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.