben in honor of Queen Elizabeth.  This story was almost as exciting as Brian's Feb. 23 story about Slovaks who want to name a bridge in honor of Chuck Norris.  I think it's obvious what's going on here.  Brian is dropping lead-balloon hints that he wants something important to be named after him.  How about a rest stop on the Jersey Turnpike?
***The broadcast ended with a 2:20 story about "The Hunger Games".  What a surprise.  Last Friday's broadcast also ended with a "Hunger Games" story.  So let me make sure I understand what's going on here.  Brian has 22 minutes each night to tell us all the important news going on across the country and around the world, and he wastes our time on garbage like this.  Pandering to the viewers with entertainment stories instead of news should be illegal.  The FCC should revoke NBC's right to air a newscast.  Hell, the FCC should throw Brian in jail on the charge of failing to report news on a news broadcast.  By the way, the "Hunger Games" soundtrack is being released on a Universal label, so promoting the film is also a way to promote the soundtrack for one of NBC's sister companies.  Well done, Brian.  This story was reported by Chris Jansing, proving once again that you don't really need any journalistic skill to work at Nightly News.  Oh yeah--I almost forgot--the "Hunger Games" story included a gratuitous clip from one of the Harry Potter movies.  Because if you're gonna pander to a specific demographic, why not go all the way?
***For six straight days, Nightly News has not reported a story on Iran, Iraq or Syria.  But at least we know all about "The Hunger Games".  Congratulations to Brian and his producers on another fine week of quality newscasts.  And as far as reporting on the coup in Mali--don't be ridiculous.  Nightly News only covers Africa when George Clooney goes there.

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Rock Center With Brian Williams" Is The Lowest-Rated Show Ever In NBC History!

This article appeared on the March 15 site as part of its "Media Decoder" column (  It needs no further commentary or embellishment (thanks to Twitter user @lcb998502 for bringing it to my attention):

NBC News Stays on Top, While Its Newsmagazine Struggles

"NBC News celebrated its status as the top news division in television with a presentation for advertisers Thursday in New York, led by Brian Williams, the anchor of its top-rated evening newscast.

But NBC News and Mr. Williams have little to celebrate in the performance of the newsmagazine introduced earlier this season, 'Rock Center With Brian Williams.'

The program’s weak ratings took a turn for the worse Wednesday night, when its latest edition attracted only 2.6 million viewers, its lowest result so far. The newsmagazine was the least-watched show on network television last night (other than a repeat of NBC’s 'Law and Order S.V.U.').

Worse than that, 'Rock Center' fell behind entries on nonbroadcast outlets, like Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News, which had 2.9 million viewers, and an array of offerings from Univision, including 'Una Familia Con Suerte' (4 million), 'La Que No Podía Amar' (3.9 million) and 'Abismo de Pasión' (3.5 million). Other cable offerings with more viewers on Wednesday included two repeats of 'NCIS' on USA and two repeats of 'The Big Bang Theory' on TBS.

NBC has moved 'Rock Center' multiple times since its first broadcast on Oct. 31. It is now on Wednesdays at 10, which gets its away from the ferocious competition of 'Modern Family' on ABC, 'American Idol' on Fox and 'Criminal Minds' on CBS.

But the show will move back to 9 p.m. in five weeks. At 10 p.m. Wednesday night, 'Rock Center' was a distant third behind 'C.S.I.' on CBS, which had 11.5 million viewers, and an ABC special, 'Revenge for Real,' which had 4.4 million."

Okay--I can't resist one comment:  NBC could boost "Rock Center's" ratings by moving it to the ShopNBC channel and renaming it "Shop Center With Brian Williams & Suzanne Somers".

Friday, March 16, 2012

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--3/10/12 Through 3/16/12 (Revised--Full Week)

On Tuesday (3/13), The New York Times reported that the Indian government "authorized a drug manufacturer to make and sell a generic copy of a Bayer cancer drug, saying that Bayer charged a price that was unaffordable to most of the nation.  The decision by the controller general of patents, designs and trademarks was the first time a so-called compulsory license of a patented drug had been granted in India."  Bayer had been selling the drug, Nexavar (also known as sorafenib), for approximately $5,600 a month.  The generic will sell for approximately $176 a month.  Because of the high price of the Bayer drug, fewer than 200 Indians currently use it.  (Read the full Times story at  In other words, the sleazebags at Bayer were charging so much for this drug that the Indian government had to step in and order them to allow a cheaper version to be made.  Nightly News likes to report on drug companies, but I guarantee that you won't see this story on Nightly News.  Bayer is the single most frequent advertiser on Nightly News, usually running three or four ads each night for their various products.  Brian Williams and his producers have made it one of their goals to protect their buddies at Bayer.  In fact, Nightly News loves to run fawning, glowing stories about Bayer products.  For this job, they usually enlist Nightly News's Chief Science Shill, Robert Bazell.  On 10/27/11, the lead Nightly News story was Bazell's report about the heart benefits of aspirin.  However, the story featured shots of only one national brand--Bayer.  It also featured shots of some old-time Bayer print ads and a clip from a current Bayer TV commercial.  This was just a shameless product placement for Bayer.  Ten months earlier, on the 12/6/10 Nightly News, Bazell had reported the exact same story about aspirin's health benefits, and in that story Bayer was also the only brand shown (along with clips from Bayer ads).  And on 6/8/10, Bazell did a story about the health benefits of Naproxen, known in the U.S. as Aleve (made by Bayer).  Obviously, these stories were produced as a way of thanking Bayer for all the ad dollars they have spent with Nightly News and other NBC shows over the years.  Unless there was a more weaselly motive.  These "news stories" may have been purchased by Bayer as part of a Nightly News ad package.  For several million dollars, they can get not only a certain number of commercials, but they can also get a news story that highlights the benefits of their product or products.  It would not surprise me at all to learn that the Nightly News ad sales people were conspiring with the news producers to create favorable "news stories" for the broadcast's best advertisers.  Well done, Nightly News producers.

Here are some of the other great things that happened on Nightly News this week:

