Friday, June 29, 2012

Brian Williams & NBC Nightly News Show Notes: 6/23/12 Through 6/29/12 (Updated--Full Week)

Here's all the great stuff that happened on NBC Nightly News this past week:

Sat. June 23--If you are a woman who works overnight work shifts, you will get breast cancer and die.  At least that's what Nancy Snyderman wants you to believe.  This was just another of the ridiculous, alarmist medical stories Nightly News runs over and over and over again.  The producers know that a good way to attract viewers and boost ratings is by scaring them into thinking they will die.  Here are some of the other alarmist medical stories Nightly News has presented recently: "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), "Measles Outbreak" (4/19/12), "Hidden Hazard" (of kids swallowing batteries--5/14/12), the danger of the Flesh-Eating Virus (5/16/12), the "Health Risk" and "Hidden Risk" (of antibiotics--5/17/12), the "Health Risk" and "Hidden Danger" (of Hepatitis C--5/18/12), the "Cancer Risk?" (of sleep apnea--5/22/12), the "Heart Risk" (posed by calcium supplements--5/26/12), the "Cancer Risk?" (of CT scans to children--6/7/12) and the "Stroke Risk" (from lack of sleep--6/11/12).  Do you see a pattern here?  "Health Risk", "Hidden Risk", "Hidden Danger"--they use the same stupid alarmist titles over and over again.  And notice how some of them contain question marks?  That's just a way to avoid legal action--the Nightly News producers are not making an accusation, they're simply asking a question.  These stories take small-risk situations (lipstick and cruises--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.  These stories are just ratings ploys.  Shame on Nancy Snyderman for being a party to these ridiculous stunts.
***Next, we saw a story about Detroit.  I should say another story about Detroit.  Brian Williams has made it his life's work to promote Detroit.  He constantly shows stories about how this "great American city" is "making a comeback" and is "on the road to recovery".  Of course, it's not the job of a news anchor to promote (or to pander to) any particular city--but try telling that to Brian.  He doesn't care.  He does whatever the hell he wants.  Here's how Lester Holt promo'd this story: "We're back in a moment with a digital revolution helping a great American city on the road to recovery."  So even on the weekends when Brian is off, Lester picks up the ball and runs with it.  A few tech companies are doing business in Detroit, so that becomes a two-and-a-half minute Nightly News story.  Because Brian said so.  By the way, this story featured 55 seconds of interview clips with employees of Quicken Loans, mostly with CEO Dan Gilbert.  That seemed odd at the time, but now it makes perfect sense in retrospect.  On June 29, a Quicken Loans ad popped up during Nightly News.  Obviously, this is part of a quid pro quo arrangement.  The Nightly News producers agreed to promote Quicken Loans in a sham news story if Gilbert would, in exchange, buy some commercial time on Nightly News.  What a cozy little agreement that turned out to be.
***The final story of the night was about 40-year-old former Olympic medalist Janet Evans who is trying once again to qualify for the U.S. Olympic swimming team at the London Games.  Obviously, this 2:50 story is part of Nightly News's desperate attempt to promote the Olympics.  Every two years, Nightly News turns into the promotional arm of NBC Sports and airs story after story about the Olympics.  Remember--the more viewers the Olympics attracts, the more money NBC can charge their sponsors.  So these Olympic "news stories" are just a shameless way to increase NBC's Olympic advertising revenue.  Over the next few weeks, Nightly News viewers can expect to see lots of Olympic-related stories.  Because the main goal of Brian, Lester and the Nightly News producers is, first and foremost, promoting NBC sports and entertainment shows.  You didn't think it was presenting news, did you?  By the way, during the broadcast, Lester spent 33 seconds promoting the Janet Evans story.  So in the time he used to promote this story, he could have reported an actual news story.  As if that was going to happen.
Sun. June 24--The idiotic Anne Thompson reported another story about beach erosion.  She's been singing the same old song for years and all her stories sound pretty much the same--coastal storms and rising sea levels are being fueled by climate change.  How many different ways are there to say the same thing over and over again?  Thank goodness for Wikipedia, or she wouldn't have any sources for her flimsy material.
***Lester then told us about Alex Trebek's heart attack.  Because at Nightly News, entertainment news is synonymous with actual news.
***Next, we saw a three-minute story about suburban poverty.  OMG--the people living next door to you might be poor!  Aha.  So that explains why Fido's Milk-Bone biscuits have been disappearing from the dog house.  As it turns out, this was a condensed version of a story that Lester himself would be presenting later that night on "Dateline".   So he's using Nightly News to promote his own prime-time show, just like Brian shamelessly uses Nightly News to promote his "Rock Center" shows.  And just to make sure your interest was piqued, Lester ended the story this way: "We'll show you what happens to Joyce and the other families we followed on 'Dateline America Now--Lost In Suburbia' at a special time tonight--8, 7 central."  In other words, it was a three-minute commercial for "Dateline".  How wonderful.
***The broadcast ended with a story about a 340-ton boulder that is currently an exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  Why does that sound familiar?  Hmmm...let me think.  Oh yeah--now I remember.  It's because Nightly News already reported two stories about the L.A. boulder back on March 9 & 10.  But Brian, Lester and their producers make a living banking on the short memories of their viewers.  So three months later they're pretty sure we've forgotten about the previous two stories.  Nightly News has now wasted more than four-and-a-half minutes of total news time telling us about this all-important boulder.  Thanks.  And by the way, the title of today's story--"Rock Star"--was exactly the same as the title of the March 10 story.  Certainly no one can accuse the Nightly News producers of brimming with original ideas.
Mon. June 25--Man, do I love Pete Williams.  Once again, Brian introduced him with a treacly "Good evening, Pete" in the hope that Pete would reciprocate with an equally treacly "Good evening, Brian".  No dice.  Pete ignored Brian's sappy intro and just launched right into his story.  Brian  initiates this sugary happy chat with his correspondents because he is desperate for the viewers to think of him as well-liked.  Unfortunately most of the correspondents feel obligated to play along.  After all, you don't want to get on the boss's bad side, do you?  As far as I can tell, Pete Williams is the only Nightly News correspondent with the balls to refuse to say "Good evening" to Brian.  Obviously, Pete despises Brian and doesn't give a shit about sucking up to him.  You go, Pete!
***Brian began the broadcast with more than seven minutes of stories about the Supreme Court decision on immigration.  And most of this was garbage.  Instead of quality reporting, Nightly News relies on quantity reporting.  Two-and-a-half minutes of this was Mike Taibbi's silly piece in which he asks illegal immigrants what they think of the ruling.  Then Chuck Todd spent a minute talking about the ruling because obviously he had lots of important stuff to add.  And as if Brian hadn't wasted enough time, he trotted out Savannah Guthrie to offer her vapid analysis.  He introduced her by saying, "And now about the law, it's always good to ask a lawyer...."  Every time Guthrie appears on Nightly News, Brian always makes sure to kiss her ass by stating that she's a lawyer.  Every time.  Like that's so impressive.  Big deal.  I saw a lawyer yesterday.  She was taking my order at the Olive Garden.  And of course, as Brian introduced Todd and Guthrie, there was an animated flag waving behind his head.  Because pandering to the viewers' pseudo-patriotism is always good for a couple of ratings points.  What a serial ass kisser.
***Next, Brian spent three-and-a-half minutes on two stories about Tropical Storm Debby, even though half that time would have been sufficient.  There's a lot of rain and flooding.  People are really inconvenienced and pissed off.  That's about it.  But he had to drag it out because NBC Universal has to justify the $3.5 billion they spent on The Weather Channel a few years ago.  So every night, we get two or three minutes of weather on Nightly News.
***Breaking news--during a wedding reception, a dock buckled and collapsed and the wedding guests fell into a lake.  And it was all caught on tape!  Brian thinks that one of the functions of a network news broadcast is to show funny YouTube clips.  It's obvious that Brian has no idea what the definition of "news" is.  Or more likely he knows, but ignores it because idiotic stories like this one boost his ratings.
***The final three-and-a-half minutes of the broadcast was used for Olympic-related stories.  First, Brian told us about the photo-finish between Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh in the women's 100-meter race.  Then he gave us some follow-up information about Lolo Jones, who had been the subject of a three-minute Nightly News profile on June 19.  Then it was time for a 2:45 "news story" about the swimming rivalry between Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps.  This story was followed by a full-screen promo for the U.S. Olympic swimming trials--airing later that night on NBC.  Obviously, as the Olympics   nears, Brian will continue to transform Nightly News into a promotional vehicle for the London Games.  Because that's what sleazebags do.  They promote stuff in order to generate more money for their companies.
***On this day, BBC News reported on the increasing number of Syrian military officers that are defecting to Turkey, the resignation of the Greek finance minister-designate, and that Cyprus has become the latest Eurozone nation to request a bailout from the EU.  Nightly News didn't report any of these stories, but at least we know all about the wedding guests who fell into a lake and the incredible rivalry between Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps.  Great job, Brian.  You should be very proud of the job you're doing.
Tues. June 26--The first six minutes of the broadcast were devoted to "The Wrath of Nature"--the flooding in Florida and the Colorado wildfires.  Again, half that time would have sufficed to cover the stories, but NBC has to get their money's worth from The Weather Channel.  Also, using Weather Channel personnel is a cheap way to kill time.  The Weather Channel crew is already up and running at the scene, so Nightly News doesn't have to send one of their own correspondents to cover the event.
***Later, we saw a story about a woman who has three children who need bone marrow transplants.  Why does that sound familiar?  Because Nightly News already reported this story on June 14.  This was a "follow-up" story.  In Nightly News lingo, a follow-up story is something that is done based not on importance, but on ability to generate ratings.  If the producers discover that a focus group reacted positively to a story, they immediately do a follow-up to capitalize on the ratings potential.  Brian and his producers are constantly reporting stories about sick kids (often kids with cancer) because those sorts of sad stories affect the viewers emotionally and keep them tuned in.  In other words, sick kids are great for ratings.  So altogether we saw six minutes worth of stories about the kids who need bone marrow transplants.  Exploiting sick kids for ratings is fun and easy!  You can do it, too!
***Brian read an obituary for Frank Chee Willeto, one of the Navajo Code Talkers from World War II.  This isn't news, but Brian has an obsessive fixation on anyone in a military uniform and reports their deaths as a way of satisfying his military fetish. 
***Hey, guess what?  Time for an Olympic story.  "A quick update here on the suspenseful swimming in the Olympic trials in Nebrasks last night...."  Ryan Lochte beat Michael Phelps in the 400 meter individual medley!  And it was suspenseful.  We know that because Brian told us.
***Then he told us that Staten Island was planning to erect a giant ferris wheel like the one they have in London.  "Perhaps to take advantage of the two million tourists who each year take a beautiful and free ride across the Staten Island Ferry."  Well, actually, they ride on the Staten Island Ferry as they ride across New York Harbor.  Whatever.  The important thing here is that Brian has decided to pander to Staten Island residents in the hope that more of them will watch his broadcast and boost his ratings.  You didn't really think this was a story about a ferris wheel, did you?
***The final story was about a quadriplegic high school student who used a mechanical apparatus to "walk" across the stage at his graduation.  That's nice, but it isn't news.  This is a variation of the Nightly News "sick kids" genre of stories.  We're supposed to feel sorry for him, but also feel uplifted and inspired at the same time.  And those emotions translate to ratings.  So basically, Brian is exploiting this kid for ratings.  Nice.
***BBC News reported that landslides buried three villages in Eastern Uganda and killed at least 18 people.  Naturally, Brian didn't report this story because he doesn't care about Africa.  And he only reports stories about Black people in February.  But at least we know all about Frank Chee Willeto and Staten Island.
Wed. June 27--After spending three-and-a-half minutes reporting on the Colorado wildfires, Brian thought it would be a good idea to spend another 1:50 reporting "some of their stories"--"they" being the people who were evacuated from their homes.  Wildfires are news.  Exploiting the sad stories of newly-homeless people is not news.  It's just another way for Brian to boost his ratings by playing to the viewers' emotions and using peoples' misfortunes to his advantage.  Shameful.  And the segment included four different shots of dogs, because misfortunes happening to dogs makes the situation even sadder (and the ratings even bigger).
***Here's how Brian introduced Pete Williams in a story about the upcoming Supreme Court decision on health care: "Pete, you know as much about the Court as anyone I know...."  Brian's obsequiously ass-kissing introductions are hilarious.  Especially in this case, since Pete Williams never, ever says "Good evening" back to Brian.  Brian is like a jilted boyfriend.  The more he's rejected, the more he tries to ingratiate himself with the person rejecting him.
***A story about a group of black WW II Marines belatedly receiving the Congressional Gold Medal could have been a nice story.  Instead, Brian and Jim Miklaszewsli turned it into another case of fawning military hero-worship.  I especially loved the part where Milkaszewski was standing in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial with the U.S. flag waving above his head.  Very tasteful.
***Brian then spent 1:45 reporting on the historic handshake between Queen Elizabeth and former IRA leader Martin McGuinness.  In the past six weeks, Brian has spent more than 22 minutes reporting frivolous stories about the Queen and the British Royal Family.  And finally he reports a story about the Queen that's actually newsworthy.  Wow.  He should be nominated for an MBE.
***Because every story about the Queen MUST lead into a promotional spot for NBC's Olympic coverage, Brian next told us that the Olympic Rings hanging from London's Tower Bridge were officially unveiled.  He also told us that, "The Games begin in exactly one month, July 27, 2012."
***After that, he took 35 seconds to read an obituary for Barry Becher, who had invented the Ginsu Knife.  Apparently, this is what Brian feels is worthy of time on his broadcast.  If only someone at NBC News had the balls to tell Brian to go fuck himself.
***The broadcast ended with a 3:20 memorial to Nora Ephron.  Obviously, Brian doesn't care the least bit about Ephron, but her death allowed him to show movie clips featuring Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal, Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.  And movie clips are among the biggest ratings-boosters on Nightly News.  No doubt Brian wishes some famous Hollywood personality would die every night.  Imagine if every Nightly News broadcast could be filled with movie clips!  What a great world this would be!
***Brian did not report any stories from Asia, the Middle East, Africa or South America.  But at least we know all about the Ginsu Knife guy and Nora Ephron's films.
Thurs. June 28--This may be the most fawning and obsequious Nightly News broadcast that Brian has ever presided over.
***Brian continues to play head games with Pete Williams.  As usual, Pete refused to return Brian's treacly "Good evening" greeting because he hates Brian.  And after Pete finished his report, Brian said, "Pete Williams reporting for us at the end of a long day of SUPERB SPOT ON reporting from the Supreme Court."  The more Pete disses Brian, the more Brian lauds Pete.  That's some bizarre shit going on right there.  Pete Williams is some kind of heartbreaker.  He's the Ruby Rubacuori of Nightly News, and Brian is his Berlusconi.
***Because simply reporting the facts is not what Nightly News does, the producers dispatched the idiotic Anne Thompson to tell us how the Supreme Court ruling on health care affects some ordinary, regular, salt-of-the-earth people.  As if that's actual news.  As if Nightly News ever reports actual news.
***Closing out Nightly News's coverage on the health care ruling was two-and-a-half minutes of pointless, obvious commentary from Savannah Guthrie and David Gregory, two people who can talk a lot without really saying anything.  Here's how Brian ended the discussion: "David Gregory in Washington, Savannah Guthrie here with us in our New York studio rounding out THE VERY BEST TEAM OF COVERAGE on this story today."  Really? "The very best team of coverage"?  Says who?  According to what objective standard?  What an absolutely idiotic and biased thing for a news anchor to say.  As if Brian can stand to lose any more credibility with stupid statements like this.
***Brian then mentioned another Supreme Court ruling that was handed down today.  The Court ruled that it was legal for people to lie about their military service records or to completely fabricate military records that never existed.  This is the so-called "stolen valor" case.  Back on Feb. 22, Brian spent 2:15 complaining to his hero, Jack Jacobs, about how vile it is to lie about a military record.  Brian really hates that.  Meanwhile, NBC had their very own case of "stolen valor".  Tim Poe, a contestant on "America's Got Talent", had recently lied about his military record in an attempt to impress the judges and advance in the competition.  But Brian never mentioned this on Nightly News.  Not a word.  He may hate people lying about their military records, but something he hates even more is reporting bad news about an NBC entertainment show.  So he kept his mouth shut rather than risk bringing bad publicity to (and losing viewers from) AGT.  Lying about military service is bad, but I guess lying to protect an NBC show (by omission) is okay.  Brian Williams is a sleazy hypocrite.
***During a story about the Colorado wildfires, Miguel Almaguer made sure to tell us that the Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs "where so many of our Olympians prepare for the Summer Games" is not in any danger.  Apparently, the Olympics must be worked into any and every news story possible.  Using the wildfires to promote NBC's Olympic coverage.  Slick.  And pathetic.  Brian ended this story by saying, "Miguel, thank you for focusing attention tonight on the firefighters in that fight."  Brian clearly understands that firefighters are good for ratings.  Certainly, no one ever lost viewers by pretending to care about firefighters. 
***Brian had some breaking news about the heatwave: "Today was hot in a lot of places."  Wow--thanks for the news flash.
***The broadcast ended with yet another story about Joplin, Missouri.  A woman there opened up a bakery.  That's it--that's the story.  And it was reported by Chelsea Clinton.  That's not the least bit surprising.  Here's why: This very day--June 28--was the first day of the July ratings sweeps period.   The four annual sweeps periods (each about a month long) are the most important for Nielsen audience measurement.  Networks use these measurements to set their ad rates for the following quarter.  Of course, they use whatever tricks and gimmicks they can to maximize their ratings (and thus maximize their ad rates).  So trotting out Chelsea Clinton is just a sleazy sweeps period gimmick.  From a sleazy network.  Business as usual.  By the way, here's a fun fact about Brian and sweeps periods.  Brian's prime-time show "Rock Center" was pulled off the air for a month between May 9 and June 7.  The reason?  NBC removed it from the network schedule because the show's abysmal ratings were hurting the network during the May sweeps period.  It was replaced with reruns of "Law & Order: SVU."  Ouch.  Humiliating!
***Here are some stories you didn't see on Nightly News: A group of South American foreign ministers met in Argentina to discuss, among other things, the Paraguayan Senate's impeachment of President Fernando Lugo.  At the Hague, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was acquitted on one of the genocide charges against him.  And in southern China, riots broke out between local residents and migrant workers.  Nightly News didn't cover these stories.  In fact, they didn't report any foreign stories.  But at least we know all about the woman who opened a bakery in Joplin.
Fri. June 29--After spending three minutes reporting on the Colorado wildfires, Brian and Kristen Dahlgren spent another 2:15 kissing ass to the firefighters.  They're awesome!  And heroic!  Firefighters equal good ratings!  And I laughed out loud when I saw Dahlgren dressed up in a firefighter's outfit.  Someone should tell her that Halloween isn't until October.
***Next, Brian told us (once again) about the extreme heat.  In fact, there were two stories totalling three-and-a-half minutes.  Of course it's hot.  This is summer.  Is he going to spent 2-3 minutes every day telling us about the heat?  Probably.  Guess what--we already know it's hot.
***It was time for an update on the elderly bus monitor who was taunted by middle school students.  Because this is important news.
***Speaking of important news, Brian took 26 seconds to tell us that Savannah Guthrie would become the new co-host of "The Today Show".  He said, "She's the first lawyer ever to co-host America's favorite morning program."  That's sickening.  How is he allowed to get away with saying shit like that?  And it never fails--every time Brian talks to (or about) Guthrie, he has to say she's a lawyer.  What a fawning asshole.  Earlier, Brian spent 25 seconds reporting on Egypt.  Obviously, the Savannah Guthrie story is more important than what's going on in Egypt.
***Okay--now this is really important.  Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are getting divorced.  This is what merits 25 seconds of news time on Nightly News.  Earlier, Brian spent 19 seconds talking about the election in Mexico.  Do the math.
***The final story was an idiotic "Making A Difference" piece about the New York Yankees' Hope Week, in which the players do good things for needy or disabled fans.  That's nice, but why is this news?  And why is this news twice?  Nightly News already reported on Yankees' Hope Week two years ago (on the 8/18/10 broadcast).  I guess the producers figured we've already forgotten about it and they can just do the story again.  And I'm sure they'll do it again in a year or two. 
***So let's recap: Savannah Guthrie gets more air time than the Egyptian election.  Tom & Katie get more air time than the Mexican election.  Kristen Dahlgren dressed up like a firefighter.  And the elderly bus monitor did...something.  What a great broadcast.

