The big news on Nightly News this week was horrible diseases. They told us about Hidden Hazards, Hidden Risks, Hidden Dangers and Health Risks. The point: Be afraid. Be very afraid. Here's all the other great stuff you may have missed:
Sat. May 12 & Sun. May 13--There was no Nightly News scheduled on these days because golf was more important (meaning more profitable). It seems dishonest to use the word "Nightly" in your newscast's title when it doesn't actually appear on a nightly basis.
Mon. May 14--A preview for a story about the California budget crisis was titled "Dire Straits". As a ratings ploy, Brian Williams and his producers frequently give their news stories titles that are movies, TV shows, albums or popular group names. The recognition factor helps ensure that viewers don't change the channel.
***A story on JPMorgan Chase's bad investment decisions was titled "Risky Business". Brian figured that people would be more likely to stay tuned if they thought there was a chance they might see Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay.
***We saw a 2:50 story about the risks of small children swallowing coin-sized batteries. The story was titles "Hidden Hazard". Nightly News runs these alarmist stories all the time. Similar recent stories include "Hidden Dangers" (of osteoporosis--1/22/12), "Hidden Dangers?" (of lipstick--2/14/12), "Warning Signs?" (of autism--2/17/12), "Hepatitis C Warning" (2/21/12), "Hidden Risks?" (of dirty surgical instruments--2/23/12), "Silent Killer" (heart attacks--2/25/12), "Danger At Sea" (luxury cruises--2/29/12), "Overmedicated?" (drug-resistant infections--3/19/12), "X-Ray Risk?" (overexposure to X-rays--4/10/12) and "Measles Outbreak" (4/19/12). These stories take small-risk situations (lipstick--really?) and blow them wildly out of proportion in order to scare the viewers. The formula is always the same--the story is teased at the beginning of the broadcast and then reported later. Why? Because a scared viewer will stay tuned in to see what the risk is. And now add to this list the "Hidden Hazard" of swallowing batteries. This is what Nightly News wasted nearly three minutes of news time reporting. Seriously.
***Brian then told us that the "Avengers" movie has topped $1billion in worldwide sales. This is the fourth story Nightly News has done on the "Avengers" movie in the past ten days. Why? Research shows that using lots of movie and TV clips in news stories leads to an increase in ratings.
***Breaking News: Brian then told us about the most popular baby names. He seemed really disappointed that Brian wasn't at the top of the list. I mean, he's so damn popular and loved so why aren't people naming their babies after him
***Here's how Brian introduced the next story: "In non-essential food news tonight, confirmation from the Girl Scouts of what A LOT OF US already knew--thin mints are your number one Girl Scout cookie choice...." Wow--he already knew that! There's nothing Brian likes more than bragging about how smart he thinks he is. And by the way--is Brian now going to tell us every time he reports a non-essential news item? If so, he'll be using that phrase quite a lot each night. Along with the Girl Scout cookie news, Brian also told us that 7-11 stores will be rolling out a Slurpee Lite. Because it's always a good idea to give free advertising to regular Nightly News sponsors.
***Brian then reported another story about the World War II plane that was found in the Sahara Desert. This is the second story about the lost plane he has reported.
***The final story of the night was a real doozy. It was a 2:20 story about a young woman who won first place on "Britain's Got Talent" by dancing with her dog. Even if that was all there was to the story, it would be an idiotic waste of time for a news broadcast. But it was really so much more than that. Here's how Brian introduced it: "Finally tonight, TV talent shows have become national obsessions. The new season of 'America's Got Talent' debuts tonight on NBC...." Ah--I get it. Brian used an idiotic story about "Britain's Got Talent" as a way to sleazily promote the new season of "America's Got Talent". How does this sleazebag sleep at night, knowing that he intentionally ignores real news in order to promote NBC entertainment shows? The FCC should force NBC to remove the word "news" from the title of the show. Or better yet--shut them down completely. And just for good measure, the story included clips from "The Artist", "Lassie" and "Rin Tin Tin". Because viewers like that. Throughout the broadcast, Brian ran three promos (totalling 20 seconds) for this story. Meanwhile, Greece is teetering on the brink of collapse, but Brian didn't even mention this. That's right--he spent more time on promos for the dancing dog story than he spent reporting on Greece. What a scumbag.
