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.