There was definitely an avian theme on Nightly News this week. Eagles. Penguins. Bird strikes. Lots of feathers. And some fish. And hookers' legs. Here's what you may have missed:
Sat. April 14--Sorry, there was no Nightly News this night (on the east coast) because golf ran long. Golf commands much higher ad rates than does news, so the decision for the NBC weasels was easy. Follow the money.
Sun. April 15--Well, the situation seems to be improving. We actually got 12 minutes of Nightly News (on the east coast) because the hockey game ran 18 minutes long. So a 12-minute newscast is good, right? Um, not so fast. Despite its severely truncated air time, Nightly News still took two commercial breaks. So the broadcast actually lasted only 8:20. That's right--a 12-minute newscast still managed to contain more than three minutes of commercials. Great job, Nightly News producers!
***But in another area, I've got to give mad props to the producers. During the story about the Secret Service prostitution scandal, they actually managed to correctly spell the name of the country of Colombia. This may not sound like a big deal, but believe me, it is. On two previous occasions (11/9/08 and 5/10/10), the Nightly News producers misspelled "Colombia" as "Columbia". So today's correct spelling represents a huge leap forward. I guess they finally replaced their pre-teen editors with more mature teenage editors. Way to go, Nightly News producers!
Mon. April 16--In a tease for the Secret Service prostitution scandal story at the top of the broadcast, Brian Williams asked, "Was there a breach of security?" Here's a thought for Brian: How about answering questions instead of asking them? I thought that was what a news broadcast was supposed to do.
***While introducing the Secret Service story, Brian called Secret Service agents "the brave and silent protectors of the President". After the story, he said, "We should add for the good men and women of the U.S. Secret Service, this comes as quite a shock...." Does anyone else get nauseous listening to Brian's fawning and obsequious attempts to ingratiate himself with the U.S. military and law enforcement?
***Next, Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent (and current candidate for the U.S. Senate), was given more than two minutes to defend the integrity of Secret Service agents. During this story, the camera was constantly cutting from a front view of Bongino to a side view. In fact, this 2:08 story contained 14 cuts--that's one cut about every 9 seconds. I felt like I was watching a music video, not a news story. Meanwhile, I don't know why this one-sided rah-rah story was of any news value, other than for Brian to present yet another defense of the Secret Service. Perhaps Brian thought he was giving air time to his idol Jon Bon Jovi instead of Dan Bongino. By the way, I hope Bongino's opponent in the Senate race demands equal air time from Nightly News.
***Brian took 30 seconds to tell us about a fire at Brown's Hotel in the Catskills because it gave him the opportunity to show movie clips from "Dirty Dancing". Obviously, that was the only reason he bothered to report this story. Brian's constant use of movie clips in news stories helps to boost his ratings by pandering to his viewers' thirst for entertainment news.
***Brian also took 30 seconds to tell us about the final flight (to the Smithsonian) of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Because the space shuttle represents everything that is great about America. And America's greatness is what Nightly News is about. Stories like this are a good way for Brian to pander to the viewers' rah-rah, gung-ho, God-Bless-America faux patriotism. I'm surprised that Brian didn't feature videos of soaring eagles during this segment.
***Oh, wait a second--actually he did. The final story of the night was a vapid and insipid story (from the vapid and insipid Kevin Tibbles) about how bald eagles are turning up in urban areas. This silly 2:07 waste of time was nothing more than an excuse to show video of soaring eagles because viewers love to see animal stories. So in this one broadcast, Brian has demonstrated three different ways to pander to the viewers--through patriotism, movie clips and animals. Well done, Brian.
***During this broadcast, the producers showed three different promos (totalling 26 seconds) for the eagle story. Meanwhile, they spent only 25 seconds reporting on Afghanistan (and did no stories on Syria, Iran or Iraq). So the producers spent more time promoting the eagle story than they spent reporting on those four countries. Well done, Nightly News producers. One of the promos featured the Steve Miller Band song "Fly Like an Eagle". Just over a year ago (4/3/11), Nightly News did an eagle story and also used "Fly Like an Eagle" to promo the story. So this is the fourth entry on Brian's pander list--playing pop songs keeps viewers tuned in. Nightly News is like a sycophantic concoction of movie trailers, classic rock radio, animal videos and waving flags. If it helps boost the ratings, Brian will use it.
Tues. April 17--The lead story was "Refund Ripoff"--about how scammers are stealing people's tax refunds. Funny thing--this sounded familiar. Oh yeah--now I remember where I heard it before. It was on the Feb. 26 Nightly News. That's right, Nightly News repeated the exact same story twice in less than two months. Tonight's story even used old footage from the earlier story. Brazen.