Monday, June 25, 2012

"NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams" Suffers Double-Digit Ratings Decline

On Friday, June 22, the New York Times ran an article on page one of its business section about NBC News's loss of dominance.  NBC News is "adrift", according to the article's authors, Bill Carter and Brian Stelter.  Shows like "Today", "Meet The Press" and "NBC Nightly News" are all struggling with declining ratings.  Specifically, "NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams" has seen an 11% drop in ratings among the highly coveted 25-54 year-old age group.  As follows is the article, reprinted in its entirety:

NBC News has long been a dominant presence on network television, regularly winning the ratings competition against its evening news and Sunday morning political show competitors, and reveling in the “Today” show’s 16-year winning streak in morning television, a record not broken until April.

Struggling with declining ratings across all three franchises, however, and with news this week that the network is preparing to replace Ann Curry on “Today,” NBC executives are facing a new narrative that is being embraced by the competition. For the first time in more than a decade, NBC News appears adrift.

NBC’s major news shows, including “NBC Nightly News” and “Meet the Press,” have lost ground to rivals in the last year, causing wider concerns about the health of the news division, which has been the No. 1 television news operation in America for the better part of two decades. For now it is still No. 1 by almost every measure, but it appears to be more vulnerable than it has been at any time in years.

The most visible manifestation of this is “Today.” The morning show is a profit center for the news division, raking in several hundred million dollars each year and effectively subsidizing other news shows.

NBC executives suggest that the impact of the end of the “Today” streak has been overstated, primarily because it continues to show strength in the category that is most important in generating television news revenue: viewers aged 25 to 54.

“Where it counts we have not had slippage,” said Steve Capus, the president of NBC News. “That’s what’s real. The rest is spin and noise.”

Beyond “Today,” which is down about 4 percent in total viewers and about 9 percent in that 25-54 age group, “NBC Nightly News” has declined about 11 percent among those 25-54. Its main rival, ABC’s “World News,” also is down about 8 percent. (CBS’s newscast is up 1 percent.) On Sundays, “Meet the Press” is still the most watched show, but its lead over the second place “Face the Nation” on CBS has shrunk to just 2 percent in total viewers, while “Nation” is now ahead in the 25-54 group.

And NBC’s effort to start a newsmagazine, “Rock Center,” led by its chief anchor, Brian Williams, has been greeted with some of the lowest ratings in prime time. NBC News remains committed to it, however.

The weaknesses across the news division probably would be considered marginal if they did not come at the same time as the apparent shift taking place in the morning. That change is under particular scrutiny because of the “Today” show’s status as the most profitable franchise in the history of television news.

“The ‘Today’ show is so important; the amount of money it makes is remarkable,” said Bill Wheatley, the former executive vice president of NBC News, who worked there for 30 years. The show has earned profits of up to $200 million a year in recent years, a longtime NBC executive who was not authorized to discuss the show’s finances said Thursday.

Ratings for news programs are affected by a wide array of factors, including talent transitions, weakness in prime time and late night programming, and changes in consumer behaviors. “Sometimes all of these things can happen at one time,” Mr. Wheatley said, noting that “the network is in bad shape.”

Indeed, NBC’s prime-time performance is as weak as any network has been in broadcasting history. Up until recently, the news programs had defied gravity in holding up so well.

Mr. Capus argued that they are still performing well despite the general collapse all around them. “This is a great news division, “ he said, “and still the industry leader.”

That lead includes the most important ranking: profits. Mr. Capus pointed to the recent conclusion of what are known as the annual upfront sales — when advertisers buy commercial time before the fall television season.

Despite the tightening of the morning race, Mr. Capus said NBC had increased its total take in the upfront in morning sales, perhaps because NBC has more hours to sell than anyone else, having expanded “Today” first to a 9 a.m. hour and then a 10 a.m. hour. But for years, “Today” has also enjoyed a huge edge in sales because advertisers paid a premium to get their commercials in the program.

Executives from ABC have speculated that NBC would surely lose that significant premium this season because the network lost its all-time winning streak. Mr. Capus said, “We are still getting the premium,” though he did not quantify it. But he stressed that NBC is still winning every week in the category where all the sales are made, as it has for 894 consecutive weeks.

Mr. Capus acknowledged being exasperated by the attention to the challenge to “Today” from ABC’s “Good Morning America.” He said “Today” has rebounded since May and has not lost a week in viewers to “GMA.” (Last week the margin was only 35,000 viewers.) But the impending departure of Ms. Curry has underscored the image of a show under siege.

Mr. Capus is the longest-serving of the network news presidents, having been in charge since 2005. With the recent ratings troubles, his future in the job had become source of speculation in the news business. Mr. Wheatley pointed out that such speculation is common “any time there is significant slippage” in the ratings for a network.

But, though he declined to comment on it, Mr. Capus won a significant endorsement this week: he signed a new long-term deal to continue as the top executive in the news division.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Brian Williams & NBC Nightly News Show Notes: 6/16/12 Through 6/22/12 (Updated--Full Week)

Nightly News aired only five times this week--not exactly a "nightly" broadcast.  But there was still time for lots of great stuff.  Like "Rock Center" promos, the granny taunted on a bus, a 13-year-old chef and birthday celebrations for Paul McCartney and Prince William.  Here's some of the other important stories you may have missed on NBC Nightly News this week:

