Here's some of the great stuff you may have missed on Nightly News this week:
Sat. April 7--In an obituary for artist Thomas Kinkade, the idiotic Nightly News producers actually managed to spell his name wrong. As weekend anchor Lester Holt introduced the story, a graphic over Holt's left shoulder read "Thomas Kinkaid [sic] 1958-2012". They misspelled his name in his own obituary! Appalling--but hardly surprising. Nightly News broadcasts are rife with spelling, grammar, math and factual errors. Can you imagine ABC or CBS misspelling Kinkade's name? I can't. Apparently, the Nightly News producers are too busy concentrating on promoting NBC's sports and entertainment programming to bother checking their spelling. I guess they have their priorities.
***Speaking of which, the final story of the night was a two-and-a-half minute "news story" about the 50th anniversary of the film version of "To Kill A Mockingbird". Why on earth would a news broadcast commemorate the film version of a famous book, rather than the book itself (Harper Lee's book was published two years earlier)? It doesn't make any sense. But of course, as is the case with virtually every story that airs on Nightly News, there was an ulterior motive. In this case, Lester rabidly plugged Saturday's USA Network screening of "Mockingbird" for one reason only--because USA is owned by Comcast/NBC Universal. Of course, Holt never mentioned this to the viewers. Neither did he mention that "Mockingbird" was released by Universal Pictures, also a Comcast/NBC Universal company. He intentionally withheld this information to try to trick the viewers into believing that this was an actual news story, rather than a shameless plug. So this story amounts to a two-and-a-half minute commercial for an NBC Universal film which will be airing on an NBC Universal TV network. That is just sleazy. Holt and his producers should be ashamed of themselves. But of course they're not. Their main job at all times is to relentlessly promote NBC properties. It doesn't bother them in the least that their broadcast constantly ignores real news in order to self-promote. Well, what do you expect--weasels will be weasels. Meanwhile, this month PBS is airing an excellent "American Masters" episode called "Hey Boo: Harper Lee and 'To Kill A Mockingbird'". But of course Holt never mentioned it because PBS is not owned by Comcast/NBC Universal.
Sun. April 8--A redrawing of the border between North Carolina and South Carolina may result in some SC residents discovering that they actually live in NC. Wow! This piece of fluff was given 2:20 of valuable news time on Nightly News. Thanks.
***Next, John Yang took 2:25 to tell us that U.S. auto sales were up. This story could have been reported in 30 seconds. Nightly News makes a habit of stretching out trivial, stale stories to fill time instead of reporting on relevant issues. That's a great way to run a news broadcast.
***The final story of the night was one for the ages. Ostensibly it was about product placements in the new James Bond film (and in other films). Sixty-four percent of this story (96 seconds out of 2:30) was made up of clips from James Bond movies. There were also additional clips from "E.T.", "Risky Business", and "Wayne's World"--bringing the total percentage of film clips that made up this story to a whopping 72%. This is the seventh time in the past three weeks that Nightly News has devoted an entire story to a movie or movies. On March 16, they did a two-minute story on "The Hunger Games". The next day, they devoted 2:45 to a story about "The Godfather". On March 23, it was another "Hunger Games" story, this one ran 2:20. On April 1, Nightly News did a 2:15 story about the 80's nostalgia trend in current films. On April 5, it was a 2:15 report about the thriving Miami film and TV industry. And on April 7, they spent 2:30 shamelessly promoting the USA Network showing of "To Kill A Mockingbird". If you add in tonight's James Bond story, that means that Nightly News has spent 16:35 on movie stories in the past three weeks. That's an appalling waste of time for a news broadcast. So why is Nightly News spending so much time reporting on movies? The answer is obvious. People like seeing stories about movies and TV shows, so these stories keep viewers tuned in. And if people stay tuned in, it boosts the ratings. So all these movie stories are just a ratings ploy by Brian Williams and his producers. Keep in mind that in addition to all these stories solely about movies, Nightly News regularly peppers its other stories with clips from movies and TV shows as a further enticement for entertainment-starved viewers (Nightly News's recent stories about the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic naturally included clips from various Titanic-themed movies). Another reason to do these stories, of course, is to promote Universal movies (both new releases and DVD's of old movies) and soundtracks. For example, the "Hunger Games" soundtrack was released on a Universal label. And the possibility certainly exists that the NBC sales & marketing department is actually selling these movie stories to the studios as part of ad packages. For a set fee, the studio can buy a certain number of commercials plus a contrived news story about their film that will air on "Today", Nightly News or both. Movie studios would no doubt jump at the chance to buy this sort of publicity masquerading as news coverage.