Sat. March 10--Nightly News spent 1:20 reporting on Syria.  It would be the last story on Syria they do for an entire week.
***A story about the new movie "Bully" (about kids who bully other kids) included a clip from "Ellen" because it's the responsibility of the Nightly News producers to use their broadcast to promote NBC entertainment shows.
***Lester Holt spent 30 seconds telling us about Prince Harry's trip to Rio de Janeiro.  Stories about Will, Kate and Harry always generate high ratings, so the producers constantly include the Royals on Nightly News.
***Next, we got a two minute story about a 340-ton boulder being transported through L.A. en route to a museum.  Yeah, we know all about it because Brian Williams already spent 30 seconds telling us about the boulder on Friday.  Why do we need another two minutes on this silly, pointless story?  Because Nightly News specializes in silly, pointless stories, that's why.
***The broadcast ended with a 2:40 story about "pop-up libraries".  What do you know--another silly, pointless story.  What a surprise.
Sun. March 11--The big news story of the day was the U.S. Army sergeant who massacred 16 Afghan civilians.  But Nightly News viewers wouldn't know anything about the story because there was no Nightly News this night (on the east coast, anyway).  Obviously, golf was more important than news to the NBC programming weasels.
Mon. March 12--Brian anchored the broadcast from London.  I guess he and his wife took a weekend trip there and decided to stay an extra day. 
***I can't say this often enough--I love Pete Williams!  As Brian introduced Pete's story about voter ID laws, he said, "Good evening, Pete," because it's important to Brian to try to bamboozle the viewers into believing that he is good friends with all the Nightly News correspondents.  As usual, Pete would have none of that.  Instead of responding with a treacly, "Good evening, Brian," he ignored him and went right into his story.  I guess Pete doesn't like Brian very much.  Can you blame him? 
***Brian spent 40 seconds telling us about the record high temperatures across the country.  I'm pretty sure that everyone noticed this without Brian telling us.  I think that as a kid, Brian desperately wanted to be a meteorologist because he pretends to be one every night on Nightly News.
***We saw yet another story about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony--the third Kony story in five days.  Obviously, the NBC News research department has informed Brian and his producers that Kony stories generate high ratings.  It's good that Nightly News is reporting on this brutal warlord, but the real question is: Why did Nightly News ignore the story for so long?  Kony has been terrorizing Ugandans for 25 years, but Nightly News only reported on it after the "Kony 2012" internet film went viral--which again proves the point that Brian doesn't consider something to be newsworthy unless it's first shown in a film, a TV show or a viral video.
***Brian introduced the next story about Venus and Jupiter by saying, "The night sky has been in the news a lot lately...."  Yeah--if you watch Nightly News.  Brian constantly reports on astronomy-related stories because they're of great interest to HIM (that includes the half-dozen stories Nightly News has reported about the Northern Lights).  And let's face it--the news is about what Brian likes.  This stuff isn't news on any other network.  But as we all know, Brian can do whatever the hell he wants.
***Brian took a break from his obsessive chronicling of JFK (thirteen stories or mentions in less than two months) to spend 2:10 telling us about Richard Nixon's love letters to his wife Pat.  Of all the U.S. presidents, I imagine that Brian is most like Nixon--controlling, paranoid, obsessive, secretive, narcissistic.  Brian always brags about being a Presidential history buff, so when he wants to do a story on a former president, who's gonna stop him?  It seems that Brian is a self-professed buff on a lot of subjects--astronomy, the weather, NASA, the Supreme Court, Nascar, British Royalty.  If he were any more buff-y, he could be a vampire slayer.
***Did I just mention British Royalty?  What a coincidence.  The broadcast ended on that exact subject.  First, we saw some footage of Prince Harry frolicking in the Bahamas, followed by shots of the Kate and the Queen on her 60th anniversary Jubilee tour, which then became a story about London preparing for this summer's Olympics.  Which will be carried by NBC.  So Brian and his producers are using Harry and Kate as a shameless way to promote their Olympic coverage.  Nice.
***On Monday's CBS Evening News, they aired a story about a new study highlighting the relationship between sugary sodas and heart attacks.  Nightly News often does stories about factors that increase the risk of heart attacks, but they didn't report this story.  They wouldn't dare anger their sponsors like Coke, Sprite, Mug Root Beer, 7-Up, Mountain Dew, Orange Crush and Schweppes.  CBS, of course, showed all those brands (some more than once) because Scott Pelley's main responsibility is to report news, not to protect his sponsors.  [Editor's note:  Nightly News did eventually report this story five days after the CBS story ran (3/17) and their story included some clips of brand-name sodas.  However, by delaying this story until Saturday, the producers ensured that it would be seen by far fewer viewers than would have seen it on a weekday.  That's another way to protect your sponsors.  Also, the Nightly News story included a strong statement of dissent from the weasels at the American Beverage Association.] 
Tues. March 13--Someone needs to have a serious talk with Kelly O'Donnell.  In her live shots from Lafayette, Louisiana which began and ended a story about Romney and Santorum, she was standing in an empty indoor rally site without a U.S. flag visible.  This is heresy at Nightly News.  Every NBC News reporter covering politics is required by network rules to have a flag visible over his or her shoulder at all times.  No exceptions.  What was O'Donnell thinking?  Does she know she could get fired for failing to have a flag in the shot?  Hopefully she was able to keep her job and got off with only a warning.  Although come to think of it, I didn't see her again this week, so I can't say for sure what happened to her.
***Pete Williams did another story about voter ID laws, but it didn't include any live commentary.  Brian probably insisted that Pete not appear live in the story because that would solve the prickly problem of Pete dissing him by not saying. "Good evening, Brian".
***Once again, Brian took some time to tell us about the "Spring Fever" temperatures across the country.  My favorite part of the story was when Brian said, "Tomorrow might be a good day to skip work or school."  That's right--you heard correctly.  Big shot anchor Brian Williams just encouraged kids to skip school.  Maybe the producers should let Brian do an entire "Education Nation" story on the fine art of playing hooky.  How on earth does he get away with saying these stupid things?  Isn't there anyone at NBC News who can just tell him to keep his big mouth shut?  I wonder how many kids actually skipped school because "Uncle Brian said it was okay."
***Brian then spent 25 seconds showing us a clip from a Univision story filmed at the White House because Bo (the Obamas' dog) ran across the grass behind the reporter.  What a great use of news time.  I wonder if Brian's producers were having a laugh at his expense, since Univision shows regularly beat "Rock Center" in the ratings.
***The final story was a "Making A Difference" piece about a 100-year-old woman who still teaches kindergarten and reading in Chicago.  Less than a month ago (Feb. 18), Nightly News did a story about a 105-year-old woman who works in a hospital mail room.  I guess Brian is channeling Willard Scott.  If you're 100, he'll put you on the air.  Can someone please explain how either of these stories qualifies as news?  Meanwhile, on this night, Nightly News did not even bother reporting on Syria.  But we know all about the 100-year-old teacher and Bo's on-camera romp at the White House.  Great job, Nightly News producers.  Keep up the good work.
Wed. March 14--Two stories (totalling four minutes) about the meeting between president Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron were just excuses to show more clips from Brian's interview with Cameron, which in turn led to Brian's 20-second promo begging viewers to watch the full interview on that night's "Rock Center".  But the most hilarious thing about Brian's shameless "Rock Center" plug was that there was a waving flag animation behind him as he read it!  We all know that Brian insists on having a waving flag behind him when he introduces stories about politics, war, NASA or any other pseudo-patriotic subject matter.  It's a cheap way to pander to the viewers and boost his ratings.  But now it seems that he's also insisting on having the waving flag behind him when he reads "Rock Center" promos.  How are we supposed to interpret this?  Is "Rock Center" the most patriotic show on television?  Is Brian the most patriotic news anchor?  Is it somehow patriotic of him to plug an NBC prime time show (and their lowest-rated show, at that)?  Does Brian understand that all his waving flags make him something of a laughing stock in the news biz?  He probably doesn't care, since ratings are the only thing he really cares about.