Sat. June 16 & Sun. June 17--Sorry, Nightly News fans--there was no Nightly News on Saturday or Sunday because obviously the U.S. Open golf tournament was much more important.  Meaning that it brought in tons of money so Nightly News can go take a hike.  I love how all the weaselly execs at NBC pretend than news is so important, until they find something that pays better.  Then news becomes like their first wife who they traded in for a young bleach blonde with implants.
Mon. June 18--At the beginning of the lead story about the elections in Egypt, Richard Engel interrupted Brian Williams and began talking while Brian was still introducing him.  The producers probably want us to believe that this happened because of the delay from the satellite hook-up, but I'm pretty sure it happened because Richard is damn sick and tired of listening to Brian's long-winded egocentric introductions.
***In a story about the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Ben Rhodes was identified in a Nightly News graphic as the "Deputy National Security Advisor".  On Friday, a Nightly News promo for "Meet The Press" identified David Plouffe as a "White House Senior Adviser".  Advisor, adviser--whatever.  The producers constantly alternate between the two spellings because no one at NBC News cares the slightest bit about uniformity.  That's ironic because we all know that Brian acts like a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert whenever he sees anyone in a U.S. Military uniform.  So apparently uniforms matter, but uniformity doesn't.  Interesting.
***Pete Williams continues to be my hero.  As Brian introduced Pete's report about the verdict in the Roger Clemens case, he tried (as he always does) to bait Pete with a syrupy "Good evening. Pete".  And as usual, Pete ignored Brian and started right in with his story, refusing to say "Good evening" to him.  Brian is always so desperate to make viewers think that correspondents such as Pete really, really like him, when it seems obvious that they don't.
***A story about the Jerry Sandusky trial was really just a narcissistic self-promotional piece for Brian and NBC News President Steve Capus.  This story contained a 10-second clip of David Gregory and Savannah Guthrie discussing the Sandusky case on "Today" as well as a ridiculously overlong 1:09 excerpt from Bob Costas's interview with Sandusky that originally ran on the 11/14/11 "Rock Center".  So nearly half of this 2:49 report consisted of promos for other NBC News shows.  Not surprisingly, Brian and his producers are using a child-rape trial as an excuse to promote "Rock Center" by showing a seemingly endless loop of Costas's interview with Sandusky.  Have they no shame?
***A "news story" about Paul McCartney turning 70 (breaking news if ever there was) included a clip of Paul singing "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" at the Queen's Jubilee.  One sleazy trick Brian uses to boost his ratings is peppering the broadcast with pop and classic-rock songs (just last Thursday it was "L.A. Woman") because viewers really like them.  And obviously there is no better band than the Beatles to get and keep the viewers' attention.  It had only been two weeks since Brian last played a clip of Paul singing at the Queen's Jubilee.
***Here's how Brian began the next story: "For NASCAR fans who are part of Dale Nation, yesterday was a big one..."  He went on to tell us that Dale Earnhardt Jr. won a race in Michigan on Sunday.  NASCAR viewers are a very large and important demographic, so reporting this story (and other NASCAR stories) is just another part of Brian's calculated strategy to attract viewers and boost his ratings.  Same as his Paul McCartney story.  They're all part of the same calculated ratings strategy.
***Then it was time for Brian to tell us that another piece of tsunami debris has washed up in Washington state.  Clearly, Brian intends to tell us about each individual piece of tsunami debris that washes up on U.S. shores.  It's going to be a long, long summer.
***The final story was about a 13-year-old chef in L.A.  Idiotic correspondent Kristen Dahlgren called him "one of the country's hottest chefs".  That's not even a speck on the boulder of the truth.  He has a few enthusiastic fans who showed up at the restaurants he sporadically cooks at.  Of course, the specific facts of the story are not important.  What we really should be asking is why this 2:15 story was put on a news broadcast in the first place.  There's absolutely nothing about this story that remotely qualifies as news.  And it's even more egregious when you consider that because golf pre-empted Nightly News during the weekend, Nightly News hasn't been on the air since Friday.  So after going 72 hours without news, this is what Brian and his producers decide to show us.  That's an insult.  They were already scrambling to catch up on all the weekend news that they missed--in addition to Monday's news.  So how can they possibly justify this idiotic story?  I guess it would be one thing if Nightly News was actually a news broadcast, but it's really just an aggregate news collector.  They put on a few news stories, a few entertainment stories a few general interest stories and voila--instant broadcast.  Even more appalling--during the broadcast, the producers hyped this silly pseudo-celebrity chef story with three promos totalling 21 seconds, which is more time than they sometimes spend on important stories like Syria.  And as if all that wasn't bad enough, the promo for this story at the top of the broadcast carried the banner "Top Chef" because Brian and his producers are sleazy enough to use a promo to plug the show "Top Chef"--which airs on Bravo (owned by Comcast NBC Universal).  This whole story is so dirty that it makes me want to take a shower.  And I'm not even talking about a regular shower--I need one of those Silkwood-type super-high-pressure chemical showers.
Tues. June 19--Nightly News took two minutes to report on the hot weather around the country.  As if that's actually news.  And guess what--we already know it's hot.  We have local TV and radio news for that.  We don't need them to tell us.  This was another story reported by the idiotic Anne Thonpson.  Has she ever reported an original story?  Her reporting style is to constantly regurgitate the same information over and over and over.  Just like most Nightly News correspondents.
***The next story was about how Asians are now the fastest-growing immigrant group in the U.S.  Of course, we all know what that means: Brian and his producers are now going to spend as much time pandering to Asians as they spend pandering to Latinos and African Americans.  And speaking of pandering, as Brian introduced this story, there were two flags on-screen at the same time.  Because pandering to good-ol' regular Americans is also still very important at Nightly News.
***Kate Snow spent 2:40 reporting on heroin addiction in Chicago.  Okay--but why is this news?  With Snow riding around in a patrol car, it looked more like an episode of "Cops" than a news segment.
***Brian took 35 seconds to show us video of a woman who got fed up with being patted down at airport security, so she began to pat down the TSA employee.  This is news?  Oh well, as you know, Brian gets to show us whatever he wants.
***Then he showed us some photos of a Chinese farmer herding 5,000 ducks.  Because Nightly News is all about reporting important stuff.  Really.  I mean it.
***The broadcast ended with a 3:10 story about Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones, who hopes to win gold in London next month after missing out on a medal in Beijing.  Let's see--why would the Nightly News producers show us this story?  Hmmm...why, why, why?  Oh yeah--now I remember.  Because NBC is televising the London Olympics and every two years Nightly News gets turned into a shameless Olympic promotional vehicle.  For the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Nightly News showed 160 minutes of Olympic-related "news stories" (that's the equivalent of seven entire Nightly News broadcasts).  So how much time will Nightly News spend promoting the London Olympics?  Since the Olympics are all about breaking records, I'd count on the Nightly News producers breaking their 2010 record.  By a wide margin.  And by the way, during this story news shill Kevin Tibbles made sure to tell us that Jones's training regimen was developed by her sponsor Red Bull.  And we got several nice shots of the Red Bull logo.  Because it's not only the job of the Nightly News producers to promote the Olympics, it's also their job to promote Olympic sponsors.  Well done.
Wed. June 20--As Brian spent an interminable 55 seconds introducing the lead story about a House committee that voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, there was an animated flag waving behind Brian's head.  Why?  Because the story took place in the U.S.?  Doesn't he ever get sick of pandering?  I guess not.  And why does he need to talk for so long?  Can't he let the reporter (who might actually know something about the story) have some extra time?  Of course not.  The news is always about Brian.
***During this story, Rep. Darrell Issa was identified in a Nightly News graphic as "Rep. Jason Chaffetz".  You'd think that someone at Nightly News would be given the responsibility for correctly identifying members of Congress.  Especially considering that this isn't the first time a slip-up like this has happened.  In fact, the Nightly News producers once managed to mis-identify two members of Congress on two consecutive nights.  On the 3/17/09 broadcast, they identified Rep. Carolyn McCarthy as "Rep. Carolyn Maloney".  And the very next night, they identified Rep. Barney Frank as "Rep. Paul Kanjorski".  Ironically, Carolyn Maloney was shown in today's Eric Holder story--and she was correctly identified.  Too bad we can't say the same for Darrell Issa.  So congrats Rep. Issa--you now join the elite (but growing) group of congressmembers who have been mis-identified by a Nightly News producer.
***After a 2:15 story about the Jerry Sandusky trial (which miraculously did not include any "Rock Center" clips), Savannah Guthrie was brought in to share her expert commentary.  She makes a practice of stating the obvious, and she rarely adds any insight to the situation.  In this case, she managed to go on for 35 seconds, and all she ended up saying was that the jury would be deciding the verdict.  Really?  Thanks, Perry Mason.  And here's how Brian introduced her: "Watching this, it looks relentless--the evidence against this man.  As a lawyer, though, you were cautioning us earlier today--what should we think about this?"  It never fails.  Every single time Brian introduces Guthrie, he makes sure to state that she's a lawyer.  Like that's so impressive.  Last I heard, there wasn't exactly a shortage of lawyers in this country.  Maybe she should switch to something more productive.  Like cabinet making.  Or auto repair.
***In a story about a San Francisco fire, Brian made sure to tell us that, "Firefighters bravely made a fast attack...."  Brian loves to tell us about brave firefighters.  I guess that's not a bad ratings strategy.  You can't go wrong pandering to viewers by praising firefighters.
***Hey--it's really hot out there!  And here's the idiotic Anne Thompson to spend two-and-a-half minutes telling you all about it.  Because you probably didn't know.  So over two days, Thompson has managed to spend four-and-a-half minutes talking about the hot weather.  What a great allocation of news time.  By contrast, over at CBS, Scott Pelley spent a total of fifteen seconds (on Wednesday only) talking about the heat.  But that's really not a fair comparison.  After all, Pelley is a journalist who understands that his job is to report important news stories.  Brian is a carnival barker whose job is to promote himself, his sponsors and NBC's sports and entertainment shows.  It's like comparing apples and oranges.
***Kate Snow spent another three minutes reporting on heroin addiction.  Do we really need almost six minutes on this subject over two days?  No, we don't. 
***Here' show Brian began the next story: "We wanted to take a quick second here to talk about space."  Okay--for one thing--there is no "we".  It's him--Brian.  He's the one who constantly wastes so much news time reporting on things happening thousands or millions of miles away.  And "a quick second"?  This story took up 1:10.  In just the past two months, Brian has presented fourteen stories about space or space travel--including four stories about the Supermoon and three stories about the Ring of Fire eclipse.  These stories have taken up more than twelve minutes of valuable news time.  