***Pete Williams continues to be my hero. When Brian introduced him with a treacly "Good evening, Pete," Pete just ignored him and went right into his story. It's sad that Brian is so desperate to make viewers think his correspondents really, really like him. Clearly, they don't. Why would they?
***Because obviously last night's brief story about the Space Shuttle Discovery wasn't nearly long enough to adequately pander to the viewers, tonight we got an expanded 2:50 version of the story. Brian began by saying, "There was something special in the skies today," and the idiotic Anne Thompson ended the story by saying, "Now Discovery will have an earthbound role at the National Air and Space Museum annex to inspire a new generation of Americans for the exciting adventures of space." Pass the barf bag, please. When did evening news change from reporting facts to bombarding viewers with the anchor's personal viewpoints? For Nightly News, it was when Tom Brokaw retired. Fortunately, Brian saves us the bother of deciding how we should feel about stories by telling us exactly what we're supposed to feel. Obviously, his viewpoint is the right viewpoint. This bullshit propaganda story included shots of Discovery flying past the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Capitol and the White House. And of course, there were flags. Lots of flags. What would a propaganda story be without flags, after all? This was just another sickening pseudo-patriotic Nightly News story.
***Brian spent 25 seconds telling us about a "spectacular" solar flare. Once again he's saved us the trouble of deciding for ourselves what we actually think of something. Thanks, dude. Brian reports any story that has to do with outer space because these stories are of interest to HIM. And that's what Nightly News is all about--what's interesting and important to Brian.
***Speaking of which--here's how Brian began the next story: "We've been reporting on this broadcast about how bright the planet Venus currently is in the night sky...." So he's actually bragging about wasting valuable news time on stories that are only of interest to him. Talk about nerve. This idiotic 30-second story was about a pilot who mistook Venus for an oncoming plane and took evasive maneuvers that injured 16 passengers. Great. Thanks.
***Next, Brian spent another 30 seconds telling us that after the Alabama football team won the National Championship, the father of a player accidentally broke the $30,000 football-shaped crystal trophy. Maybe he should have attached a "breaking news" banner to this one.
***Brian took 45 seconds to tell us that Pres. Obama will be awarding a posthumous Medal of Honor to a soldier who died in Vietnam. We all know that Brian is obsessed with the U.S. military, and specifically with Medal of Honor winners. He's so obsessed that he actually serves on the Board of Directors of the MOH Foundation. Since this is a private organization that relies largely on donations, Brian is using his anchor's chair to fund-raise for the MOH Foundation. He does this by constantly reporting on MOH winners. Every time one of them sneezes, Brian reports it as if it was actual news. And by keeping the MOH in the news, he increases public awareness and undoubtedly helps solicit donations. Allowing a news anchor to serve on the board of an organization he reports on is a blatant conflict of interest and an ethical breach. But Brian doesn't care. It's all about him. And anyway, who's going to stop him? Who's going to tell him that he can't belong to an organization he reports on? NBC News President Steve Capus? That's a joke. Capus is Brian's little toady. His main job is to tell Brian that his tie looks nice.
***So let's recap: Brian wasted more than two minutes of valuable news time on pointless, silly stories about solar flares, Venus, a broken football trophy and the Medal of Honor. Meanwhile, he did not even mention Iran, Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan. Great job, Brian. Way to report important news.
***Because last night's eagle story was so popular, Brian and his producers decided to end tonight's broadcast with a two-minute story about penguins. Obviously, the NBC News research department has informed Brian and his producers that penguin stories test very well with focus groups and boost the broadcast's ratings. This story, about using satellite images to count emperor penguins in Antarctica, was the fourth penguin story Nightly News has reported since September. Too bad Steve Miller never recorded a song called "Fly Like A Penguin".
Wed. April 18--The lead story was the death of Dick Clark. However, throughout this four-and-a-half minute tribute, Neither Brian Williams nor Chris Jansing ever once mentioned ABC, the network with which Clark was most closely associated (most of his shows--including "American Bandstand" and "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve"--appeared on that network). This was not an omission or a coincidence--it is part of an intentional strategy formulated by Brian Williams and Steve Capus whereby Nightly News anchors and correspondents are prohibited from mentioning other networks so as not to give away free publicity to competitors. A week earlier (4/11/12), Brian wasted three minutes of Nightly News time on a trite profile/interview with Ashley Judd. Brian said that she had a new TV series, but refused to tell us its name ("Missing") or say that it was on ABC. On 5/18/10, Nightly News did a three-and-a-half minute profile of Eva Longoria Parker without ever mentioning that she was starring in "Desperate Housewives" (no surprise--ABC was also never mentioned). And on 5/14/10 and 5/17/10, Brian personally spent more than five minutes interviewing Sally Field. He noted all her early TV work--"Gidget", "The Flying Nun", "Sybil"--but never mentioned that she was at the time starring in ABC's "Brothers And Sisters"--a role for which she had won an Emmy in 2007. Brian's refusal to mention other networks is no accident. It is, however, one of the pettiest displays ever put on by a news anchor.