***Brian then showed us thirty seconds of video of the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C.  I thought I was watching one of those new-age meditation videos that help you relax by showing flowers, trees, grass and other pleasing flora.  I expected Brian to say, "Close your eyes and breathe.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Again.  Good."
***Time for another story on climate change.  Nightly News shows the same basic story (with the same lame video accompaniment) every couple of weeks.  As usual, it was reported by the idiotic Anne Thompson who repeated the same things she always says in these stories.  One of the ways the Nightly News producers maintain their audience is by scaring viewers into thinking something catastrophic will happen (see all the stories about falling space junk).  In this story, about the possibility of coastal flooding due to global warming, the producers once again dragged out their old animation of what it would look like if the New York City subway system flooded.  Horrors!  I got news for the producers--the NYC subway system is already flooded.  Between the urine puddles and spilled beverages, it's impossible to find a dry patch in any of the subway stations.  But maybe there's an upside to the possibility of New York being underwater--I certainly wouldn't be upset if Anne Thompson was swept out to sea.  And in case anyone is worried about Brian Williams being carried away by coastal flooding, put your mind at ease.  He commutes from his Park Avenue penthouse apartment to NBC News's 30 Rock studios by private helicopter, so he's in no danger.
***Brian then had to take 30 seconds to report the results of this year's Iditarod race, because there were probably a lot of viewers who were wondering about that.  Obviously, it was just an excuse for Brian to say, "And let's not forget to give credit to those very good indefatigable dogs."  Funny how every dog on the planet is a "good dog" to Brian.  I guess he's pandering to the canine viewing demographic.
***The broadcast ended with another one of those fawning, obsequious, rah-rah, gung-ho, God-bless-America patriotic stories about Americans welcoming home their brave hero soldiers.  This particular story was about people who welcome soldiers home from Iraq and Afghanistan at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport.  It was filled with non-stop images of waving flags and red-white-and-blue festooned people (I counted at least a dozen flag shots).  Nightly News does these stories over and over again.  The last one, on Jan. 28, was titled "Heroes' Welcome", and was about a couple of guys from St. Louis who decided to throw a ticker tape parade for soldiers returning from Iraq.  These are the most sickening and most base type of pandering stories in the Nightly News arsenal.  Like most Nightly News stories, they are designed to appeal to the viewers' eagle-soaring, flag-waving, I-love-the-USA sense of patriotism.  They aren't news stories--they're just excuses for the producers to show waving flags and people talking about how much they love the good old U.S of A.  American Flags appear in almost every shot during these stories, and of course the obligatory waving animated flag appears behind Brian as he introduces the story (in the 1/28 story, it was Kate Snow with the waving flag behind her).  The producers should be ashamed of themselves for showing this garbage.  But, of course, they're not.  Why would they be?  Brian and his producers have appointed themselves as the propaganda arm of the U.S. military.  Their job is to glorify the U.S. Armed Forces, not to report on them.  And they get great ratings by desperately trying to show that Nightly News loves this country more than any other network news broadcast.  It is truly nauseating (but hardly surprising) that the producers stoop to this level of pandering.
Thurs. March 15--After Jim Miklaszewski reported from U.S. Armed Forces Central Command Headquarters about Sgt. Robert Bales' massacre of Afghan civilians, Brian said, "Jim Miklaszewski at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa tonight."  It's hilarious and pathetic that Brian is so desperate to impress viewers by using what he thinks is cool military jargon.  He just loves playing soldier, like we all did when we were kids.
***Brian continued to milk his nearly-week-old interview with British PM David Cameron by showing us yet more of their "conversation".  The story included a ridiculous fifteen-second shot (with no audio) of Brian and Cameron walking up a staircase at 10 Downing Street while engaging in some supposedly intense discussion.  Apparently, this was meant to convince us that they are pals.  Someone should have informed the Prime Minister that Brian Williams is considered a lightweight in American journalism circles.  The story again carried the "Rock Center" logo in the lower right corner because that anemic show needs all the promotional help it can get.  Note to Brian: Interviews, like fish, spoil after a few days.
***Brian then took 30 seconds to tell us about the White House state dinner in Cameron's honor.  So who do you suppose Brian chose to show arriving at the dinner?  Heads of state?  Philanthropists?  Religious leaders?  No.  He showed George Clooney and Elizabeth McGovern.  Clooney was an obvious choice--Brian makes it a point of showing Clooney on Nightly News several times a week because it helps the ratings.  And as for McGovern--well, she's on a popular PBS series ("Downton Abbey"), so Brian is trying to pander to the upscale PBS audience.  Oh, and by the way, "Downton Abbey" is produced by a company that's owned by NBC Universal, so Brian was also plugging an NBC property.  Well done.
***Later, Brian took 30 seconds to show Kate Middleton playing field hockey to promote this summer's London Olympics.  Kate promoting the Olympics?  OMG!  Brian must have surely had a sexual experience in his pants.
***It had been 24 hours since the last story about warm temperatures, so Brian took a minute to tell us about them.  It included more footage of the Washington, D.C. cherry blossoms, which we had just seen on the previous day's broadcast.  I guess cherry blossoms are the new Northern Lights.
***The final story was about a man who paints ski trail maps for ski resorts.  Yes, I can certainly understand why Brian chose to devote two-and-a-half minutes of his newscast to this important story.
Fri. March 16--Stop the presses!  George Clooney was arrested.  So Brian spent 2:40 reporting it.  Over at CBS, Scott Pelley gave this story 22 seconds near end of the broadcast, because he understood that that's all it really deserved.  What is wrong with Scott Pelley?  He didn't even show us any footage of the cherry blossoms.  Naturally, the Nightly News report included old footage of an interview Brian did with Clooney, as well as old footage of Ann Curry tagging along with Clooney as she exploited one of his visits to Darfur.  Because at Nightly News, the producers' favorite subject to report on is Nightly News.
***Brian took 25 seconds to tell us the important story that one in three adult children have moved back home with their parents.
***Speaking of important stories, he also told us about an Austrian sky diver preparing for a jump from 120,000 feet.
***Did you know that Peyton Manning may get a $90 million deal from the Denver Broncos?  You do now.  Brian always reports football stories as a way to promote Sunday Night Football on NBC.
***The final story was a two-minute piece about the new movie "Hunger Games".  Why bother with news when you can attract lots more viewers by showing entertainment stories?  I wonder how much Lionsgate Films paid NBC to run this two-minute movie trailer.  Oh, and by the way--the "Hunger Games" soundtrack is being released on Universal Republic Music (owned by Universal), a sister company of NBC.  So doing a story on "Hunger Games" is also a great way to promote the soundtrack for Universal.  So let's recap:  Nightly News hasn't done a story on Syria in six days, but at least we know all about George Clooney's arrest, the Austrian sky diver, Peyton Manning and "Hunger Games".  Great job, Brian.