But the most hilarious aspect of the James Bond story was that it was purportedly about product placements in movies (in the new James Bond film, Bond will drink Heineken beer in addition to his usual martinis). The story featured film clips of products like Reese's Pieces (from "E.T"), Ray-Ban sunglasses (from "Risky Business"), Pizza Hut (from "Wayne's World") and BMW cars and Omega watches (from previous James Bond movies). Do you actually believe that Nightly News didn't get paid for plugging these products? A story about product placements was really just an excuse for Nightly News to insert more product placements and get paid for them! And the irony of Nightly News reporting on product placements is thicker than frozen pea soup. Brian Williams and his Nightly News correspondents insert product placements into their news stories on a regular basis! Over the past few years, Nightly News has plugged these products: McDonald's (one of Brian's favorite companies to plug), Subway sandwiches, Bayer products (Bayer aspirin and Aleve), Heinz ketchup, Starbucks, Cheerios, Chevy, Chrysler, Walmart, Kraft, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Frito-Lay, Microsoft, Boniva, United Airlines, Pringles, and Smith & Nephew joint replacements. Here are the details of these Nightly News product placements:
>7/18/07--Nightly News airs a story about Restless Leg Syndrome. The sole purpose of the story is to establish the legitimacy of RLS because many doctors do not acknowledge it as a legitimate medical condition. One of the main drugs used to treat RLS is Requip, a frequent Nightly News advertiser at the time (Requip was specifically mentioned in the story). And in addition to their regular advertisements, Requip (manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline) sponsored nine Nightly News "Making A Difference" segments from April 2007 to January 2008 (the dates were 4/20/07, 5/25/07, 6/22/07, 7/6/07, 7/27/07, 8/3/07, 9/14/07, 1/11/08 and 1/18/08). There is absolutely no doubt that the story on Restless Leg Syndrome was done as a special favor to Nightly News's pals at Glaxo as a way of saying thank you for all that Glaxo ad money.
>11/13/07--Brian Williams anchors Nightly News from a Chrysler plant in Detroit. This broadcast is a thinly-disguised 30-minute commercial for Chrysler, a frequent Nightly News and NBC advertiser. At the end of the broadcast, Brian interviews Chrysler executive Jim Press. Brian's "interview" is made up of softball questions that allow Press to talk about how great Chrysler's cars and trucks are (Brian even gets in on the act of praising Chrysler products: "This is going to make some buyer somewhere very happy."). Less than three months later (2/5/08), Chrysler sponsored the entire Nightly News broadcast. An obvious example of quid pro quo.
>1/31/09--A story about 3-D ads during the Super Bowl prominently features Lifewater beverages--a product that advertised on the following day's Super Bowl. On NBC.
>2/23/09--Nightly News features a report about how thoroughly United Airlines cleans its planes. United is a frequent Nightly News advertiser. This story is just a big thank-you from NBC to United.
>5/5/09--Nightly News airs a "news story" about McDonald's new gourmet coffees. McDonald's is a major advertiser on Nightly News and other NBC Universal shows. Ann Curry introduces the story by calling McDonald's coffee a "delicious brew". More than a third of this story is comprised of excerpts from McDonald's commercials and interviews with McDonald's spokespersons. This story is simply a commercial for McDonald's new gourmet coffees. (So as not to offend another sponsor, Nightly News also gives Starbucks lots of good publicity in the story.)
>5/12/09--A story purportedly about FDA assertions regarding Cheerios' health claims ends up becoming a fawning two-minute promotional message for Cheerios. The report intentionally minimized the FDA aspect of the story and instead spent most of its time promoting the positive attributes of Cheerios. This was Bazell's first line: "It is one of America's iconic products--Cheerios." Well, that certainly set the scene. We were then shown 20 seconds of Cheerios commercials while Bazell tells us that, "Soluble oat fiber--a key component--can help reduce cholesterol." In other words, Bazell just made the very claim that the FDA had expressly forbidden General Mills from making. He then briefly interrupts his Cheerios love-fest to mention the FDA reprimand: "A letter from the FDA to General Mills, the manufacturer, says that the health claims have gone too far. The big problem is those claims about how much cholesterol can be reduced in how many weeks. They are repeated on the box. The FDA says those are drug-like claims that can only be made after studies have been submitted to the agency and approved." So rather than acknowledging that General Mills made inappropriate claims, he chooses to defend the claims as if they were mere technicalities. As Bazell says this, he was sitting at a table with a bowl of Cheerios in front of him, and at least six boxes of Cheerios neatly stacked next to him. He looks like he is in a Cheerios commercial. Actually, he is. Bazell continues, "In a statement, General Mills said, 'The science is not in question and we look forward to discussing this with the FDA and reaching a resolution.'" The science is not in question! Bazell does not take issue with the General Mills statement--he simply accepts it as fact. The General Mills statement also appears on screen alongside a pleasing graphic of a breakfast table with a bowl of Cheerios, a box of Cheerios and a glass of orange juice. We then see a close-up of milk being poured into a bowl of Cheerios. There is a brief interview with a doctor who says that three grams of soluble fiber is not really going to help you, but that it's better than eating something that's high in fat. Bazell then twists this statement into, "Food industry experts say there is no question that Cheerios is a healthy product but the FDA seems to be paying more attention to the claims that companies make." No question! Bazell's commercial--I mean news story--ends with boxes of Cheerios going by on a conveyor belt, a slow pan down a box of Cheerios, and a mother pouring some Cheerios for her toddler. Can anyone dispute that this is a product placement?