And he has the nerve to say he's taking a "quick second here to talk about space"?  What an asshole.  I'll let him finish his soliloquy: "Specifically, something really extraordinary that's taking place this week in the skies above our country--the International Space Station orbits the Earth sixteen times a day...Especially if you have kids or if you yourself grew up AS I DID in the space era, it's an awesome sight...Channel your inner Clark W. Griswold and as you watch, remember--it's a home to six people up there travelling 17,000 miles an hour.  They're over 200 miles high above the Earth and we happen to know they watch this broadcast on a NASA upload, so it's only fair to them that we watch them back this week."  Can you believe that?  Can you believe his fucking nerve?  He just gets to say whatever the hell he wants every night and no one ever bothers to rein him in.  He managed to use one of his favorite phrases--"As I did"--because the news is always about Brian.  Then he threw in a reference to Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase's character from the National Lampoon Vacation movies) to show us how hip he thinks he is.  And on top of all that, he had the nerve to brag that the astronauts watch his broadcast!  Because they have so much free time up there that they can just kick back and watch some tube.  Actually, I'd like to see some paperwork on that.  Brian is a serial exaggerator and liar, so I wouldn't take anything he says at face value.  Every time he brags about NBC's ratings for an award show or sports event, his numbers are always higher than what I read in the paper the next day.  Here's another example of Brian being untruthful: On 1/8/10, when Brian appeared on "The Jay Leno Show", Jay asked him about Nightly News's coverage of the Tiger Woods meltdown (Woods had recently crashed his car and was a target of the tabloid press).  Brian said, "We have done the Tiger Woods story I think twice and the second time was just the business impact...."  That was not a truthful response.  Let me refresh Brian's memory: From the time of Woods's car crash on 11/27/09 through Brian's appearance on Leno's show, Nightly News did no fewer than five Tiger Woods stories (11/27, 12/2, 12/11, 12/12 and 12/13) although they may have actually done more than that.  Brian intentionally understated the number of Tiger Woods stories Nightly News had reported in order to make his broadcast appear more serious and less frivolous.  Another instance where Brian lies: Any time he and his producers anticipate that Nightly News will earn less-than-desired ratings (such as if Brian is not anchoring on a weeknight), they will submit their show to the Nielsen rating service intentionally misspelled (as "Nitely News") because that way the lower-rated "Nitely News" broadcasts are counted in a separate category from Nightly News, and as such don't bring down the show's ratings.  It's fudging the numbers.  Cheating.  So when Brian tells us that astronauts watch Nightly News, I'd take it with a grain of salt.  I think that's only happening in his fantasy world, where Brian is a military pilot and an astronaut.  This sickening story about the space station is one of the most appallingly narcissistic stories Brian has ever reported.  And that's saying an awful lot.
***The final story of the night was about saving coral reefs in Florida, but after writing about that last space station story, I just don't have the energy to offer any more criticism.
Thurs. June 21--The lead story about the Jerry Sandusky trial included a clip from "Rock Center With Bob Costas".  What a surprise.  This was followed by another Sandusky story whose only purpose was to promote that night's "Rock Center".
***Later, we saw a story about George Zimmerman's videotaped statement to the Sanford police.  Brian didn't say whether or not Zimmerman's statement had been altered by NBC News, like his earlier 911 tapes had been.
***As Brian introduced the next four stories--the resignation of Commerce Secretary John Bryson, the sparring between Attorney General Eric Holder and Congress, the Supreme Court decision regarding indecency on network television and Mitt Romney's immigration speech--there was a giant animated flag waving behind his head the entire time he was on camera.  Beacuse Brian Williams loves this country more than any other news anchor, godammit!  And don't you fucking forget it.
***When Brian reported that the Supreme Court had voided fines and penalties against ABC and Fox that had been imposed by the FCC (for nudity and profanity), he refused to mention ABC and Fox by name.  In keeping with his policy to never, ever mention competing networks, he would only refer to them as "broadcasters".  Obviously, Brian is scared that if he mentions another network by name, Nightly News will lose viewers.
***The story about Romney's immigration speech included a clip from the Jan. 23 Republican debate which aired on "Rock Center".  That was the third "Rock Center" clip shown this night on Nightly News.  That's hardly surprising, since Brian's main goal is to sleazily and shamefully promote "Rock Center" (which would be airing later that night).  It didn't help--"Rock Center" had the same abyssmal ratings that it gets every week.
***Brian then took 2:05 to report a story about a bunch of middle school kids who were caught on video taunting their elderly bus monitor.  Because Nightly News is a serious newscast.
***Before the commercial, Brian promoted an upcoming story this way: "Up next--a happy customer who saw and enjoyed the show we recommended last night in her own back yard."  And here's the actual story Brian read: "And last night here we urged you to grab the family, grab the kids, grab somebody and go outside on a cloudless night away from any lights to see the International Space Station fly overhead.  At 16 orbits a day it will get to wherever you are eventually.  And in the next few days, east coasters are gonna get a good bright view of it passing over faster than any plane across the sky.  Well, we've already heard from one viewer, a nice woman named Becky who writes, 'Last night after you reported about being able to view the ISS in many parts of the U.S., I did my homework, found on the NASA website when and where to look, called my neighbors and dragged sleepy husbands out to our fields to get a first-hand look.  While fighting off an army of hungry mosquitoes, but exactly on time, we were absolutely thrilled to be treated to a spectacular show of the ISS streaking across the evening sky!  Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm and sense of wonder.  We do live in an amazing world!'  Well, Becky, thank you and look at our website for when the space station will be passing over where you live."  It might be hard to believe that a news anchor could be that incredibly egotistic and self-promoting--except for the fact that Brian has been doing it for the past seven years.  He wasted 1:10 the previous night begging us to watch the ISS because space shit is a hobby of his.  But as if that wasn't bad enough, he took another 1:10 to basically pat himself on the back for being wonderful enough to tell us about it!  So he wasted 2:20 over two nights telling us to look up in the sky.  What an arrogant, presumptuous, fatuous asshole.  He thinks it's perfectly okay to waste news time talking about his hobbies!  And there's not a single person at NBC News with the balls to stand up to him.  Brian Williams is a fucking joke.  Nightly News is a fucking joke.
***And just in case you need further proof, the final story of the night was a "news story" about Prince William's 30th birthday.  Brian will air any story about the Royal Family--no matter how inane--because these stories always get high ratings.  And that's what Brian cares about--ratings.  Not covering the world, not informing people--just ratings.  In the past five weeks, Nightly News has shown 22 minutes worth of stories about the Royal Family--including Brian's idiotic reports about Prince Charles as a weatherman and as a DJ.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Brian Williams is a professional journalist.
***Naturally, Brian ended the broadcast by begging people to watch "Rock Center".  Shameless.
***Meanwhile, on CBS, Scott Pelley reported that a Syrian pilot had defected to Jordan and that Aung San Suu Kyi had made an historic address to Britain's parliament.  But Brian ignored these stories because he had to tell us about the elderly bus monitor who was taunted, the International Space Station (for the second time) and Prince William's 30th birthday.  Great job.  Keep up the good work.
Fri. June 22--The lead story was about Philadelphia Monsignor William Lynn, who was convicted of child endangerment for failing to remove a pedophile priest.  It was reported by the idiotic Anne Thompson.  Anyone who has ever seen Thompson's previous reports on Catholic matters would know how incredibly biased she is in favor of the church.  Allowing her to report on the church would be like allowing Jerry Sandusky to report on the Boy Scouts.
***Speaking of which--after a story about the Sandusky verdict watch, Savannah Guthrie was brought in to once again state the obvious.  She told us that some of the jurors may have reasonable doubt in their minds.  Really?  Thanks for the brilliant legal analysis, Louise Brandeis.
***At the end of Richard Engel's report about the Egyptian election, anchor Lester Holt asked Engel about a Turkish jet that had been shot down after entering Syrian air space.  And while Holt was asking about this, there was an animated U.S. flag waving behind his head!  During a story about Turkey and Syria!  We know that the Nightly News producers shamelessly flaunt the animated American flag behind Lester and Brian during stories about the U.S., but now it seems they're even using it for foreign stories.  Appallingly ridiculous.
***David Gregory reported a silly, overlong story about how Obama and Romney are competing for Latino votes.  This was just a 3:05 promo for Sunday's "Meet The Press", which would be featuring Marco Rubio as Gregory's guest.
***A story about falling gas prices featured comments from four different motorists filling up at various gas stations.  Yeah, that's a really good cross-section of the public.  What do you suppose their feelings are about gas prices?
***After that, we saw a follow-up story about the granny bus monitor who was taunted by middle school students.  Some of the kids apologized!  And an internet fund-raising drive has collected over $500,000 for her retirement!  Awesome!  So the producers decided to take a story that didn't even deserve to be on Nightly News once and they put it on Nightly News twice.  That seems about right.  After all, Nightly News isn't about informing viewers, it's about generating ratings.  If the taunted granny story is trending on Yahoo and Google, it definitely gets on Nightly News.  Twice.  I heard a rumor that the taunted granny will be Ann Curry's replacement on "The Today Show".
***Wait!  Stop!  Hold the presses!  Or cameras (or whatever you hold on a televised newscast).  Lester Holt has some breaking news: It's National Take Your Dog To Work Day!  I guess that would explain why Anne Thompson was in the NBC News studios.
***The broadcast ended with stories about doping allegations against Lance Armstrong, the Miami Heat winning the NBA Championship, the Greece-Germany soccer match and the 40th anniversary of Title IX, which mandates equality in school sports.  The Title IX story featured interviews with tennis legend Billie Jean King, Rutgers basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer and U.S. Olympic hockey gold medalist Angela Ruggiero.  So basically, the last quarter of the broadcast was about sports.  I guess that's a good strategy.  Viewers are more interested in sports than news, so a sports theme will generate higher ratings than a news theme.  And if your goal is to get high ratings any way possible, then that's a good way of doing so.
***Here are some stories Nightly News did not report on this day: Taliban terrorists killed at least 20 at an Afghanistan resort because people there were drinking alcohol and dancing; The Paraguayan senate voted to impeach President Fernando Lugo; And in Norway, the Anders Breivik trial concluded after ten weeks.  Nightly News did not cover any of these stories, but at least we know all about the taunted granny bus monitor (for the second straight day) and National Take Your Dog To Work Day.  Well done, Nightly News producers.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Brian Williams & NBC Nightly News Show Notes: 6/9/12 Through 6/15/12 (Updated--Full Week)