Friday, March 9, 2012

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--3/3 Through 3/9 (Revised--Full Week)

Has anyone noticed that the intro and graphics at the beginning of Nightly News have been updated?  The intro used to contain a montage that showed images of former Nightly News anchors, like Tom Brokaw and David Brinkley.  But now it just shows images of satellite-type maps from different regions of the world.  This is obviously part of Brian Williams's master plan to completely erase Tom Brokaw from the NBC News archives so viewers will forget how much they loved Tom.  It's sort of the same way that new Soviet leaders would purge the old leaders from the public consciousness after coming to power.  Well played, Brian.  Here's some of the great stuff you might have missed on Nightly News this past week:

Sat. Mar. 3--Nightly News continues to exploit the tornado victims in the Midwest.  Altogether, the producers spent 12 minutes--more than half the broadcast--reporting these stories.  Three minutes would have been more than enough time to report on the tornadoes' aftermath, but of course the producers elected to milk the emotional impact of the story in order to get ratings.  Naturally, this included shots of tattered flags waving amidst the rubble.  I guess the producers needed to assure the viewers that Indiana is in fact part of the United States.
***Lester Holt introduced the next story by asking, "Are American troops being ripped off overseas?"  And Lisa Myers took nearly three minutes to answer that question.  Apparently, some pay phones in Germany charge high rates when soldiers use their debit cards to call relatives in the U.S.  Guess what--my phone charges are sometimes exorbitantly high, too.  But no one from Nightly News has ever cared about using my phone bill as the basis for a news story.  This is a typical Nightly News bullshit story.  They love to do stories about our brave hero troops being ripped off by evil companies.  These stories appeal to the rah-rah gung-ho God-bless-America patriotic middle-American viewers that the producers so desperately crave.  It's just a ratings gimmick.  I can assure you that no one at Nightly News gives a crap about how much the troops are paying for phone calls.
***The idiotic Anne Thompson then told us about the $7.8 billion BP settlement resulting from the 2010 Gulf oil spill.  This story follows the exact same formula as the previous story.  The producers get high ratings from stories in which they get viewers to root against a bad guy, like the evil BP oil company.  Obviously, oil companies are a favorite target of the Nightly News producers, as evidenced by all the stories they have recently done about high gas prices.  Of course, the producers never mentioned that NBC Universal networks earn millions of dollars in ad revenue from these same "evil" oil companies.
***Lester then took 30 seconds to tell us about the death of Stan Stearns, who took the 1963 picture of John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting the hearse carrying his father's body.  This is the twelfth JFK-related story that Nightly News has shown in the past six weeks.  For the Nightly News producers, a day without JFK is like a day without high ratings.
***The final story was a pointless, idiotic story about people performing "acts of kindness" for tornado victims.  It was identical to the story they did two days earlier about "strangers helping strangers" in the tornado-affected areas.  Of course, it goes without saying that neither of these stories had a shred of news value.  This story was just a shameless way to pander to Christian viewers by showing people saying things like "by the grace of God," "we're blessed," and "the Lord just sent me here".  That's the type of story that brings high ratings, praise Jesus.
Sun. Mar. 4--What a surprise--more tornado stories.  And more flags sticking out of the rubble.  I think the Nightly News producers plant their own tattered flags in the rubble to make these stories seem more patriotic. 
***Lester spent 25 seconds telling us about Prince Harry's visit to the Bahamas.  As if Nightly News would ever pass up a chance to report on any member of the Royal Family.
***Here's how Lester narrated a "news story" about the 100th anniversary of the Oreo cookie:  "And this week a big birthday for a classic American snack--the Oreo, known as milk's favorite cookie, turns 100.  The National Biscuit Company rolled out the first Oreo from a New York City bakery in 1912.  Today, the creme-filled chocolate sandwiches are sold in 100 countries earning $1.5 billion a year.  By the way, Kraft--which owns the brand--says that half of Oreo lovers pull the cookies apart before eating them.  So now you know."  The video portion of this 30-second story was comprised solely of old Oreo print ads, TV commercials and shots of Oreos on the production line.  Is it just me, or does this story seem suspiciously like a commercial?  That's not surprising.  Oreo and other Kraft products spend millions each year advertising on NBC Universal networks, so this was obviously just a way for the weaselly NBC marketing execs to say "Thanks!" to one of their best advertisers.
***The broadcast ended with a story about strangers helping tornado victims in Henryville, Indiana.  Why does that sound familiar?  Oh yeah--because Nightly News did the exact same story on Thursday and Saturday.  Do the producers think we're so stupid that we won't realize that they're running the same story night after night after night?  Well, at least it gave the producers an opportunity to show some tattered flags waving in the rubble.  We haven't seen any of those recently, have we?  Lester ended the broadcast by talking about how many people have thanked Nightly News for "sharing their stories with the rest of the country".  Because ultimately, Nightly News's favorite subject to report on is itself.
Mon. Mar. 5--A preview of the lead story about the tornadoes was again given the title "Sudden Impact".  The Nightly News producers like to use movie titles for their stories because it gives the viewers something familiar to identify with.  And a Clint Eastwood movie title is even better because of his image as a "true patriotic American", and also because it ties in with his new Chrysler commercials (Brian loves to promote Chrysler on Nightly News).  Naturally, the tornado story included lots of flag shots, including a waving flag in a video clip over Brian's left shoulder as he introduced the story.  Did you expect anything different?
***As Brian introduced the next story about the Republican candidates, there was a waving flag graphic behind him.  He then segued to Peter Alexander, who had positioned himself right in front of a giant flag that was being used as a backdrop for a candidate's speech in Ohio.  As Alexander ended his story, he was still standing in front of the giant flag.
***Brian began the next story about a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll with the flag animation still waving behind him.  Each time we were shown an on-screen graphic with information from the poll, it was superimposed over a U.S. flag background.
***As Brian introduced a story about the meetings between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, there were two U.S. flags on screen.  In addition to the waving flag animation behind him, there was also a smaller U.S. flag just below the preview box over Brian's left shoulder.  This isn't unusual for Nightly News--they often have two flags on the screen at the same time.  In fact, on the 1/25/12 broadcast, as Brian was introducing a story about Gabby Giffords' farewell to Congress, there were three flags on screen at the same time.  And I've heard rumors that Brian and his producers are planning a quadruple flag shot that would place four flags on screen at the same time.  This has never been attempted before on a network newscast and it would be quite an impressive feat.  Watch this space for further details.
***Brian spent 35 seconds narrating an obituary for Steve Bridges, who was best known as a George W. Bush impersonator.  No offense to Mr. Bridges, but he doesn't deserve an obit on a network news broadcast.  Of course, the reason Brian ran this story was because it allowed him to show a clip of Bridges with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show.  Promoting NBC entertainment and sports shows is really one of the main functions of Nightly News.  Nice.
***Here's how Brian introduced a story about an asteroid that will be coming close to earth early next year:  "You'll be hearing a lot about this next item over the next 11 months..."  Yeah--on Nightly News.  Brian reports the same stories over and over again and then uses his own coverage as a way to convince us that it's a real news story.  Remember Carmageddon?  And of course, he'll report any story that has to do with objects hurtling through space.  Because Brian gets to do whatever he wants.  Who's gonna stop him?  He ended the story by saying, "While this pass is supposed to miss us, the experts all say there's nothing wrong with making sure your affairs are in order."  Is this supposed to be funny?  What experts said this?  And what good would it do to put your affairs in order if the earth was wiped out by an asteroid?  Brian's a moron.
***The last story of the night was Chris Jansing's "Making A Difference" story about people in their 50's who join the Peace Corps and travel to places like Malawi.  That's a nice thing for people to do.  The story included a 1961 clip of President Kennedy announcing the formation of the Peace Corps--the 13th JFK clip Nightly News has shown in the last six weeks.  Obviously, the producers know that baby boomers like to see JFK clips, which in turn brings the broadcast high ratings.  Somehow, this story seemed familiar to me.  Oh yeah--now I remember.  On the 10/10/08 Nightly News, Jansing did a "Making A Difference" story about...people in their 50's who join the Peace Corps and travel to places like Mali.  Three-and-a-half years later, exact same story.  It's shameful that Jansing and her producers keep recycling the same old crap and passing it off as news.  But that's business as usual at Nightly News.
Tues. Mar. 6--For Super Tuesday primary coverage, Brian reported from a different studio than usual.  Just outside this studio's glass walls, there were dozens of U.S. flags waving in the breeze behind Brian's head. 
***For the lead story,  Ron Mott reported from Steubenville, Ohio standing in front of a giant flag.  Among the other flag shots in the story, there was a cheesy shot of a U.S. flag superimposed over the skyline of an Ohio city. 
***Here's how Brian began a discussion with Andrea Mitchell:  "It was kind of an Andrew Shepherd moment, the Michael Douglas character from 'The American President'..."  Wow.  Could Brian make it any more obvious that he has a man-crush on Douglas?  Isn't it enough that Douglas's voice introduces Brian every night at the start of Nightly News?  I guess not. 
***Next, Brian said, "Now we switch to what's been our top story here for the last few nights and an incredible story of heroism and sacrifice during that massive outbreak of tornadoes last Friday."  The story, titled "Hero Mom" and "A Mother's Embrace" (the producers like to give stories multiple titles because it allows them to pander to more people) was about a Henryville, Indiana woman who used her body to cover her kids as the tornado hit their house.  We are led to believe that she saved their lives (as if anyone can know that for sure) but was trapped in the wreckage and had to have her legs amputated.  This exploitative story featured an interview with the woman in her hospital bed, and just as she started to cry, the camera zoomed in on her for a tight shot of her teary face.  Obviously, the camera operator was ready and waiting for that exact moment.  Tom Costello ended the story by saying, "One family built on a foundation of love, faith and sacrifice."  Who writes this crap?  And just for good measure, Brian chimed in with, "Incredible story out of Indiana tonight."  What garbage.  This isn't a news story--it's a Lifetime movie.
***Next, Nancy Snyderman gave us a two minute story about kids and cavities.  Apparently, cavities are bad and kids should brush their teeth more.  Maybe the producers should have attached a "breaking news" banner to that one.
***Brian narrated an obituary for Robert Sherman, the co-composer of songs from Disney movies like "Mary Poppins" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang".  Naturally, the story featured lots of clips from those movies.  And of course, Brian never mentioned that Robert Sherman and his brother Richard (his co-composer) did not like each other very much.  Apparently, at Nightly News everything is nice and pleasant and everyone gets along well.  Just like in a Disney movie.
***Brian then spent 35 seconds telling us about a Utah skier who was dug out of the snow after being buried in an avalanche, and he also showed us video of an avalanche at a French ski resort.  I guess the theme here is "avalanches".  It certainly isn't "news".
***The final story was about an 18-year-old high school senior who was elected mayor of Aredale, Iowa.  Fascinating.  Please tell us more.  Meanwhile, Nightly News has not mentioned Syria since Feb. 26--that's a span of nine days--but at least we know all about the 18-year-old mayor.  Great job, Brian.  You should be very proud of what you're doing.
Wed. Mar. 7--Hallelujah!  Brian finally remembered Syria.  We should all be thankful.