>7/13/09--The entire Nightly News broadcast is sponsored by the University of Phoenix, an online university. Four days later, Nightly News airs a report about Western Governors University (also an online university). This story features a gratuitous plug for the University of Phoenix as well as a prominent graphic displaying their logo. It seems apparent that University of Phoenix's July 13 sponsorship also bought them a plug on the July 17 broadcast.
>9/6/09--A story about search engines becomes a story about Bing. Bing is a Microsoft product, and Microsoft was a former partner of NBC in MSNBC and current partner in MSNBC.com. This story is just a plug for one of NBC's corporate partners.
>10/22/09--During a piece about women in the workplace, Nightly News spends 75 seconds profiling Jan Fields, the Chief Operating Officer of McDonald's USA. The story gives her ample time to talk about things like McDonald's "world famous fries". Ms. Fields is now the president of McDonald's USA--no doubt thanks in part to her ability to manipulate NBC News into allowing her to plug her greasy burgers and fries.
>2/4/10--Brian Williams reads a 30-second story about the great new Heinz ketchup packages (he also manages to mention McDonald's in the story). This is just a plug for Heinz.
>3/17/10--Brian Williams reads a 30-second story about how Kraft Foods will be reducing the sodium in their products. Another plug for a regular advertiser.
>3/19/10--Ann Curry (filling in for Brian Williams) reads a story about how Wal-Mart will be slashing their grocery prices.
>5/14/10--In part one of a two-part interview with Sally Field, Brian Williams spends the entire 90 seconds talking with Field about her Boniva commercials (at the time, Boniva advertised on Nightly News every night). Three days later, in part two of the interview, Brian again mentions Boniva.
>6/8/10--Nightly News airs a report about an obscure Danish medical study that concluded that Aleve can reduce the risk of heart attacks. Aleve (and its parent product Bayer) advertise on Nightly News every night.
>6/10/10--Brian Williams introduces a ridiculous "news story" about whether or not Chevys should be referred to as Chevrolets. Clearly, this is a two-minute-and-ten-second thank-you to the Chevy people for all the advertising dollars they have given NBC over the years.
>6/14/10--Lester Holt reads a "news story" about how Starbucks and McDonald's are now providing free Wi-Fi in their stores. Interestingly, this is the second time Nightly News has paired these two companies in a fake news story whose sole purpose is to promote them as sponsors.
>6/22/10--Nightly News shows a 30-second clip of Jimmy Fallon playing Microsoft's new Kinnect video game. Again, since Microsoft is a partner of NBC, this is just another plug for one of NBC's corporate partners (and a plug for Fallon's show, as well).
>7/2/10--A Nightly News profile of LeBron James includes clips from his McDonald's commercials.
>7/21/10--Brian Williams contrives a "news story" about knee surgery in order to call attention to a new Nightly News advertiser--Smith & Nephew Replacement Knees.
>9/24/10--In one of the most egregious examples of product placement, a story on the diminishing use of credit and debit cards for food shopping begins with a couple in a Target store standing in front of a massive wall of Cheerios that was almost certainly assembled by the Nightly News producers just for this story. We also see the couple walking through the aisles with the Cheerios box and the camera gets a clear shot as the box is scanned at the register. The first 45 seconds of this story is a non-stop product placement for Cheerios. (The last shot of the story is the mother feeding Cheerios to her infant.) Cheerios is a frequent Nightly News sponsor and advertiser. This story is a great big "thank you" to General Mills.
>10/27/10--Brian Williams reports an important story about how the Scott Paper Company is manufacturing tubeless toilet paper. The story features plenty of ad clips from Scott products.
>10/31/10--A story on the end of the Pontiac brand is really just some free advertising for General Motors.
>11/4/10 and 11/5/10--Nightly News airs two virtually identical stories about a great new Spiral CT Scanner. It just happens to be made by GE, NBC's then-parent company.
>11/9/10--The broadcast airs stories about the end of GM's Mr. Goodwrench ad campaign and the new ad campaign beginning for Planter's Mr. Peanut brand. Both stories contain lots of ad clips.