Here's what you may have missed on Nightly News this week: Ukuleles, narcoleptic dogs, kids with cancer and breaking news about Max Page and Justin Bieber.

Sat. June 9--Are you kidding me?  Obviously there was no Nightly News today because of the Belmont Stakes.  Once again, NBC devoted two-and-a-half hours of programming to a two-minute horse race.  And don't we all feel horrible that I'll Have Another was scratched from the race?  It's just awful that NBC's Belmont ratings took a major hit because there was now no possibility of a Triple Crown winner.  Why do bad things always happen to good TV networks?
Sun. June 10--The lead story was "Extreme Weather".  Again.  For nearly four minutes.  Forget all the important stories breaking across the country and around the world--Nightly News has to report the weather.  I guess when you spend $3.5 billion for The Weather Channel (as NBC Universal did a few years ago), you better make sure to use it.  Every single night.
***In a story about White House damage control, a clip from "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" once again omitted Stephanopoulos's name from the on-screen credit.  It was credited only to "ABC News/This Week".  This was not an accident or an oversight.  The Nightly News producers refuse to even mention Stephanopoulos because he's a competitor of NBC's David Gregory.  Apparently, the producers are scared that even mentioning a rival will cause "Meet The Press" to lose viewers. Astonishingly petty.
***Lester Holt took 30 seconds to tell us about the rainout at the French Open tennis tournament.  He also made sure to tell us that the match would be concluded Monday morning on the NBC Sports Network.  So this was really just a promotional ad for an NBC sporting event.  Does Nightly News ever cover sporting events that don't air on NBC?  Rarely.
***Lester then took a combined 40 seconds to tell us that Britain's Prince Philip was out of the hospital and that Gabby Giffords has endorsed her former aide to fill her vacant seat in the House.  The NBC News research department has obviously informed the Nightly News producers that Prince Philip and Gabby Giffords are enormously popular with viewers, so they make a point of reporting on them as often as possible.  As usual, the news on Nightly News is refracted through the prism of ratings.
***The final story of the night was one of the most idiotic things I have ever seen on Nightly News, or on any news broadcast, for that matter.  I know I say that all the time, but this time it's especially true.  It was a story about the resurgent popularity of the ukulele.  Really.  I mean it.  That was the story.  There was nothing more to it.  This "news story" consisted of two-and-a-half minutes of footage of people playing the ukulele and talking about how cool it is.  Among those shown playing was Tiny Tim (on an old "Rowan & Martin's Laugh In" episode) and Zooey Deschanel (on "Saturday Night Live").  So not only was this a moronic story, but it also served the purpose of plugging some NBC properties (NBC earns money from DVD sales of both programs).  Great work, Nightly News producers.  This idiotic story was reported by the idiotic Kevin Tibbles, whose recent body of work also includes stories on Pringles Snack Chips and Barbie's 53rd birthday.  I certainly hope the Peabody Award Selection Committee was watching this masterpiece.  I guess that compared to this pathetic story, the weather really is a major piece of news.  By the way, throughout the broadcast, Lester read four promos for the ukulele story, totalling 38 seconds.  Earlier, he spent 22 seconds reporting a story on Syria.  So the ukulele promos alone were given almost twice as much time as the entire Syria story.  That's Nightly News for you.  Always concerned with reporting important news.
Mon. June 11--A story about the wildfires in the western states included a 15-second segment about the origin of Smokey the Bear, including a photo of the original bear cub that inspired the character.  This is the third consecutive weeknight that Nightly News has included photos or video of bears.  This is no coincidence--it's how Brian and his producers operate.  They pick a particular animal and then feature it regularly--like the way a top-40 DJ puts a particular song into heavy rotation.  Sometimes it's pandas, sometimes it's penguins, sometimes it's polar bears (dogs are a perennial presence on Nightly News because Brian likes them--they're the "Stairway to Heaven" in Brian's animal rotation).  Beginning last September, Nightly News featured seven "news stories" about whales in a two-month period (and two more whale stories in the ensuing months).  Obviously, Brian and his producers report so frequently on animals not because there's any actual news involved, but because viewers love to see cute animals and it helps boost the ratings.  So in June, bears are the animal of the month.  I predict that there will be lots of bear sightings on Nightly News throughout the summer.
***Here's how Brian introduced a story about two hit and run car accidents involving U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson: "In this country, a lot of US woke up to a bizarre story out of the west coast...."  Us.  Because the news is first and foremost about Brian.  And during his narration, there was the obligatory waving flag animation behind him because any story that involves a U.S. official is an opportunity to pander to the viewers' sense of faux patriotism.  Exploiting the flag for ratings--well done, Brian.
***I laughed so hard at the next story that Mountain Dew almost shot out of my nose.  It was a story about the economy--reported by Anne Thompson.  The producers usually give her easy stuff to report on (the environment, entertainment, I'll Have Another being scratched from the Belmont Stakes) because she's not very bright.  So hearing her trying to explain the economy was kind of painful.  It was like listening to a Miss America contestant struggling to answer a question that she really has no clue about (the comparison between Anne Thompson and a Miss America contestant definitely ends there).  My favorite part of this story was when we learned that family net worth declined 39% from 2007-2010.  I wonder how Brian's net worth is doing.  Skyrocketing, no doubt.  Is it really a good idea to let a multi-millionaire (and member of the 1%) introduce stories about how bad the economy is for all the rest of us in the 99%?  It seems kind of condescending, especially since Brian likes to pretend that he's a regular old working-class blue-collar guy.  He actually wants us to think of him as a character in a Springsteen song--like he gets up in the morning, puts on his work boots, heads off to the factory, punches in, works for 8 hours and then goes out for a beer with the guys.  As if.  He really tries to sell himself this way.  Is anyone buying that crap?  What a weasel.
***The next story was about the latest "Crime Wave" involving the theft of household items like detergent, pain relievers, and health and beauty aids.  This isn't exactly breaking news.  But reporting news wasn't the point of the story.  During this story, the Tide logo was on-screen for a whopping 16 seconds--including Miguel Almaguer holding up a bottle of Tide for 13 consecutive seconds.  That's not a news story, it's a product placement.  It's exactly the same way that hosts like Johnny Carson used to plug products on their shows.  So I wonder how much the Procter & Gamble people paid NBC for this blatant product placement.  Maybe Brian will tell us next week.  But then again, maybe not.
***Are you getting enough sleep?  If not, you're going to have a stroke.  At least that's what Nancy Snyderman told us in her story titled "Stroke Risk".  This was just another one of Nightly News's alarmist medical stories meant to scare us into not changing the channel.  Brian teases the story at the beginning of the broadcast and then we have to stay tuned to find out if we're going to die.  This is the 18th alarmist story that Nightly News has done so far this year.  Nancy Snyderman should be ashamed of herself for using these stories to boost Brian's ratings.  She should be helping people, not scaring them.
***International news is very important to Brian and his producers, so he made sure to tell us that British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife accidentally left their daughter in a pub.  Much of Europe is teetering on the brink of economic collapse, yet this is the only European story Brian reported on the broadcast.  Too bad there wasn't other important European news--like the seven stories Nightly News reported last week on the Queen's Jubilee.  Good job keeping us informed.
***The broadcast ended with a story about...well, I'm not actually sure what it was about.  A Wellesley (Massachusetts) High School teacher named David McCullough, Jr. (son of the historian) gave a commencement address at his high school--and told the kids that they were not special.  Imagine that.  And this is what merits two-and-a-half minutes of airtime on Nightly News.  Wow.
Tues. June 12--Anne Thompson reported another story about the economy.  She really just stated the obvious and repeated all the bad news that has been reported lately--the exuberance of the 1990's is over and Americans today are extraordinarily cautious with their finances.  Really, Sherlock?  You don't say.  Thompson reports on the economy in the same way she reports on the environment--repeating the same things over and over.  Like a student who writes all her papers right from Wikipedia. 
***Next, Nancy Snyderman reported the breaking news that head injuries and concussions are bad for kids.  Really?  I would never have guessed.  The story was centered around Pop Warner football because any football story--even one for kids--helps promote Sunday Night Football on NBC.
***After that, Brian reported that Lindy Chamberlain was finally cleared of the 1980 death of her daughter.  Chamberlain had always maintained that a dingo killed her baby, but Australian authorities suspected that Chamberlain was responsible.  So how did Brian begin this story?  With a clip of Meryl Streep portraying Chamberlain in the film "A Cry In The Dark".  Now, there must be hundreds of hours of video of the actual Lindy Chamberlain, but Brian and his brain trust decided to lead with Meryl Streep.  The reason is obvious: Lindy Chamberlain doesn't generate ratings, but Meryl Streep does.  Brian and his producers constantly force movie and TV clips into news stories because they boost the broadcast's ratings.  And this isn't the first time they used a movie clip when actual news footage was available.  They did the same thing in the 12/18/10 story about Amelia Earhart possibly surviving her plane crash.  There is no shortage of actual Earhart footage, but the producers inserted a gratuitous 20-second clip of Hilary Swank playing Earhart in the movie "Amelia".  Well, why show footage of real people when you can show Meryl Streep or Hilary Swank?  After all, they have five Oscars between them!
***More breaking news from Brian: Max Page needs heart surgery.  You may be wondering, "Who the hell is Max Page?"  Don't feel bad.  Most people were wondering that.  Page is the seven-year-old actor who played a pint-sized Darth Vader in a 2011 Super Bowl Volkswagen commercial.  And Brian felt that this story met the criteria for appearing on a network news broadcast.  Maybe if Brad Pitt or George Clooney needed heart surgery it would be newsworthy (newsworthy or not, Brian would certainly report it).  But Max Page?  Give me a break.  There are two reasons why Brian reported this story.  First, it allowed Brian to show a gratuitous clip from the Volkswagen ad.  Brian always likes to thank NBC's sponsors by showing their ads and products on Nightly News.  Second (and most important), it allowed Brian to insert himself into the story.  The story included footage of Brian clowning around with Max at some event they both attended.  Any story that allows Brian to show footage of himself with a celebrity (even a D-list celebrity like Max Page) automatically makes it onto the broadcast.  Brian chooses stories based not on their news value, but based on whether he can include himself in the story.  Because he is a huge narcissist with a massive fucking ego.  Everything has to be about HIM.  Could you ever imagine Scott Pelley or Charles Gibson choosing to report a story because it allows them to include footage of themselves?  But then again, the comparison is unfair.  Pelley and Gibson are journalists, while Brian is a self-promoting carnival barker and snake oil salesman.  He has the biggest ego on NBC--and that's a network that also includes Donald Trump.  Yes, Brian, we are all very impressed that you once met Max Page.  Probably more impressed than Max was after meeting you.
***I think the final story was about George H.W. Bush.  I say "I think" because it was so boring that I kept dozing off.  The story was "reported" by none other than Jenna Bush Hager, the President's granddaughter.  Hager is yet another presidential scion (or relative) that Brian and his NBC cohorts have collected over the years like so many stamps or baseball cards.  This list also includes Chelsea Clinton and Ron Reagan (on MSNBC), and used to include Maria Shriver (and may yet again).  Obviously, Hager was given a cushy on-air broadcasting job because of her name, not her talent (see also Russert, Luke).  Pres. Bush talked about his socks, about his grandchildren, about growing old and about pretending not to hear people talk.  Then he read an excerpt from a letter he wrote to his children.  Then Hager cried.  At least she understands what's expected of her.  Hager's interview with her grandfather was so boring it was like watching tsunami debris dry.  But I guess I can't really blame her.  She did the best she could.  And this story was clearly meant for a lighter-fare broadcast like "The Today Show" rather than Nightly News (although "Today" is only slightly more frivolous than Nightly News).  What a waste of three minutes.  By the way, this story was titled "All In The Family" because the Nightly News producers make a practice of naming their stories after movies, TV shows, songs or albums.  When you're unimaginative and lack originality (like the Nightly News producers) you have to steal titles from the mainstream media.  Also, it keeps the viewers engaged by showing them recognizable titles.  Some other recent examples: "The Rising", "Coming To America", "Moonstruck" (three times), "Risky Business" (four times), "Modern Family", "A Star Is Born", "Ring Of Fire", "The Natural" and "Father Knows Best".  And that's only in the past two months.  Here's a movie title that would describe Brian and his producers: "Dumb and Dumber".
Wed. June 13--During his intro at the top of the broadcast, Brian said, "The Sandusky trial--the interview from our 'Rock Center' broadcast that was center stage today...."  Later, the story about the Sandusky trial contained a 32-second clip from Bob Costas's interview with Sandusky on "Rock Center".  Of course.  Because the news is always about Brian and his TV shows.  Is there anyone on television more self-obsessed than Brian?  No.