Tues. May 15--In a story about the John Edwards trial, Brian was forced to show a "Nightline" clip. And moments later, in a story about politics, he was forced to show Pres. Obama's appearance on "The View". Brian must have been seething at the prospect of having to show two ABC clips. Brian goes to great lengths to ignore ABC and CBS because he's scared that if he mentions a competing network, viewers will change the channel. And at the beginning of the Obama story, there was the usual American flag animation waving behind Brian. It's pathetic that he uses faux-patriotism as a ratings gimmick to attract and maintain viewers. It reminds me of all those late-night infomercials that use American flags as a sleazy prop to hawk their products. But I guess when you think about it, Brian is really just an infomercial host. He's certainly not a journalist.
***A story about JPMorgan Chase was, of course, titled "Risky Business". Just like the movie. This is the fourth JPMorgan story to carry that title.
***Brian then took a minute (total) to report on the situation in Greece and on the swearing-in of France's new president, Francois Hollande. Gee--a whole minute. Is he sure he can spare that much time?
***Brian spent 30 seconds reporting that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has restricted flights on Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jets because of problems with the plane's oxygen system. The following day's New York Times reported that the flight restrictions were a direct result of "a '60 Minutes' program that profiled two pilots who refused to fly the planes because of fears of oxygen deprivation in the cockpit." Naturally, Brian never mentioned "60 Minutes" in his story because little children don't like to share credit.
***After that, he spent 1:20 reporting three very important stories. First, he told us about the best American cities for women to live in. Then, he showed some Beatles photos that were taken at the time of the Abbey Road album cover. And he also informed us that Honda is making a Segway-like scooter. I'm really glad I know that.
***The broadcast ended with a two-and-a-half minute story about France's new first lady, Valerie Trierweiler. She's elegant and strong-willed! The story also featured plenty of footage of Carla Bruni, France's former first lady. She's beautiful and sexy. Funny thing--Nightly News never profiles frumpy, unattractive women. Interesting. Earlier, Brian spent 28 seconds profiling Francois Hollande. So he devoted five times as much airtime to the French First Lady as he did to the French President. Good thing he has his priorities straight.
***Here's some of the stories Brian ignored this night: European Union naval forces attacked Somali pirate bases on the mainland; at least 80 Palestinians were injured in clashes with the Israeli army; and Rebekah Brooks testified before the Leveson Inquiry into the News Corp. phone hacking scandal. Nightly News didn't report any of these stories, but at least we know all about the French First Lady. Great job, Nightly News producers.
Wed. May 16--The lead story was about the suicide of Mary Richardson Kennedy. Of course, for Brian this was just an excuse to show lots of footage of John F. Kennedy's funeral, along with clips of Bobby, Ted, Jackie and JFK Jr. Brian obviously has a raging Kennedy obsession, as evidenced by the 20 Nightly News stories in the past several months that have included Kennedy footage. I wonder what items Brian purchased in the 1996 Jackie Kennedy Onassis auction. He probably bought some of Jackie's nightclothes so he could make his wife wear them to bed. Gross.
***Run for your lives! It's the Flesh Eating Bacteria! Another exploitative Nightly News story meant to scare us. This disease is extremely rare, but they reported on it like it's as common as a cold. What's next--a medical report on how not to be turned into a zombie? Maybe I shouldn't have said that--I don't want to give the producers any ideas.
***After that, Brian spent 25 seconds reporting on a settlement to be paid out by the makers of Skechers sneakers for using false health claims in their ads. The story included clips from a Skechers ad featuring Kim Kardashian, which was obviously the only reason Brian even bothered to report this story.