>12/6/10--A story about the health benefits of aspirin is nothing more than a product placement for Bayer, a frequent Nightly News advertiser. This "news report" begins with a five second clip from a Bayer commercial. Then there are three close-ups of Bayer aspirin: A box on a shelf in a Walgreens, a pill in someone's palm and a bottle of Bayer. No other name-brand aspirin is shown in the story, just generic or store brands. Even an animated graphic of a bottle simply labeled "aspirin" is brown and yellow--easily recognizable as Bayer's traditional colors on their aspirin bottles and the main colors on their website. Not very subtle.
>12/7/10--A story about how San Francisco is banning toys that come with children's fast food meals begins with a cute segment about a woman who collects Happy Meal toys. The rest of this 2:30 "news story" (which was really just a commercial for McDonald's) contains clips of actual McDonald's commercials and non-stop footage of the McDonald's logo, restaurants and food.
>12/28/10--Brian Williams spends 30 seconds telling us the great news that Frito-Lay products will soon be "all-natural". With the Frito-Lay logo behind him, he specifically mentions Tostitos, Sun Chips, Lays and Rold Gold.
>1/5/11--Brian Williams spends 30 seconds telling us that Starbucks will be changing their logo.
>1/17/11--Brian Williams announces that Starbucks will be introducing a new size drink called Trenta. I guess Brian reports on Starbucks so often because he wants free drinks.
>1/20/11--Brian Williams tells us that Wal-Mart will be cutting prices on fresh fruits and vegetables and reducing fats, sugar, salt and trans fats in its store brands over the next few years. This sounds like a press release written by the Wal-Mart marketing department.
>2/7/11--Nightly News does a three-minute rah-rah story about Chrysler's "Imported From Detroit" Super Bowl commercial (featuring Eminem) that aired the previous day (the story features 80 seconds of clips from the ad). This was little more than a three-minute commercial for Chrysler.
>3/8/11--Brian Williams takes 30 seconds to tell us the important news that Subway now has more U.S. outlets than McDonald's. So as not to offend McDonald's, he also tells us that McDonald's earns more money than Subway.
>4/5/11--Nightly News does a two-and-a-half minute "news story" about the Vermont Country Store. This is a promotional story for a company that does $100 million in annual business.
>4/6/11--Nightly News airs a 2:05 story about Pringles. This may be the most shameless product placement Nightly News has ever done. Then again--probably not. The story begins with Brian Williams plugging some of Procter & Gamble's brands--Tide, Crest and Pampers. We are then shown clips from Pringles commercials--including one that featured Brad Pitt. We get to see a Pringles-related clip from "Ally McBeal". But mostly, we get to see Kevin Tibbles having a great time with Pringles. Just like Brad Pitt! There's Tibbles sitting with two cans of Pringles. There's Tibbles with a math professor who explains that the exact shape of the chip is a hyperbolic paraboloid. There's Tibbles holding a Pringles chip up to the camera. Then we see some clips of other P & G products--Tide, Gillette, Oral B and Wella. The story ends with 15 seconds of various closeup shots of Pringles. And the very next night--surprise--a Pringles commercial airs on Nightly News. I guess the Pringles people bought a combo news-story-and-ad package.
>5/9/11--Brian reads a 30-second "news story" about McDonald's great new redesign plans for their restaurants: "Mickey D's is spending over $1 billion to make their restaurants more chill, more comfortable, more laid back, more Starbucks than Mayor McCheese. Look for wooden tables, muted colors and faux leather seats coming soon to a Mac's near you. And you can get fries with that." That's not a news story, it's a McDonald's press release. And it's shameless. Notice how Brian slipped in a Starbucks mention, as well.
>5/18/11--Brian personally defends McDonald's against criticism from parenting organizations and nutritional advocacy groups that accused McDonald's of unfairly using Ronald McDonald to attract children to their high sodium, high cholesterol, high fat food. In the story, Brian says that this criticism "seems a little harsh". So much for anchor neutrality.
>7/26/11--Brian read this 30-second press release from McDonald's: "McDonald's said today that it's taking steps to make Happy Meals healthier. The company is cutting the size of the french fry portion in half for starters and adding apple slices to every meal. The new meals will have about 20% fewer calories--coming in at under 600 calories total. First Lady Michelle Obama, who campaigns, of course, for better nutrition, put out a statement today calling this a good step." It was clear that Brian and his producers mean to imply that Mrs. Obama was endorsing McDonald's--which, of course, she was not. (As Brian read this, the McDonald's logo is onscreen for the entire thirty seconds, along with the words "Healthy Choices" and a picture of a Happy Meal.)