***A story about Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase was titled "Risky Business".  Another news story with a movie title.  This is the fifth time in the past month that a JPMorgan Chase story was given that title.  As usual, Brian and his producers assign titles that are the names of movies, TV shows, songs or albums as a way of pandering to the viewers' thirst for pop culture stories.  A lot of viewers probably thought they would see clips of Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay.
***A story about a new sleeping pill included 20 seconds of video of narcoleptic dogs.  Another way that Brian and his producers pander to viewers is by filling their news stories with animal videos.  After all, what's cuter than narcoleptic dogs?  Here's how correspondent/shill Robert Bazell ended his story: "But if it does prove safe in the long run, it will be because man's best friend offered a big clue to help a sleepless nation."  I'm surprised that idiotic closing wasn't accompanied by the "Lassie" theme music.  Why not skip the news story entirely and just show the narcoleptic dog videos?
***Here's how Brian began his obituary for mobster Henry Hill: "Just so we all agree here, it's never good to glorify a mobster."  And then he spends the next 55 seconds doing just that.  He told us that Hill was "superbly played by Ray Liotta in the Scorsese masterpiece...."  Since when is it the job of a news reader to offer his personal opinions about films?  Well, if you're Brian Williams, then it's your job.  Because Brian thinks of himself as an arbiter of pop culture and never misses a chance to let us know how much he knows about films or music.  Or anything else.
***Hey--guess what?  Tsunami debris is washing ashore in the U.S.  And Brian plans to do a story on every single piece of it.  This night, he reported the third Nightly News story about the floating dock that washed ashore in Oregon.  He also told us thar FedEx was returning some of the debris to Japan.  He said this because it gave him a chance to say that FedEx was "channeling the spirit of Tom Hanks" from the movie "Cast Away".  As usual, every Nightly News story boils down to a movie reference.
***The final story was a "Making A Difference" piece about an organization that encourages kids with cancer to take photographs.  That's nice, but it's not news.  This was really just another Nightly News story whose goal was to exploit kids with cancer.  They run these these types of emotionally heart-wrenching stories frequently because they're popular with viewers.  So kids with cancer equals good ratings for Brian Williams.  He must be so proud of himself.  At the end of this story, the idiotic Chris Jansing called one kid's photo "stunning".  Stunning?  Really?  Maybe Jansing should become a photography critic because she's certainly no journalist.
***Also on this day, bombings in Iraq killed at least 90 Shi'ites.  But Brian ignored this story because foreign news gets crappy ratings.  But at least we know all about tsunami debris, narcoleptic dogs and kids with cancer.  Great job, Brian.
Thurs. June 14--The lead story about Obama and Romney contained a double flag during Brian's intro.  In addition to the ever-present waving flag animation behind Brian, a box over his left shoulder showed the President standing in front of two large flags.  Brian and his producers make a point of putting as many flags as possible on the broadcast each night because Nightly News is obviously the most patriotic news show on the air.
***Later, we saw a story about a woman who has three daughters who need bone marrow transplants.  Technically, this may not be a kids-with-cancer story, but the premise is basically the same--using sick kids to pull at the viewers' heartstrings and boost Brian's ratings.  This story was a shorter version of a story that would air later that night on "Rock Center", so Brian is also using sick kids to try and boost his meager "Rock Center" ratings.  He actually ended the story with this shameless plug: "And we urge all of you to join us tonight...on 'Rock Center' at 10:00, 9:00 central time."  He urges us.  How pathetic--begging people to watch his lame show.  By the way, his desperate plea didn't work.  That night's "Rock Center" got a measly .8 rating and a 2 share in the important 18-to-49 demographic group.  For the second consecutive week, "Rock Center" actually managed to lose viewers from NBC's 9 PM show, the poorly-reviewed Canadian import "Saving Hope".  Maybe Brian should change the name of "Rock Center" to "No Hope of Being Saved".
***"Lookout Below!"  That was the title of the next story.  An asteroid is passing by Earth, although there is zero chance of a collision.  No matter--Brian reports every single story that has to do with outer space.  After all, it's his broadcast and he can report whatever the hell he wants, right?  Right.  Here's an idea: How about reporting when an asteroid is going to hit us, not when it's going to miss us. 
***Now it was time for a very important story--an update on Max Page's condition.  As Brian told us on Tuesday, Max Page (a seven-year-old kid who played Darth Vader in a Volkswagen commercial) needed heart surgery.  Great news--the surgery went well!  I certainly hope Brian will keep us appraised of Max's condition every night on Nightly News.
***Hold the presses--there's something even more important than Max Page's condition.  Here's how Brian told it: "New York City officials are reporting an outbreak just about 200 yards from our studio here in New York.  It's an outbreak of fever--oh, that would be Bieber Fever.  The Beebs will be performing live on the plaza tomorrow morning on 'Today' and already tonight it looks like a tiny Woodstock.  The true believers have been waiting already for days."  Seriously?  This is a news report on a network newscast?  There are so many things wrong with this.  First of all, Brian seems way too excited about a Justin Bieber concert.  And a grown man referring to him as "the Beebs"--well, that's just creepy.  And, of course, this was all just a weaselly promo for "The Today Show" (the story ended with a full-screen promo card promoting Bieber's "Today" appearance).  So the asteroid story, the Max Page story and the Justin Bieber story together took up more than a minute.  These are the most deserving news stories Brian could come up with to fill that time?  When is the FCC finally going to shut down Nightly News and ban Brian from ever working in news again?
***The broadcast ended with a 2:05 story about Sue Falsone.  Is she an ascending politician?  Is she working on a cure for a rare disease?  Is she helping to fight hunger in Africa?  No--she's the head athletic trainer for the L.A. Dodgers baseball team.  And Brian feels that this qualifies as news?  Don't be silly.  Brian doesn't report stories because they're newsworthy, he reports stories because they boost his ratings.  Remember, a narcissist does things for his own benefit, not for the benefit of others.  Before the final commercial break, a promo for this story was accompanied by the Doors' "L.A. Woman" because playing classic rock songs is a great way to help the ratings.  And the story was titled "A League of Her Own"--clearly meant to evoke the Tom Hanks-Geena Davis movie "A League of Their Own".
***Also on this day, British Prime Minister David Cameron testified before the Leveson Inquiry, which is investigating the Rupert Murdoch phone hacking scandal.  Naturally, Brian didn't report this story because he only reports on David Cameron when he leaves his daughter in a pub.  Just like he only reports on German Chancellor Angela Merkel when someone spills beer on her.  Because Brian is a sleazebag who is completely devoid of integrity, morality or ethics.
Fri. June 15--The lead story was Pete Williams's report on President Obama's amnesty for some illegal aliens.  As always, Pete Williams is my hero.  Every time Brian introduces him with a treacly "Good evening, Pete", Pete just ignores him and jumps right into his story.  Obviously, Pete Williams is a professional who isn't interested in exchanging idiotic pleasantries with an egocentric anchor who is desperate to convince the viewers that the correspondents really like him.  You go, Pete!
***After that, David Gregory was trotted out to spend two minutes "analyzing" the situation that Pete Williams had just told us all about.  Translation: His appearance was just a silly promo for Sunday's "Meet The Press".
***As Brian introduced Richard Engel's report on the possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood winning the Egyptian election, he said this: "Richard, I have to say when YOU AND I were in Tahrir Square in the thick of it we knew this was a possibility."  You and I.  Because the news is always about Brian.  And I love how Brian tries to put himself in the same category as Richard Engel--like they're both cut from the same cloth.  Engel is a respected journalist who travels around the world reporting important stories.  Brian is a cuddly house cat, a news reader who occasionally leaves the studio to spray his scent on news stories long after people like Engel have alreday done the hard work.  Brian just shows up in places like Tahrir Square and says, "Wow--look at this!"  And "in the thick of it"?  How many armed body guards did Brian have with him in Tahrir Square?  And here it is 16 months later and Brian is still shamelessly self-promoting by showing old video of himself (as he did on May 23) and making references to the few days he spent in one of Cairo's luxury hotels.  That's just sad.
***Next, we got a story abour the Watergate break-in because reporting 40-year-old news is more important to Brian than reporting current news.  Well, at least the situation is improving.  On June 6, Brian reported a breaking news story about the Lincoln assassination.  At least with Watergate, he's moved into the 20th century.
***Brian took 30 seconds to bid goodbye to long-time WNBC anchor Sue Simmons, who was forced to retire this week.  "And those of US who have been so proud to work with her wish her nothing but the very best."  Oh I get it.  This wasn't really a story about Sue Simmons, it was a story about Brian having worked with her.  That sounds about right.
***The final story was an idiotic "Making A Difference" piece (that's actually redundant) about a doctor who actually listens to her patients.  Wow--I guess she's the only doctor in the whole country who does that.  And Nightly News managed to find her.  What a stupid way to waste 2:20 of valuable news time.
***Here's how Brian signed off from the broadcast: "Happy Father's Day to all my fellow dads and let's remember those serving overseas who can't be here with their families."  Really?  Since when is it the job of a news reader to tell the viewers to remember a particular group?  It's obvious that Brian's fawning obsequious teen crush on anyone in a military uniform makes it impossible for him to objectively report on the U.S. Armed Forces.  And "all my fellow dads"?  Once again, Brian has to make it all about HIM.  He couldn't just say "to all the dads out there", could he?  Of course not.  Because it's always about him.  Always.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Brian Williams Shamelessly Protects Tim Poe And "America's Got Talent"