***Time for another kids-with-cancer story. An existing lung cancer drug was discovered to be effective in fighting lymphoma in children. That's great. Nightly News loves to exploit kids with cancer for ratings because these stories earn high viewership due to the sympathy factor.
***Brian's Kennedy obsession is nothing compared with his Medal of Honor obsession. He pretends to care about MOH recipients because it makes him appear patriotic and because these stories earn high ratings. And also because MOH recipients are everything Brian will never be: Brave, selfless, humble. Here's how he began the story about a posthumous MOH that was awarded to the widow of a Vietnam War veteran: "There was not a dry eye in the East Room of the White House today--it's always the most emotional of White House ceremonies when a president awards the Medal of Honor...." Not a dry eye? Really? In the footage that accompanied Brian's sappy report, I saw plenty of dry eyes. But that's the thing about Brian--he never lets the facts get in the way of a good story.
***Did you know that according to a New England Journal of Medicine report, coffee drinkers live longer than non-coffee drinkers? Now you know. Because Brian told us this very important news.
***Here's how Brian introduced the next segment: "Couple of great videos getting heavy circulation on the web...." He then proceeded to spend a minute showing us a Dutch soccer player who was consoled by his daughter after a tough loss and a video about the secret lives of cats. Apparently, Brian doesn't understand the difference between a news broadcast and YouTube. The former is for important news stories that affect the world, and the latter is for idiotic videos that make people say "oh, how cute!" It's shameful that a news anchor wastes so much valuable time on garbage every night.
***Speaking of which: The final story was about efforts to lure swallows back to the Mission San Juan Capistrano after an absence of several years. This silly story was given 2:20 of news time. Meanwhile, Brian did not report a single foreign news story this night. Oh wait--my bad. He told us all about the Dutch soccer player comforted by his daughter. That's what passes for foreign news on Nightly News. Some real foreign news that Nightly News ignored: The Ratko Mladich trial began at The Hague, a Greek caretaker Prime Minister was sworn in, and fighting between soldiers and rebels has resumed in the Congo. Brian didn't report any of these stories because he was too busy telling us about Kim Kardashian, coffee drinkers and the secret lives of cats.
Thurs. May 17--A story about the political and economic situation in Greece was titled "Greek Tragedy" because the Nightly News producers think it's very important to come up with what they believe are clever story titles. Maybe if they spent less time on the titles and more time on the actual stories, they'd do a better job of informing their viewers. The story began, naturally, with video of the Olympic torch being handed off to Princess Anne because promoting the London Olympics is NBC's main goal from now on. In 2010, during the Vancouver Games (and including the weeks before and after the Games), Nightly News devoted 160 minutes to Olympic-related stories. I can only imagine how much time they will devote to promoting the London Games.
***During the Greece story, we saw some commentary from Uri Dadush, who was identified as being from the "Carnegie Endowment for Int'l P...." We couldn't read the last word of his description because it just faded away into nothingness. All we know is that it began with a "P". So what was it? The Carnegie Endowment for Int'l Pancake Making? Int'l Parcheesi Players? Int'l Palindrome Creators? I guess we'll never know.
***Hey! Guess what? It's time for another story on Tsunami debris from Japan! Nightly News leads all networks in reporting this story. Every time a gum wrapper or plastic spoon washes up on the west coast, Brian tells us about it. Thanks! Good to know.
***OMG! There's a Health Risk that the antibiotic Azithromycin (also known as Zithromax or the Z-Pak) can cause sudden cardiac death! We know this because the words "Health Risk" appeared over Brian's left shoulder in giant letters as he was introducing the story. And at the beginning of the broadcast, as Brian teased this story, the words "Hidden Risk" appeared next to him. So there's a Health Risk and a Hidden Risk! Wow. The 2/23/12 Nightly News story about the dangers of dirty surgical instruments warned only of a Hidden Risk, so this antibiotic must be extra risky. We can add this to all the other ridiculous alarmist medical stories Nightly News has done in order to scare us into watching. By the way, here's how Brian introduced this story: "Today's health news story hit a lot of US where WE live. It's about the antibiotic a lot of US ask for by name...." Us. We. Once again, the news is about Brian.