>9/20/11--Brian Williams takes 30 seconds to tell us all about Heinz's exciting new ketchup packages: "There's a new fast food staple coming our way after years of fighting with the old ones. Heinz is out with a new vessel for fast food ketchup. It's shaped differently, it opens differently, contains three times the amount of product in the old packets. They're already being used at some Dairy Queens, Wendy's gets them later in the year--no comment yet from the really big players--McDonald's and Burger King." The accompanying video shows plenty of promotional footage of people using the new Heinz packets. (I'm surprised that Brian didn't conduct a live in-studio demonstration.) Why does that sound familiar? Oh yeah--it's because Brian already told us about the new Heinz packages on the 2/4/10 Nightly News. I guess Heinz must have paid NBC News for two product placements.
>10/27/11--The lead story is about the health benefits of aspirin as a cancer-fighting drug. This story is virtually identical to the 12/6/10 story on aspirin. In truth, this is just another 2:40 product placement for Bayer. Like the 12/6/10 story, this story features only one national brand of aspirin--Bayer. All the other aspirin brands are generic or store brands like CVS or Sunmark. The story also shows two vintage Bayer newspaper ads and just for good measure, it features an 8-second clip from a current Bayer TV commercial. This story is a joke. It is nothing more than a shameless way to plug Bayer aspirin. And the fact that they showed it as the lead story is even more shameless. The message is obvious--buy Bayer aspirin and you won't get cancer.
>11/17/11--Right in the middle of a story about Congress's decision to categorize pizza as a vegetable, correspondent Anne Thompson takes a ten-second break to read a McDonald's commercial. With a huge McDonald's logo next to her, Thompson tells us that, "McDonald's got the message--reducing french fries and adding fruit to its happy meals." This has absolutely nothing to do with the story about pizza being a vegetable--it is just another opportunity for a Nightly News correspondent to shill for the Golden Arches.
>1/29/12--A story about fast food restaurants that stay open late is really just another product placement for McDonald's. This story contains more than a minute's worth of gratuitous McDonald's footage--interiors, exteriors, franchise owners, customers, workers, food--and even includes an extended shot of correspondent Mike Taibbi standing in front of a McDonald's in a way that clearly displayed the McDonald's name and logo. And just to make sure we didn't miss the point, Taibbi then tells us that, "McDonald's now has 40% of its restaurants open 24 hours--up from 30% seven years ago." That statement--and the entire report--sounds suspiciously like a commercial. Obviously, the Nightly News producers' goal in running this story is to inform the viewers that McDonald's has new extended hours so we should rush out later and get some of those delicious Big Macs, Quarter Pounders and fries.
>2/6/12--Brian spends more than two minutes fawning over the Clint Eastwood "Halftime In America" Chrysler ad that aired during the Super Bowl. He calls it "a big, sweeping and impactful ad." He shows us 45 seconds of the ad, including a 30-second continuous clip. But don't let Clint Eastwood's appearance in the ad fool you. Brian Williams is Chrysler's chief spokesman
Okay--I got a little sidetracked there, but the point is that next time the Nightly News producers have the nerve do a story about product placements in James Bond films (or any other films), they should keep in mind that Nightly News features more product placements than any other show on TV.
Mon. April 9--The lead story about the Trayvon Martin shooting was titled "Turning Point?" Well, is it a turning point or isn't it? They're supposed to tell us, not ask us.
***We got another idiotic story about the "Extreme Weather" from the idiotic Anne Thompson. How many times can she do the same story? Many, many times, apparently. Several times during this story, Thompson mentioned NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) without ever explaining what it is. I have no doubt that after seeing this story, some viewers think the extreme weather is being caused by "Noah" (after all, he had to build an ark to escape the extreme weather).
***A story about the link between obesity in mothers and autism in babies is titled "Autism Link?" Well, is there a link or not? Are we supposed to guess?
***In yet another story about whether or not the Augusta National Golf Club will admit IBM CEO Virginia Rometty as its first female member, Brian described Rometty as an "avid golfer". Every other news source has described her as an occasional golfer (Rometty has even described herself that way). In her March 30 Nightly News story about Augusta, NBC News's Senior Investigative Correspondent Lisa Myers said Rometty "is said to play golf--though sparingly." So Brian wasn't even close. Another idiotic statement from the uninformed Brian Williams.
***Brian then told us about a pod of orca whales that came right up to a whale-watching boat. What is the deal with Brian's whale obsession? From September, 2011 through January, 2012, Nightly News aired eight stories about whales. Now, apparently, they're starting again with the whale stories.
***Brian ended the broadcast with his three minute tribute to Mike Wallace. Kind of ironic, don't you think? Wallace was defined by his propensity for asking tough interview questions, while Brian is known for the easy, non-threatening softball questions he asks his interview subjects. Wallace was a newsman and a journalist, Brian is an entertainment anchor and carnival barker. Wallace was interested in the story, Brian is interested in his image and his ratings. Brian Williams is the anti-Mike Wallace.