***A story about skin cancer was titled "Turning Point?"  Why do the Nightly News producers always use questions as story titles?  Can't they use declarative titles?  Isn't it annoying when people write in interrogatives?  Don't you just hate it?
***Here's how Brian introduced a story about a solar storm:  "Last night, while WE were on the air covering Super Tuesday there was a storm on the surface of the Sun."  What a surprise that Brian chose to frame the solar storm in terms of what HE was doing the night before.  Can you say "narcissist"?  He then went on to tell us to expect disruptions in power grids, communications, GPS satellite systems and airline flights.  And here's how Brian teased the story at the beginning of the broadcast:  "The coming solar storm--racing toward Earth at four million miles an hour and what could happen when it gets here."  This is a frequent tactic of Brian's.  By sounding overly alarmist, he scares the viewers into staying tuned and watching future broadcasts to find out the outcome of the threat.  It's another one of Brian's ratings ploys.  Correspondent Tom Costello then took the baton from Brian and continued to sound the alarmist trumpet, before telling us that the solar storm "could mean some really incredible Northern Lights" because Brian is obsessed with the Northern Lights.  (Nightly News has recently done six stories on the Northern Lights.)
***The next story was titled "Where's Winter?"  I don't know.  You're the hotshot anchor.  You tell me.
***Brian introduced the next story about the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan by saying, "A few journalists--including our Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel--have gotten a rare look inside the area around that Fukushima plant...."  But in a teaser for that story that ran at the beginning of the broadcast, Brian said, "Nearly a year after the nuclear disaster, an exclusive visit to the dead zone in Japan.  Richard Engel is just back with a rare first-hand look at what's left."  So if "a few journalists" were allowed into the area, how could Engel's visit be "exclusive"?  Once again, Brian has lied about the exclusivity of a Nightly News report.  He does this a lot.  He figures he can throw out the word "exclusive" and that no one will bother to check him on it.  He can do whatever he wants--he's Brian Williams.  Brian ended this story by begging viewers to watch "Rock Center" because he's desperate to boost that show's pitiful ratings.
***Then Brian spent nearly a minute telling us about the introduction of the new iPad.  This was basically a commercial for the iPad because Brian is Apple's chief spokesman and he gets to use his broadcast to promote all the cool stuff he uses in his personal life.
***A thirty-second story about the new, larger overhead airline storage bins was, of course, just an excuse for Brian to talk about himself:  "And for all those of US who think WE can get OUR bag to fit up there--they don't all make it, as you know."  Wow--three personal pronouns in one sentence!  Awesome!
***Brian's next story was about a "fugitive penguin on the lam" that escaped from a Tokyo aquarium.  And people say that Brian doesn't care about hard news.  Since Richard Engel was already in Japan, they should have sent him to cover this story.  Maybe he could have gotten an interview with the penguin.  They could have labeled it an "exclusive".
***The final story was about Peyton Manning being released from the Indianapolis Colts.  Brian began it this way:  "Finally here tonight, even those of US who are big football fans sometimes catch OURSELVES calling them the Baltimore Colts...."  Brian pretends to be a football fan because it helps him appeal to the football demographic.  (It's the same reason he pretends to like NASCAR--he's desperate to turn those those racing fans into Nightly News viewers.)  And also because one of his main jobs as Nightly News anchor is to promote NFL football (NBC's highest-rated program is Sunday Night Football), and he does so relentlessly--even in the off-season.  This silly two-and-a-half minute fumble of a story was just a commercial for next season's Sunday night NFL games on NBC.  And just for good measure, the producers threw in a clip of Manning hosting "Saturday Night Live", because as long as they were promoting NBC Sports, they might as well also promote NBC Entertainment.  The broadcast ended with Brian again begging viewers to watch "Rock Center".  Classy.
Thurs. Mar. 8--Stop the presses!  The lead story on Nightly News was that cigarette smoking is harmful.  Wow, Brian and his producers are so ahead of the curve.  What a productive way to spent the first three-and-a-half minutes of a network newscast.
***It was hilarious watching Brian being forced to backpedal from the alarmist prophecies he had made about the solar storm the previous night.  No firestorms, no locusts, no mid-air crashes.  He said, "The dire predictions of what it would do to our planet didn't quite come true today...."  Gee, ya think, Nostradamus?  Of course, just because the storm was a non-event, that didn't stop Brian from continuing his rabid fear-mongering.  In the tease at the beginning of the broadcast, he said, "What happened when that giant solar storm that was hurtling toward us at four million miles an hour actually got here?"  Nothing happened, you moron.  So stop trying to scare people.  Meanwhile, Tom Costello spent another 15 seconds of this story kvelling about the Northern Lights.
***In a story about the new viral video about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, Daniel Borochoff was identified as the president of an organization called "Charity Watch".  Actually, CharityWatch is one word.  Someone should tell the Nightly News producers how to use Google.
***Brian then spent a minute telling us that Pat Robertson wants to see marijuana legalized and that Sara Blakely (inventor of Spanx) is now a billionaire.  That's not news.  Now, if Pat Robertson was wearing Spanx, Brian might actually have something worth reporting.
***Never one to pass up an important story, Brian told us that the Duchess of Cambridge (AKA Kate Middleton) accompanied the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee tour.  Were either of them wearing Spanx?
***The broadcast ended with two-and-a-half minutes worth of animal photos and videos.  Yep--that was the story.  It was ostensibly about a National Geographic photographer who was taking pictures of animals to preserve them for posterity.  But let's face it--it was just a way for Brian and his producers to pander to the viewers with pictures of cute animals.  "Hey, look--animals!  Cool!"  Among the animals we saw were armadillos, pandas (of course), owls, kangaroos, snakes, lemurs, crocodiles, elephants, cheetahs and penguins (one of those penguins looked suspiciously like the fugitive penguin that had escaped from the Tokyo aquarium the previous day.  Someone at Nightly News should follow up on that.).  This story was reported by the idiotic Anne Thompson.  I actually thought she looked good, until I realized I was looking at a picture of a turtle.
Fri. Mar. 9--OMG!  A berserk flight attendant ran amok on an American Airlines flight!  So I guess we should all be afraid to fly.  That's probably why the story was titled "Flight Scare".
***In a story about the upcoming Southern primaries, Ron Mott positioned himself so that a flag was visible over his left shoulder.  What a surprise.
***I nearly fell off my chair when I heard Brian introduce a story about Syria this way:  "And about a story we've been covering all week, for that matter for so many weeks--the suffering and slaughter going on in Syria."  Say what, dipshit?  As I previously mentioned, Nightly News went NINE DAYS (from 2/27 through 3/6) without even once mentioning Syria and Brian has the nerve to brag about his extensive coverage of that country.  I wish Brian could be forced to anchor Nightly News under oath.  With the threat of perjury looming, we would see a very different broadcast.
***An "update" on the Joseph Kony story was really just a 30-second promo for a Kony story that would be appearing on Monday's broadcast.  Self-promotion is an art at Nightly News.
***Brian spent 30 seconds reporting the death of Jimmy Ellis, former lead singer of the Trammps, a group that was basically known for one song--"Disco Inferno".  But of course, it gave Brian an opportunity to play a clip from that song and that's really what Nightly News is all about.  Boosting its own ratings by taking viewers through a visual and audio tour of the nostalgic moments of their lives.  Remember the recent obits for Davy Jones and Don Cornelius?  Pandering really does work--take it from Brian.
***After that, Brian narrated an obituary for Robert Ayres.  He was the guy who drew the map of the Ponderosa that got burned up in the opening credits of "Bonanza".  I kid you not.  This is what Brian spent 50 seconds reporting on.  Again, it's just a way to keep viewers tuned in by bombarding them with familiar TV and music images (of course, the "Bonanza" theme music was also played).  And it doesn't hurt that "Bonanza" was an NBC production, so presumably NBC Universal makes money on every "Bonanza" DVD and other piece of merchandise that gets sold.
***A story about a march to protest voter ID laws in Alabama featured a clip of Al Sharpton, because it's Brian's job to promote MSNBC personalities.
***Brian needed thirty seconds to tell us about a giant boulder being transported to a museum in L.A.
***The final story was about Barbie's 53rd anniversary.  I specifically remember that three years ago, Nightly News (surprisingly) did not do a story on Barbie's 50th anniversary.  Why would they pass up the 50th anniversary  but commemorate the 53rd anniversary?  Your guess is as good as mine.  A promo for this story featured a clip from the song "Barbie Girl" because Friday is party night on Nightly News and it wouldn't be sufficient to only play "Disco Inferno".  This breaking news story featured clips from old Barbie commercials and interviews with girls and women about their Barbie memories.  I hope the Peabody Award evaluation committee was paying attention to this gem.  In his intro to the story, Brian described Barbie's relationship with Ken:  "And the long-term relationship with a guy who's very good-looking but may not have all that much going on."  Wait a sec--that reminds me of a network news anchor I know.  Can't quite recall the name.