***During a story about the Secret Service prostitution scandal, we were shown a clip of a pair of female legs walking down a street. It was the third time this week that Nightly News has used this clip (it was also used on Sunday and Monday). What the hell was this? Whose legs were these? Did they belong to one of the prostitutes in the scandal? Did they belong to a different prostitute? Was she a prostitute at all? Was she even a Colombian woman? Was it stock footage (no pun intended)? There was no explanation or context for this shot. Absurd.
***Later, we saw a story about Ted Nugent. He may or may not have threatened the President. This is what Nightly News wastes two minutes on? Apparently, yes. It's just another shameful excuse for the producers to create a story around a celebrity (although in Nugent's case, that title is dubious). This "news story" was 99% celebrity and 1% news. Now that I think about it, maybe the legs we saw in the Secret Service story were from a ZZ Top video.
***After that, Janet Shamlian wasted another two minutes telling us about the final Mega Millions winners. Has Shamlian ever reported a story that actually matters? This story could have been fully told in fifteen seconds, but why spend fifteen seconds telling a story if you can drag it out to eight times that length? Wasting time on irrelevant garbage while ignoring real news is the Nightly News philosophy.
***It had been a full day since Nightly News did a story on the Space Shuttle. Tuesday (and Monday, as well) it was the Discovery. Today it was the Enterprise. We learned that the Enterprise was headed to the USS Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York. Wow--fascinating. That's the Nightly News mantra--find something that the viewers like (regardless of whether or not it's newsworthy) and report on it over and over and over again. That's how to boost your ratings. It's called pandering.
***Did you know that there were only 100 days until the Olympics? You know now. Because Brian spent thirty seconds telling us. I can't even begin to imagine how much actual news time Nightly News will spend in the next few months "reporting" on the Olympics. (By "reporting", I really mean shamelessly promoting. But you already knew that.)
***To end the broadcast, the idiotic Anne Thompson spent two-and-a-half-minutes reporting on Jamie Moyer--a 49-year-old pitcher who became the oldest man to win a game in the major leagues. Just think of all the real news they could have reported in that time. If you add up the stories on Jamie Moyer, Ted Nugent and the Mega Millions winners, it comes to 6:40. Meanwhile, Nightly News did not report a single foreign story this night (unless you count the thirty-second promo for the Olympics). That's shameful. By the way, the Jamie Moyer story included a clip from "Top Gun" because...well, because they can.
Thurs. April 19--The lead story was about the Secret Service prostitution scandal. As the fawning toady Kristen Welker told us that, "more than twenty Secret Service and military personnel allegedly partied with prostitutes," we were shown a pair of female legs lounging by a pool. Whose legs were these? Was this the same woman whose legs we saw on previous days? What is it with the Nightly News producers and their obsession with women's legs? And why do they think that a pair of legs automatically evokes a prostitute? What kind of issues do the Nightly News producers have?
***OMG! There's a measles outbreak! Lock yourself in your basement and don't breathe. In truth, this was just another alarmist Nightly News story meant to scare us. Scare us into watching Nightly News, that is. By the way, in this story, the producers managed to shoehorn in gratuitous shots of the Super Bowl (which aired on NBC) and the upcoming Olympics (which will air on NBC). Nice going.
***We then got a three-minute story on Pat Summitt, the Tennessee women's basketball coach who is retiring due to Alzheimer's-like symptoms. It's a sad story and we all wish her well. But how does this merit three minutes of news time?
***After that, Brian spent almost a minute reporting the death of Levon Helm, the former drummer for The Band. Actually, this is one of the few musician obits that actually deserved time on Nightly News. Helm was one of the great personalities of American rock music. It doesn't make up for all the gratuitous obits Brian has read in the past, but it was nice to see Levon get some credit.
***The final story was about cancer drugs that come from coral reefs. Of course, this was just an excuse to show lots of video of fish, because viewers like seeing fish and it keeps them tuned in to the broadcast. Meanwhile, also on this day, 35 people were killed in bombings in Iraq, and India tested a nuclear-capable long-range missile that can reach China. Brian made no mention of these stories. But at least we know all about the measles outbreak and cancer drugs from coral reefs. Thanks, Brian. Great work.