Tues. April 10--In the lead story about Rick Santorum's withdrawal from the GOP presidential race, correspondent Ron Mott was not standing in front of a giant flag in his opening and closing live shots. What? Nightly News viewers demand an explanation. We all know that every Nightly News correspondent who reports a political story MUST be standing in front of a huge U.S. flag. The bigger the better. It's an NBC News rule. A giant U.S. flag is one of the best ways to pander to the viewers' rah-rah gung-ho sense of faux patriotism, so the producers never miss an opportunity to exploit the flag for ratings. So where was Mott's flag? To make matters worse, Mott was reporting from Gettysburg, Pa--a historic city. I'm sure there is no shortage of flags in Gettysburg, so what was Mott's excuse? He probably could have bought one in any of the city's gift shops. Actually, he should carry his own emergency flag for times like these when there are no public flags to be found. Mott better not let this happen again.
***Mott's story also featured a gratuitous clip of JFK. This was the 17th time in the past six months that Nightly News has done a story about (or featured a clip of) John or Jackie Kennedy. Obviously, Brian and his producers have identified JFK as one of those audience-pleasing subjects that boost the Nightly News ratings (like whales, for example). As such, they make a point of inserting the Kennedys into news stories as often as possible. It's certainly not a coincidence that we've seen this much of Camelot on Nightly News. Rather, it's a calculated decision meant to achieve a specific ratings goal. Ich bin ein panderer.
***In a report about George Zimmerman, Kerry Sanders could not seem to correctly read from Zimmerman's new website. Sanders said, "On his welcome page, Zimmerman writes in part 'I was involved in a life altering event which led me to become a subject of media coverage.'" Actually, Zimmerman wrote, "I was involved in a life altering event which led me to become the subject of intense media coverage." Sanders changed one word and omitted another. If you're quoting someone, you really do need to be exact. And to make matters worse, the Nightly News on-screen transcript of Zimmerman's page omitted the word "me" from that sentence. More sloppy work from Nightly News correspondents and producers. By the way, Zimmerman's website uses an American flag as the background. I guess he has something in common with the Nightly News producers.
***Every Nightly News story on George Zimmerman is followed by Savannah Guthrie's shallow, pointless analysis. I guess they're trying to give her more exposure for when she replaces Ann Curry on "Today". Here's how Brian introduced Guthrie's commentary: "WE'VE all seen too many cop shows--WE'VE seen those scenes where they're told to stay close, don't make any travel plans--you're a lawyer--how common is it to lose your client?" As usual, Brian uses his favorite word ("we") because the news is always about Brian. And it's hilarious that every time Brian introduces Guthrie, he makes a point of telling us that she's a lawyer. Are we supposed to be impressed? I think Brian's the one who is really impressed by someone who finished law school--because he never even graduated college. And did you ever notice that when Guthrie gets to the end of her sentences, she sounds like she's growling? What's up with that?
***Brian introduced a story about fires on the east coast by saying, "Now we turn to a clear and present danger in twenty different states along the eastern seaboard...." Brian loves to use movie titles in his sentences, especially if the movies starred macho he-men like Harrison Ford or Clint Eastwood.
***Here's how Brian introduced Richard Engel's report about the North Korean missile launch: "Now to our exclusive reporting from inside North Korea..." Exclusive? Does Brian know the meaning of "exclusive"? Every one of the several dozen foreign journalists reporting from North Korea this week reported the exact same stories. They were all put on the same bus and they were all taken to the same sites and they all filmed the same things from the same angles. So Engel's story was identical to every other reporter's story filed from North Korea. The same day, I also saw a BBC World News report (on PBS) about North Korea and it was virtually identical to Engel's report. And Brian certainly knows all this, so his description of Engel's report as "exclusive" is a blatant, intentional lie. Brian frequently lies about the exclusivity of NBC News reports in order to make them sound more buzzworthy. It's sad that a network news anchor would do that. Shame on Brian.
***A story about overuse of dental X-rays was titled "X-Ray Risk?" So is there a risk or isn't there? Just tell us and stop playing these stupid games. This story joins a long list of recent Nightly News stories with alarmist titles that are meant to scare us into watching. Other recent examples include "Hidden Dangers?" (of lipstick--2/14); "Warning Signs?" (of autism--2/17); "Hidden Risks?" (of dirty surgical instruments--2/23); "Danger at Sea?" (cruise ships--2/29); "Silent Killer" (heart disease in women--2/25) and "Overmedicated?" (too much medication--3/19). These silly titles sound like comic book stories or Lifetime Network movies. Obviously, the titles are intentionally phrased this way to frighten viewers into staying tuned in. Not only do these silly titles appear in the actual story, but Brian also announces them during the tease at the beginning of the broadcast. That way, we have to watch most of the broadcast in order to find out about the "hidden risk" or "hidden danger". Another unethical ratings ploy from Brian and his producers.