Anyone who watches Nightly News knows that one of Brian Williams's main objectives is to aggressively promote NBC's sports and entertainment programming.  On Sundays during football season, the final Nightly News story of the evening is almost always about football, in order to promote NBC's Sunday Night Football, which airs right after Nightly News.  But the story isn't just about football in general--it's about one of the specific teams or players that will be playing that night on NBC.  It's a calculated (and sleazy) way to keep the Nightly News audience tuned in to football, which is always the highest-rated program on NBC each week.  And every two years Nightly News turns into a blatant promotional vehicle for the Olympics.  During the 2010 Vancouver Games (including the two weeks before and after the Games), Nightly News aired 160 minutes of Olympic-related stories as a shameless way to boost viewership for their Olympic broadcasts.  And Brian constantly uses Nightly News to promote NBC entertainment shows like "Saturday Night Live", "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon", "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno", "30 Rock" and others by inserting gratuitous clips of those shows during news stories.  One NBC show that has enjoyed Nightly News's promotional muscle over the years is "America's Got Talent".  On 8/11/10, Nightly News aired a 30-second clip of "America's Got Talent" featuring a 10-year-old contestant named Jackie Evancho.  And the next night, NBC News correspondent/shill Kristen Welker shamelessly went even further.  She did a two-and-a-half minute "news story" about Evancho, "America's newest singing sensation" (to use Ann Curry's words) who was again appearing on "America's Got Talent".  Here's how Welker began her story: "America couldn't believe its ears when this very big and seemingly seasoned soprano voice came out of a very small girl on NBC's 'America's Got Talent'".  That's not a news story, it's a promotional spot.  A few months later (12/14/10), Nightly News aired a story about Susan Boyle and Jackie Evancho which also included clips from "America's Got Talent".  And most recently, on the 5/14/12 Nightly News, Brian reported 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 a ridiculous 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...."  So Brian used an idiotic story about "Britain's Got Talent" as a way to sleazily promote the new season of "America's Got Talent".  It would seem that Brian reports every bit of news about "America's Got Talent", right?  Wrong.