Fri. April 20--With everything going on across the country and around the world, the lead Nightly News story was bird strikes. They also did a brief bird strike story on Thursday. Is this really a huge problem? I don't think so. It probably happens on .0000001% of flights. You stand a greater chance of encountering a raving out-of-control pilot or flight attendant than a bird strike. This is just another Nightly News alarmist story. So I guess we're supposed to stop flying and hide in our attics. But without a doubt, the best part of this frivolous story was Pete Williams. Once again he dissed Brian by refusing to say good evening to him. He must really despise Brian. You go, Pete! By the way, on the same day, 127 people died in Pakistan when a Bhoja Air 737 jet went down. Brian never mentioned this, but he spent 2:45 on bird strikes that didn't kill anyone. Nightly News is a joke.
***I almost fell off my Barcalounger during the next story when Kerry Sanders said that a picture of George Zimmerman with bloody cuts on his head was originally broadcast on ABC. ABC? Obviously, Sanders didn't get the memo. Kerry, dude, you're not allowed to mention ABC. Ever. Say "a rival network" or "another network". But never, ever say ABC. I haven't seen Sanders lately--I hope he wasn't disciplined too harshly.
***After this story, it was, of course, time for another installment of Savannah Guthrie's "stating the obvious" analysis. Guthrie could put the hyperactive Nancy Grace to sleep with her droning monotone. Brian introduced Guthrie by saying, "I watched today as a civilian and I was surprised--you watched as a lawyer...." It never fails. Every single time Brian introduces Guthrie, he makes certain to announce that she's a lawyer. He's a fawning sycophant.
***Speaking of fawning sycophants, the next story on the Secret Service prostitution scandal was reported by Kristen Welker. Every night, Brian says good evening to her, and every night she says, "Good evening to you, Brian." It's like they're friending each other on Facebook. Pete Williams needs to have a serious talk with Welker. Soon. Let's not forget that Welker was the company stooge that turned a 9/24/10 report on Americans' purchasing habits into a product placement for Cheerios. And on 8/12/10, she did a "news story" about "America's newest singing sensation"--Jackie Evancho, who was then appearing on NBC's "America's Got Talent". Obviously, Welker's main job is to promote NBC's entertainment shows and sponsors. Does anyone believe that anything she says can be taken seriously?
***Here's how Brian began his intro to the Secret Service story: "The unfolding Secret Service prostitution scandal that has soiled the good name of that organization continued to unfold today...." Does he ever miss a chance to kiss the asses of members of the military or law enforcement? No, he doesn't.
***And here's how Brian began his intro to a story on Etan Patz: "He was a beautiful little boy with an exotic name...." Beautiful? Eww--creepy. That was even more creepy than Brian's 12/15/11 story on the Obama family portrait when he said of Sasha and Malia, "It sure looks like both parents are hanging on to those beautiful girls for dear life." Also pretty creepy.
***Later, Brian spent 25 seconds telling us about a North Carolina town that gave a "warm welcome home" to a soldier who lost parts of both legs in Afghanistan. Just another opportunity for Brian to kiss the collective ass of the U.S. military. I have never seen anyone with such a desperate need to subserviently kowtow to the armed services. It's obvious that when he was a child, the other kids would never let Brian play soldier with them. Needless to say, this story contained multiple shots of U.S. flags. Because that's what Nightly News does.
***Next, Brian wasted another 25 seconds telling us about a kid who ran onto the field during a Chicago White Sox game. Breaking news if ever I've heard it.
***After that, Brian spent 25 seconds telling us that cursing is good for us.
***Speaking of breaking news, Brian then told us about some drunken English tourists who kidnapped a penguin from an Australian sea park. Well, it had been three whole days since Nightly News last did a penguin story. So I guess they were overdue. These last four stories took up nearly two minutes of news time. Meanwhile, on this night Brian did not report a single story from Europe, Asia or Africa. But at least we know all about the stolen penguin and the kid on the field in Chicago. I hope the Peabody Award committee takes note of this broadcast.
***The broadcast ended with a story on Pinterest. I had never heard of Pinterest before this, and after the story I still had no idea what it is. Is it a site for people who like Harold Pinter plays? Could be. I don't know. Whatever it is, I'm certain that it is not important enough to merit 2:20 on an evening newscast. Did Pinter ever write a play called "The Morons at Nightly News"? If not, he should have.