***Next, we saw a story about a mini-baby boom in Los Angeles that is being attributed to last summer's Carmageddon (apparently, a lot of people just stayed home). Brian began the story this way: "You may remember Carmageddon in L.A. last year...." Well, you certainly do if you were a Nightly News viewer. Last July, Nightly News reported eight silly Carmageddon stories in nine days. It was a huge non-event, but that didn't stop Brian from hyping it like it was the biggest story of the week.
***The last story was about the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Fair enough--it's a legitimate news story and the other networks also reported it. Of course, for Nightly News this was just another opportunity to show a clip from James Cameron's "Titanic". Funny thing--CBS also reported a Titanic story, but they were somehow able to do so without a movie clip. I guess that's the difference between Scott Pelley and Brian Williams. Pelley is interested in presenting news, while Brian is interested in presenting entertainment.
Wed. April 11--Once again, Brian found it necessary to inform us that Savannah Guthrie is a lawyer. As part of his introduction to her banal analysis of the Trayvon Martin case, Brian said, "Savannah, you're the lawyer here, not me..." Yeah, we know she's a lawyer because he tells us so every night.
***At the end of the third segment (!) on the Trayvon Martin shooting, Brian began a question to Ron Allen by saying, "Of course Ron, on behalf of all the good people of Sanford, Florida...." Apparently, at least according to Brian, all the people in all the cities in all of America are "good people". Is there any depth he will not stoop to in order to pander? Pathetic. Meanwhile, Allen's story featured some nice footage of Al Sharpton. Did you know he has a show on MSNBC? This story was followed by a 12-second promo for Trayvon Martin's parents appearance on the following day's "Today Show". Real classy.
***In a story about U.S. Rep Allen West's accusation that some House Democrats are communists, West said, "I believe there's about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic party that are members of the Communist party." Unfortunately, the accompanying Nightly News on-screen transcript substituted the word "it's" for "there's". When are the Nightly News producers finally going to understand that a transcript must be an exact quote, not an approximate one? Whatever--they don't care.
***A story about Delta Airlines looking to buy its own fuel refinery began with Brian saying this: "It's kind of like McDonald's growing its own potatoes for french fries." Once again, Brian has turned a news story into a plug for McDonald's. In a story about Delta, he actually managed to mention McDonald's first. That's dedication.
***When Brian began reading the last story, I thought I was still watching the "Extra" promo that always precedes the final Nightly News story of the evening. We went right from hearing Mario Lopez talking about Howard Stern and Kim Kardashian to hearing Brian talking about Ashley Judd. That's right--the last Nightly News story of the night was a three-minute piece on...Ashley Judd. Because Brian is all about hard news. And just in case you thought maybe the story had a sliver of redeeming value, it didn't. It consisted of Judd ranting against all those people who claimed she had cosmetic work done. Of course the 10-ton elephant in the room was Brian's own cosmetic surgery. Not surprisingly, he never mentioned it. Another thing he never mentioned: Judd's new ABC TV series "Missing". Instead, Brian simply referred to "her new TV series", refusing to mention the series by name or network. Brian has a policy of never, ever mentioning other networks or TV shows because he's afraid that could negatively impact NBC's own minuscule ratings. If anyone forgot that Brian Williams is the most petty anchor on TV, this was a good reminder. Oh--and by the way, as the story began, the words "Nightly News Exclusive" appeared on screen (and would appear two more times for a total of 27 seconds) despite the fact that Judd would also be appearing on that Night's "Jimmy Kimmel Live". Another example of Brian lying about the exclusivity of a story. So let's put things in perspective: On this night, Nightly News did not report a single story about Iran, Iraq or Syria. They spent a grand total of 35 seconds on the Indonesian earthquake. But they gave Ashley Judd three minutes to whine about being accused of having had cosmetic surgery. Are we really supposed to take Brian Williams and Nightly News seriously?
Thurs. April 12--The lead story was about Hilary Rosen's comments concerning Ann Romney's lack of work experience. Fair enough--it's a legitimate news story. But after this story, we got an idiotic follow-up by the idiotic Chris Jansing that featured pointless comments from working mothers and stay-at-home mothers. It was like reading stupid twitter posts. And it had zero news value. Even when Nightly News gives air time to an appropriate news story, they still can't help tacking on a completely meaningless story.