***An obituary for Donna Summer included commentary from the entertainment editor of TheGrio.com. That's an interesting choice, as opposed to interviewing someone from Vibe or The Source--two of the largest and most influential magazines and websites that cover African American culture and music. But of course those magazines aren't owned by Comcast NBC Universal. The Grio.com is owned by NBC, and of course the main goal of the Nightly News producers is to promote NBC properties, not to provide information from the most reliable sources.
Fri. May 18--In the lead story about Facebook going public, we were told that the initial stock valuation made it more valuable than McDonald's. Of course, this was just a sleazy excuse for the producers to put the McDonald's logo up on the screen. Nightly News makes a point of promoting McDonald's as often as possible because they are one of the biggest advertisers on the Comcast NBC Universal networks. So the producers are just doing a favor for a good friend. How thoughtful of them.
***Today's alarmist medical story is the "Hidden Danger" that Hepatitis C poses to baby boomers. At the beginning of the broadcast, it was also described as a "Health Risk". The producers seem to be repeating themselves a lot. They already used "Hidden Danger" (or "Dangers") for the 1/22/12 osteoporosis story and the 2/14/12 lipstick story. And they used "Health Risk" just one day earlier for the Azithromycin story. Can't they come up with some new phrases to try to scare us? I guess not. We know from all the spelling mistakes on Nightly News that the producers don't know how to use a dictionary, so why should we expect them to know how to use a thesaurus? By the way, Nightly News also did a story about Hepatitis C on 2/21/12. Back then, they titled it "Hepatitis C Warning". So in three months, it's gone from a warning to a risk. That sounds serious.
***Lester Holt (substituting for Brian) then told us about the "stunning eclipse" that would be visible this weekend on the west coast. Brian and Lester frequently use words like "stunning", "terrific" and "spectacular" to describe things they like (usually space-related events). Apparently, they don't understand that the role of a news anchor is to provide us with information, not to tell us how we're supposed to feel about things.
***A story about SpaceX founder Elon Musk included clips from the "Iron Man" movie because Musk was supposedly the inspiration for the Tony Stark character in the movie. Of course, the producers look for any excuse to include movie clips in their stories because it keeps viewers tuned in and keeps the ratings high. Well done. [Editors Note: On Tuesday (5/22), Scott Pelley did a three-minute profile of Musk on The CBS Evening News. There was no mention of Iron Man, and there were no clips from the movie. Obviously, CBS is interested in reporting news while NBC is interested in pumping up their ratings with gratuitous movie and TV clips.]
***Next, we saw a 2:15 "news story" about a retired Army colonel who was cast in the "Battleship" movie despite having lost both his legs in combat. The story contained plenty of clips from the movie, which was--surprise--released by Universal Pictures, which is owned by NBC Universal (at least correspondent Mara Schiavocampo was honest enough to admit this). So this story was just a big fat promotional ad for a Universal movie. Nice. [Editor's Note: "Battleship" earned an anemic $25 million during its premier weekend, so Nightly News's efforts to promote the film apparently had no effect on ticket sales.]
***The final story was a "Making A Difference" piece about a man in Kentucky who bought out the remaining stock from a soon-to-close Kmart store and donated it all to charity. That's a nice thing to do, but how is this news? It isn't. But sappy feelgood stories like this one get better ratings than actual news, so the producers make sure to constantly include these stories in the broadcast. Because Nightly News is a joke and the producers are more interested in getting high ratings than reporting news. This MAD piece was sponsored by Phillips Colon Health, which seems appropriate, since the story was really just a load of crap. At one point in the story, we saw a clip of an interview with a woman named Camille Colon. I suspect that that isn't her real name, but rather was made up by the producers to help promote Phillips Colon Health.