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 TheGrio.com (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 TheGrio.com. 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 TheGrio.com 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.