***After a story about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, it was once again time for Savannah Guthrie to state everything that is completely obvious about the case. Surprisingly, Brian did not tell us that Guthrie was a lawyer. Maybe she's been disbarred since Wednesday.
***We saw a very important story about people with long commutes. Did you know that some people spend hours commuting to work? One man in the story has a round-trip commute of 190 miles! Golly. The producers should have placed a "Breaking News" banner on this one. Has Janet Shamlian ever reported a story with any news value? Not that I'm aware of. The story was titled "Going the Distance" and "Long Way Home". Do you suppose that Nightly News actually pays someone to think up these stupid titles? And I still don't understand why every Nightly News story needs two titles. Too bad Shamlian didn't tell us about Brian's commute. A helicopter picks him up at his penthouse apartment and whisks him to 30 Rock in about 7 minutes. Nifty.
***Brian told us that unmarried couples are having children at a higher rate than in the past. Oh, okay. Thanks for the info. I'm just glad Brian didn't waste our time with any trivial stories about Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria.
***Stop the presses! There was a meteor visible in the night sky over the midwest! Every time something is visible in space (or is threatening to fall on our heads from space), Brian reports it as if it was real news. He has an obsession with outer space and since Brian gets to report on whatever he wants, stories like this somehow become newsworthy.
***The final story of the night was about a 9-year-old boy from East L.A. who built his own arcade out of cardboard boxes and tape. I actually liked this story. The kid was cute and very innovative. A filmmaker discovered the arcade and made a short film about the kid called "Caine's Arcade", which went viral and hepled raise money for Caine's college fund. That's nice. But how this ended up on a news broadcast is beyond me. Isn't there a show called "Today" for just this sort of trivial fluff? For a change, this story was given two titles--"Building A Dream" and "Step Right Up". Maybe they should have given it three titles. I would have called it "Arcade Fire", but what do I know?
Fri. April 13--During Brian's intro to the lead story about tornadoes, he said, "Beyond what the good people of Oklahoma are suffering through, forecasters are already warning of an extremely violent weekend." I wonder if the good people of Oklahoma know the good people of Sanford, Florida that Brian told us about on Wednesday. In this story, Brian spoke for 1:19 and meteorologist Greg Forbes spoke for 1:27. That makes sense. After all, I'm sure Brian knows as much about tornadoes as Dr. Forbes, the Weather Channel's expert on twisters.
***It had been a few days since we saw a pointless, repetitive story on climate change, so Brian trotted out Anne Thompson to tell us that part of the country is in a drought. During this story, a farmer named Kevin Mitchum was identified in a Nightly News graphic as "Brad Rippey, USDA Meteorologist". Later in the story, the actual Rippey spoke, but he was never identified. I guess on Fridays, the Nightly News graphics department goes home early.
***A story about the increase in on-the-job deaths of police officers was given the title "Line of Fire". It's nice that Brian reduces this serious subject to a Clint Eastwood movie title.
***Brian then told us about Pres. Obama's tax return. Just wondering--when is Brian going to release his tax return? I bet that Brian paid a lower tax rate than his secretary, butler or chauffeur.
***After telling us about the giant statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il that were unveiled in North Korea, Richard Engel said, "You can't make this stuff up." Why not? The Nightly News producers make stuff up all the time. In fact, Engel himself has even been known to make stuff up. On the 12/31/10 Nightly News, Engel reported a story about added security measures being implemented in and around New York City. Engel told us that, "On the Hudson River...a barge and crane are...constructing a major anti-terrorism upgrade to New York's underwater subway line." Actually, the NYC subway system does not go under the Hudson River to New Jersey. The upgrade was to the PATH train, which is completely separate from the NYC subway. No big deal--it was New Year's Eve. Engel was probably drunk. So go ahead, Richard, make up more stuff. We don't care.
***Brian then told us that according to a NHTSA study, women drivers hit the wrong pedal more than men, but men cause more accidents. Brian loves to report these types of stories that pit men against women. On Jan. 30, he reported on a British study that concluded that women were better parkers than men. On Jan. 23, he told us that men have a higher tolerance for pain than women. Why does he insist on reporting these stupid, divisive stories? Is it because he liked those Miller Lite "tastes great, less filling" ads of the 1970's? I think he gets some sort of deviant satisfaction out of starting gender arguments. Or maybe it's an indication that something's not right at home with Mrs. Williams.
***The final story was one that Brian described as "amazing" three different times. Okay--we got it after the second "amazing". It was about a couple who found out after they had been married for years that they both had ancestors who survived the sinking of the Titanic. I must say that I was very surprised by this story. I expected the producers to include a gratuitous clip of James Cameron's "Titanic", but instead, they included a gratuitous clip from the 1958 Titanic movie "A Night To Remember". I guess the producers have a few tricks left up their sleeves after all.