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 MSNBC.com 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": http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/24/idUS248841683320120224
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.
***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.