Friday, March 2, 2012

NBC Nightly News Show Notes--2/25 Through 3/2 (Revised)

It was another great week on Nightly News.  Brian spent more time reporting on the Oscars, the Daytona 500, gas prices and JFK than he spent reporting on Syria.  And there were flags.  Many flags.  Lots of flags.  Tons of flags.  Here are the highlights:

Sat. Feb. 25--Lester Holt informed us that Nelson Mandela had been hospitalized.  It's nice to see that Nightly News has learned how to spell Mandela's name.  On his 7/12/10 Daily Nightly blog, Brian Williams spelled Mandela's name as "Mandella".  I guess that spelling tutor has really paid off.  Or maybe Brian and his producers just discovered spell check.  The Mandela story was reported by special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault, formerly of PBS (and other networks).  And like millions of Nightly News viewers, I couldn't help wondering what a respected journalist like Hunter-Gault was doing working for NBC News.
***Lester told us that "strong winds are howling from the Great Lakes up into New England and down to the Carolinas and into Georgia."  Thanks, Lester.  That's nice to know.  I guess we can look forward to another weather update in 10 minutes.
***After that, we saw a story about heart disease in women.  The story was titled "Silent Killer", another alarmist title meant to scare viewers (or, more precisely, meant to scare viewers into watching).  We can file this title alongside Nightly News's other recent alarmist titles like "Hidden Dangers?" (of lipstick), "Warning Signs?" (of autism) and Hidden Risks?" (of dirty surgical instruments).  I'm surprised the producers didn't include a question mark after "Silent Killer".  It makes the story sound more dramatic.
***Lester reported the breaking news story that Douglas Kennedy (son of Robert F. Kennedy) was arrested for trying to take his newborn baby out of the hospital.  Is there any Kennedy story that Nightly News won't report?  Apparently not, since the NBC News research department has informed the producers that Kennedy stories test well with focus groups and cause viewers to tune in (or keep them from changing the channel).
***The final story was about African Americans writing and appearing in Broadway plays.  It was really just an excuse to show some clips and interviews with stars like Samuel L. Jackson and Alicia Keys.  And after all, February is Black History Month, so the Nightly News producers make a point of pandering to African American viewers before ignoring them for the next eleven months.
Sun. Feb. 26--A story about the Republican candidates showed some footage of Mitt Romney at the Daytona 500.  How ironic.  Romney pretends to like racing because it allows him to pander to NASCAR voters, and Brian pretends to like racing because it allows him to pander to NASCAR viewers.  That's what I call symmetry. 
***In the same story, a clip of Rick Santorum saying he doesn't believe in the separation of church and state was accompanied by a 15-second clip of John F. Kennedy's 1960 speech in which Kennedy avers his support for church-state separation.  Again, the Nightly News producers will use any excuse to put JFK on the air.  This is the tenth time in the past month that JFK has appeared on Nightly News.  He gets more air time than some Nightly News correspondents.
***Next, we saw a story about gas prices.  This was the eighth Nightly News story about gas prices in the past two weeks.  The story was followed by a promo for CNBC's special all-day coverage on gas prices, which would be airing on Monday.  Don't they have any clips of JFK talking about gas prices?  Now THAT would really be something.
***We were shown another alarmist story, this time about stolen tax refunds.  Be afraid.  Be very, very afraid.
***Lester told us about a train derailment in Ontario that killed three people.  Meanwhile, four days earlier, a train crash in Buenos Aires killed more than 50 people and injured more than 700.  Nightly News didn't bother reporting this story, because their research shows that viewers aren't interested in anything that happens south of the U.S. border (except for Mexican drug war massacres).
***Time for another pointless, idiotic story about the warm winter weather.  Okay, we get it.  Isn't there any real news to report?
***Speaking of pointless and idiotic, the broadcast ended with a 2:35 waste of time about a conductor who organized a cyber choir made up of thousands of individual on-line singers.  When I find out why this was on a news broadcast, I'll be sure to let you know.
Mon. Feb. 27--As part of the coverage of the Chardon, Ohio school shooting, Brian said, "A member of our family here at NBC News has family roots in Chardon, Ohio--Chris Jansing is here with that.  Listening to you talk about it, by the way, reminded me so much of all the places where we grew up."  All the places where we grew up?  What the hell does that mean?  Did Brian grow up with Chris Jansing?  Is he now using the royal "we"?  Does he also say, "We are now going to take a leak"?  Why does he talk in idiotic riddles like that?  And what is his obsession with NBC News as a "family"?  It's a job.  People come and go.  They get fired and hired.  That's a business, not a family.
***Nightly News repeated Sunday's story about Rick Santorum's views on church and state just so they could play the JFK clip again.  Here's a tip for anyone running for office:  If you mention JFK, Brian Williams will put you on the air.
***Did you know that gas prices were rising?  Just in case anyone wasn't aware of that fact, Nightly News did another 2:10 story on it--the ninth such story in the last two weeks.  Whenever the Nightly News producers find a subject that resonates with viewers (and brings high ratings), they report on it over and over and over again.  People like populist stories about outrage over high prices--it makes viewers feel like they're part of the process and that their anger is being expressed.  By the way, over at CBS this night, Scott Pelley spent 15 seconds reporting on gas prices because that's all the time the story required or deserved.  But then again, Pelley is a professional journalist, not a self-promoting carnival barker.
***Going into the first commercial break, as Brian was telling us about an upcoming story on the health benefits of fish oil, we were shown footage of the crippled Costa Allegra cruise ship (along with the words "Coming Up")--a story Brian had already reported.  Oops--another screw-up in the Nightly News control booth.  Maybe the producers aren't getting enough fish oil.
***It was inevitable.  Did you really think that Brian wouldn't tell us exactly what he thought about the Oscars?  Apparently, he believes that we're really, really interested in hearing his opinions about stuff.  Can you say "narcissist"?  Here's how Brian previewed the story: "When we come back--about that little get-together last night in Hollywood where they gave out those free shiny figurines."  How amusing--not.  And after the commercial, he spent a minute telling us all about it.  Of course, in addition to feeding Brian's massive ego, this was also an excuse to show more clips of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Cameron Diaz and other stars.  Well, no network news broadcast ever lost viewers by showing footage of Hollywood stars.  And naturally, we saw a close-up of Uggie, the dog from "The Artist".  Brian said, "There's that good doggie."  I guess Brian was pandering to the canine audience.  And Brian gets to do whatever he wants.  Needless to say, Scott Pelley did not mention the Oscars because there was real news to report.  Apparently, he understands that "entertainment news" is not the same as actual news.
***Brian spent 30 seconds telling us about a Southwest Airlines captain who said over the loudspeaker that someone's mom was on board, but passengers thought he said there was a "bomb on board".  Yep--on Nightly News, that's a news story.  I wonder which idiot selected this story?  As if we don't already know.
***Next, Brian told us about the crescent moon, Jupiter and Venus--calling them "the spectacular show in the skies over the Northern Hemisphere."  Because Brian's job is to entertain us with space shit instead of reporting actual news.  I guess Brian must have been daydreaming because when he previewed the next story, he said "up there tonight..." instead of "up next tonight...."  He was probably thinking about being shot out of a cannon and landing on Venus.
***The final story of the night makes the crescent moon story seem like Peabody material by comparison.  It was about a retired teacher who keeps in touch with her former students by sending them hand-written birthday cards.  That's it.  That's the story.  A 2:10 waste of time.  Would someone from Nightly News please let me know how this bullshit story qualifies as news?  I really want to know.  Really.  I mean it.
Tues. Feb. 28--Have the Nightly News producers ever encountered a U.S. flag that they didn't use on the air?  In Peter Alexander's story about the Michigan and Arizona primaries, he's standing in an auditorium with a giant flag in the background over his right shoulder.  The flag takes up about 20% of the screen.  The producers just love pandering to the viewers' rah-rah gung-ho sense of faux-patriotism.  And of course, in the next story, as Brian spoke with Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd and David Gregory about the primaries, there was a huge animated flag waving behind him.  God bless America.  And the Nielsen ratings.
***In his introduction to a story about the improper disposal of the remains of some 9/11 victims, Brian said, "A sickening story came out of the Pentagon today".  Silly me--I thought an anchor's job was just to report the story and let the viewers decide for themselves how they feel about it.  But what do I know?  Obviously Brian thinks that it's HIS responsibility to tell us how we should feel about things.  Well why not--he's so much smarter than we are.  And this story contained so many shots of the U.S. flag that I thought I was at a monster truck rally.  Or a Toby Keith concert.
***HEY!! Did you know that there were only 150 days until the Olympics?  Just to remind us, the Nightly News producers showed some footage of the giant Olympic rings travelling by barge down the River Thames.  And for good measure, they also played the Olympic theme music to get us in the mood.  I can't wait for the Olympics.  And I can't wait until Nightly News turns into a non-stop Olympic promo-and-highlight show.  That should start around June 1, if not sooner.  During the 2010 Vancouver Games, Nightly News showed 160 minutes worth of Olympic-related stories.  After all, what's the point of having a news broadcast if you can't use it to promote your sports and entertainment programs?
***If it was inevitable that Brian would talk about the Oscars on Monday, it was doubly inevitable that he would talk about the Daytona 500 on Tuesday.  Listening to him drone on and on about it for a minute was almost as painful as actually watching the race.  By pretending to care about the Daytona 500, Brian and his producers are clearly targeting the same demographic as they do with all the waving flags and pseudo-patriotic bullshit they show.  Obviously, the stars-and-stripes-loving NASCAR enthusiasts represent a huge and desirable chunk of potential viewers and Brian is calculatedly going after them with everything he has.  He might as well just wear a baseball cap with a red-whire-and-blue NASCAR logo on it, since he's doing everything else in his power to appeal to these people.
***And for Brian, part of chasing after this demographic includes acting as the propaganda minister for the U.S. Armed Services.  There are few better ways to display one's fake patriotism (and attract viewers) than by reporting story after story about brave soldiers and veterans.  That's why Brian spent 30 seconds telling us about the death of WW II veteran Buck Compton, who was also a character in the HBO series "Band of Brothers" (based on the book by Stephen Ambrose).  Of course, this story served double duty.  Not only did Brian get to do more pandering to middle America, but he also got to show clips from the HBO series.  That's like hitting the daily double.
***Brian then spent 30 seconds showing us video of a waiter spilling beer on German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  This was absolutely hilarious because Brian completely ignores Merkel, despite the fact that she is one of the most powerful world leaders and is in the news constantly (I'm referring to reputable newscasts, of course, not Nightly News).  For months, Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have been engaged in important meetings to try to save the Eurozone economy, and Brian never, ever reports this.  But he shows video of Merkel taking a beer bath.  That's a riot.  I honestly can't remember the last time Brian even mentioned Merkel, much less did an actual story about her.  And during this "news story", Brian also showed the video of President Bush giving Merkel a back massage at the 2006 G8 summit in Russia.  That's probably the last time Merkel appeared on Nightly News.  Nightly News is a joke.
***The broadcast ended with a story about Misty Copeland, an African American woman who is a soloist with the American Ballet Theatre.  At first, I thought "Access Hollywood" had started early because this is certainly not a news story.  But then I remembered that Brian's job is not to present news, but rather to pander to the viewers with soft, fluffy stories that are specifically designed to maximize his ratings.  Now it all makes perfect sense.  Ballet dancers, teachers who send birthday cards, flags, NASCAR, the Oscars--this is just a formula for ratings.  Any relationship to a news broadcast is strictly coincidental.  And unintentional.  By the way, Brian did not even mention Syria on this broadcast.  But he told us all about the Olympic rings, the Daytona 500, Angela Merkel's beer bath and a ballet dancer.  Great job, Brian.
Wed. Feb. 29--Naturally, the lead stories were about the tornadoes in the midwest.  Brian spent 50 seconds introducing the first story.  What generated the bigger wind--the twisters or Brian's flapping gums?  One of the tornado stories was titled "Sudden Impact".  The producers always like to give their stories movie titles because they strike a note of familiarity with the viewers.  And especially Clint Eastwood movie titles because he's the new Chrysler spokesman.  And we all know how much Brian loves Chrysler.
***Brian then told us about a "Winter Blast" that hit Minnesota.  No kidding?  Snow in Minnesota in the winter?  I'm amazed.
***Brian also told us that Franklin Graham apologized for remarks he made questioning President Obama's Christian faith.  He only reported this story because the original accusations were made on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" so this story allowed Brian to show more "Morning Joe" clips.  There's no way he would have bothered with this story if it didn't involve plugging an MSNBC show.
***It had been several days since Nightly News ran one of their ridiculous alarmist stories, so they were long overdue.  This one, titled "Danger At Sea?", was about the dangers of cruise ships like the Costa Concordia and the Costa Allegra.  Obviously, this story was designed to make viewers terrified of cruise ships, just like other recent alarmist stories were meant to make us scared of lipstick, Hepatitis C or dirty surgical instruments.
***Brian spent 2 minutes narrating an obituary for Davy Jones.  Really?  Two minutes?  Well, it gave Brian an opportunity to play Monkees' songs and show lots of TV clips from their show.  At one point, he told us that, "A lot of people, of course, can still name all four Monkees" and then proceeded to show off by doing just that.  Wow, Brian, real impressive.  He also said, "Their music fans tuned in not quite realizing that what they were watching was nothing less than the birth of the music video."  Really?  I wonder what the Beatles would say about that ridiculous claim, since every Monkees episode (including their "music videos") was basically ripped off from "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help". 
***The final story was a "Making A Difference" report about an American man who stayed in Sudan to be with his wife, a native Sudanese woman.  As usual, this MAD story had zero news value.  Even worse, it was reported by the hideously grotesque Ann Curry.  I had hoped that her new gig on "Today" would make her too tired to stay up for Nightly News, but apparently this story was pre-taped.  Or maybe it had something to do with the time difference in Sudan.  Whatever.  Curry has perfected the look of feigned concern--leaning in, eyebrows furrowed, head tilted, hand on chin--a look she uses during every interview she conducts.  As if she cares the slightest bit about what's going on in Sudan.  Everything she does is a ratings stunt.  And there's no doubt that while in Sudan, Curry stayed at the five-star Hotel Corinthia in Khartoum (or in some such similarly lavish accommodations).  And as he always does on the nights when "Rock Center" airs, Brian ended the broadcast by begging us to watch that show.  Unfortunately, it seems no one actually is watching, since the ratings continue to be anemic.  Here's a link to an interesting Reuters article about the decline and fall of "Rock Center":
Thurs. Mar. 1--Obviously, the lead stories were about the tornadoes in the midwest.  They weren't actually news stories--they were sappy, emotional tear-jerker stories meant to maximize viewer involvement (and, of course, ratings).  And as is the custom at Nightly News, they made sure to include as many tattered-flag shots as possible.  At one point during Lester Holt's report from Harrisburg, Illinois, the camera focused in on a tattered flag in a field of debris.  This is the type of hyped-up sentimental patriotic bullshit that Nightly News uses in place of news.  I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that the Nightly News producers carry tattered flags around in their trunks and strategically placed them among tornado rubble to get good shots for the story.
***After Lester's story, Brian introduced another tornado story with "our friend", The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore.  Brian always refers to Cantore as "our friend".  I think Cantore is another one of Brian's man-crushes, along with Michael Douglas, Bruce Springsteen and anyone in a military uniform.
***Brian then spent two minutes on an obituary for Andrew Breitbart.  On this night, Brian did not bother reporting any stories on Syria or Iran, but Breitbart gets a two minute obit.  Business as usual at Nightly News.  Great job, Brian.
***During a 2:35 story on Google's new privacy policy, Mike Taibbi told that one way to avoid having your information shared was to "use non-Google websites and search engines."  On screen we were shown (in large type) the logos for Bing and Yahoo.  Bing is made by Microsoft, NBC's former partner in MSNBC and current partner in  So Taibbi and his producers were just giving a huge plug to one of NBC's corporate partners.  Nice.  Also during that story, Shuman Ghosemajumder, Google's Manager for Trust and Safety, was identified on-screen as "Keith Enright".  I guess Ghosemajumder's name was too long and confusing for the Nightly News producers to even attempt to spell.
***Brian spent 30 seconds telling us about President Obama's White House dinner to honor Iraq War veterans.  Brian's fawning, sickening narration included this gem:  "He hosted and toasted veterans and their spouses--a small sample of the million-plus Americans who served with distinction in the war in Iraq."  Instead of reporting this story as news, Brian made sure to report it in a way that highlights his stalker-like obsession with anything related to war veterans.
***Next, Brian spent 20 seconds telling us about a shopping trip undertaken by Queen Elizabeth, her daughter-in-law Camilla and her granddaughter-in-law Kate (that would be Middleton).  Apparently, Brian considers this news.  Actually, anything involving Kate Middleton is considered breaking news on Nightly News.
***A report on some electronic devices stolen from NASA was just an excuse for Brian to showcase what he believes is his sense of humor.  "So if the space station suddenly starts doing barrel rolls or spells out somebody's name as it orbits the earth, you will know the laptop has fallen into the wrong hands."  Excuse me while I don't laugh.  Brian frequently selects "news stories" simply because they give him an opportunity to say something he thinks is funny.  Does anyone actually take this guy seriously as a news anchor?  So let's recap:  Brian just spent 80 seconds reporting three stories not because they were important, but because they were important to HIM.  That makes sense.  The news is always about Brian.
***The broadcast ended with an idiotic "Making A Difference" story about people helping tornado victims.  Just another opportunity for Brian to show sappy, gooey, feel-good garbage instead of news.  Mission accomplished.
Fri. Mar. 2--The first nine minutes of the broadcast was devoted to the tornadoes in the midwest.  Brian started the ball rolling with his long-winded 1:05 introduction to a report from The Weather Channel's Dr. Greg Forbes.  Dr. Forbes has decades of experience as an expert on severe storms, but Brian thought it would be a good idea for him to eat up half of Dr. Forbes's air time and left him with only 1:15 to explain the tornado situation.  Nice going, Brian.
***After that, we saw a report from Jim Cantore in Henryville, Indiana.  Why was Brian looking at Cantore with that dreamy expression on his face?
***Because you just can't get enough of those Weather Channel personalities on Nightly News, Mike Seidel spent another 2:22 on the tornado damage in Harvest, Alabama.  Right in the middle of Seidel's report, we were shown a gratuitous shot of a flag waving on a flagpole, followed moments later by another shot of a tattered flag waving among some broken tree branches.  I felt guilty for not standing up and saluting.  But if I stood and saluted every time I saw a flag on Nightly News, I'd probably need a knee operation.
***Then it was time for Mike Bettes to wrap up the tornado coverage with a 1:20 report from Nashville.  After that, Brian ended the tornado-thon with this despicable promo:  "To all our viewers in these affected areas, just a reminder--stay with this NBC station, your late local news of course and for up-to-the-minute updates all evening long, the experts at The Weather Channel."  Wow.  Using the tornado damage to shamelessly plug NBC and The Weather Channel (owned by NBC Universal).  It doesn't get much lower than that.
***In a story about Rush Limbaugh's insulting statements about Sandra Fluke, we were shown an on-screen statement from Georgetown University (where Fluke attends law school) defending her.  Unfortunately, the Nightly News producers spelled "misogynistic" as "misogyinistic".  That's sad.  And it raises a philosophical question: Is misspelling "misogynistic" in and of itself a misogynistic act?  We should ask Rush Limbaugh.
***Brian then told us about the last Continental Airlines flight (it was taken over by United) and the end of Chevy's Volt line of cars (due to low sales).  These stories aren't really newsworthy, but Brian gets to report on whatever the hell he wants.  He likes air travel and cars, so he gets to report on them.  End of story. 
***He also took a minute to tell us about the death of Medal of Honor recipient Van Barfoot.  Funny thing--I never hear Scott Pelley or Diane  Sawyer announcing the death of a MOH winner.  Because it's not news.  Only Brian does this because he is a fawning sycophant for the military.  In fact, Brian serves on the Board of Directors for the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, so once again he is using his broadcast to promote an organization with which he is affiliated.  That is a glaring conflict of interest and it is grossly unethical.  The MOH Foundation is supported largely by donations, so obviously Brian is drawing attention to the organization in order to help it raise money.  And I'm pretty sure that Brian was touching himself when he reported this story since he always gets excited by Medal of Honor winners.
***Before the last commercial break, here's how Brian introduced the broadcast's final story:  "We are back in a moment tonight with an emotional return today--teachers and students standing united coming together after a terrible tragedy."  How does he come up with this sickening crap?  Does he get third graders to write it?  Not surprisingly, the story was just another opportunity for Brian to exploit for ratings the Chardon, Ohio school shooting.
***Brian ended the broadcast by saying, "One more reminder tonight for all those folks in the storm zone--a good idea to keep an eye on The Weather Channel coverage all night long."  Again, he's using tragedy and suffering to get ratings for The Weather Channel?  That is just shameless.  No wait--I mean sleazy.  Okay, I'll call it shamelessly sleazy.  And he's so good at it, too.