Here's a story we won't hear Brian report: This past week, an "America's Got Talent" contestant named Tim Poe lied about his military service record in order to sway the judges and make his story seem more heartwrenching and sympathetic to viewers.  He falsely claimed to have suffered a brain injury as a result of being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan in 2009.  He also gave the AGT producers a photo purportedly of himself in Afghanistan that actually turned out to be a photo of another soldier.  But after the U.S. military said there was no record of Poe ever being wounded in Afghanistan, Poe admitted lying about his record.  Brian Williams will never report this story because he doesn't report bad news about AGT.  His job is to protect NBC shows, not to give out bad news about them.

However, you would think that Brian would have a special interest in reporting this story.  On the 2/22/12 Nightly News, Brian reported a story he called "Stolen Valor".  It was about people who lie about their military service (either making up a record that never existed or embellishing an existing record).  Brian always pretends to care about military veterans because that stance brings him good ratings.  So he seemed pretty disgusted with people who lie about their military service.  The "Stolen Valor" story ran for more than three minutes, including a segment with Brian talking to Medal of Honor recipient Jack Jacobs.  So now Brian is faced with an actual case of "Stolen Valor" taking place right in his own backyard--on an NBC entertainment show!  Yet he still refuses to mention the Tim Poe situation because it would bring negative publicity to "America's Got Talent".  That's ridiculous considering that virtually every other media outlet has already reported the story, so most people already know about it.  But that's Brian.  No matter how much negative publicity is out there about Tim Poe, his lips are sealed.  It was the same way in March when NBC News was found to have doctored some of the George Zimmerman 911 tapes.  Other media outlets reported it, but not Brian.  In fact, he still hasn't said a word about it.  As if burying his head in the sand and ignoring the story will make it go away.  That didn't work for the Zimmerman story, and it won't work for the Tim Poe story.  Brian Williams isn't a journalist--he's a sleazy hypocrite.  A spineless weasel.  A pathetic snake oil salesman.  He isn't interested in reporting news, he's only interested in promoting and protecting NBC shows (and advertisers--but that's a subject for a whole other blog entry).  This is why Nightly News has no credibility as a news source.  Everyone knows that Brian's goals are to promote himself and his shows (Nightly News and "Rock Center"), promote NBC sports and entertainment shows, and to aggressively promote and protect NBC Universal's sponsors.  When is the FCC going to force NBC to remove the word "News" from Nightly News?  Better yet, when are they going to shut down Nightly News for good?  Let's hope it's soon.  The American public deserves to be rid of this self-promotional pretend news show.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Brian Williams & NBC Nightly News Show Notes: 6/2/12 Through 6/8/12 (Updated--Full Week)

What a great week it was on Nightly News.  The operative phrase was "Diamond Jubilee".  Over and over and over.  Here's what you may have missed:

Sat. June 2--At the end of a story about wildfires in New Mexico, Miguel Almaguer was standing in front of a waving American flag.  Because...Nightly News loves America more than any other newscast!
***There was "Wild Weather" in the mid-Atlantic states!  Imagine that.  Nightly News spends more time each night on the weather than local news stations.  I guess since NBC paid $3.5 billion for The Weather Channel, they have to make sure to use it.  Every night.
***Did you know it's Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee?  Well, it is and for the second day in a row, the Nightly News producers are making damn well sure that we know all about it.
***Congratulations to the Nightly News producers!  A story about Obama, Romney and the economy featured commentary from political analyst Stuart Rothenberg.  And the producers spelled his name correctly!  Apparently, that's quite a feat because on the 5/10/12 broadcast, they spelled his last name as "Ruthenberg".  So this represents real progress.  Keep up the great work!
***The next story was titled "Cancer Breakthrough?"  Well is it or isn't it?  Why are stories so often given questions as titles?  Just tell us the damn answer.  Well, it's a lot easier to ask questions than answer them, so the producers are obviously just being lazy.
***In a story about Johan Santana's no-hitter, Lester Holt told us about a "spectacular" catch in left field.  I wish I had a dollar for every time a Nightly News anchor said "spectacular" or "stunning".  I'd have a lot of dollars.
***Lester spent 25 seconds reading the obituary for actress Kathryn Joosten.  No offense, but does this really belong on a network news broadcast?  Isn't there any real news to report?
***Did you know it's Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee?  Just in case you forgot the story they did 18 minutes ago, we were treated to another QE II story.  So that's a total of 4:45 that Nightly News spent on Queen Elizabeth on one broadcast.  What an appalling violation of journalistic ethics.  During this story, we saw the idiotic scene of Stephanie Gosk playing with Corgi pups because they are the Queen's favorite breed.  So Gosk was playing with actual Royal Corgis?  No, they were just run-of-the-mill rentals.  But the Nightly News producers always make sure to include animals in news stories as often as possible because that boosts the ratings.  This is what passes for news on Nightly News.  Also, the story included a photo of the Queen with John F. Kennedy because JFK is still very popular and also helps bring in high ratings.  Didn't they have any footage of JFK playing with Corgis?
Sun. June 3--Lester began the broadcast by teasing us with a story about the "spectacular armada on the Thames" to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
***We learned that George Zimmerman was back in jail because he and his wife mislead the judge about how much money they had.  Interesting.  Zimmerman gets thrown back in jail for deceiving the court, yet NBC News was never penalized for deceiving the public when they altered Zimmerman's 911 tapes back in March.  If Zimmerman has to go to jail, I think some NBC News producers should also have to go.  Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for Brian Williams to apologize for the doctored tapes, but something tells me I'm going to be waiting a long time.
***During a story about presidential politics, a clip from "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" is credited only as "This Week".  The Nightly News producers regularly refuse to mention the name of their rivals because they're scared that NBC will lose ratings. 
***This was a perfect time to show a two-and-a-half minute story about the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.  Four QE II stories in three days.  Responsible journalism is what Nightly News stands for.
***A story about a new breast cancer drug was virtually identical to a story Nightly News ran two days earlier.  This story featured clips and interviews with Duke University's Dr. Kimberly Blackwell and cancer survivor Fern Saitowitz that had already been aired in the Friday story.  Where do the Nightly News producers get the nerve to show us a rerun story only two days after originally airing it?
***Here's what Lester said before the second commercial break: "We're back in a moment with a stunning announcement from an Olympic champion."  So what was this "stunning" announcement?  Gymnast Shawn Johnson said that she was retiring.  I would hardly call that "stunning".  I can just imagine Lester at breakfast with his wife: "This is a stunning omelet, honey, and these home fries are spectacular!"
***A discussion with CNBC's Mandy Drury about Wall St. and the economy was really just a 90-second promo for a CNBC special airing later that night.  Not very tactful, but then again at Nightly News, tact doesn't matter--only ratings matter.  I had never heard of Drury before this but a Google search of her name revealed that she has a penchant for wearing skimpy, cleavage-baring blouses to go along with her bad dye job.
***The final story of the night was a "Making A Difference" piece about a twelve-year-old boy who has built a successful recycling business.  Um...okay.  I cannot for the life of me imagine how this qualifies as news, but obviously the Nightly News producers are not interested in presenting news.  They're interested in presenting garbage that gets good ratings.  This story was reported by Kevin Tibbles, who has also reported stories about Pringles snack chips and Barbie's 53rd birthday.  I hope the Peabody evaluation committee was paying attention to this one.
Mon. June 4--The lead story about lax security practices among TSA employees featured commentary from security consultant Johnathan Tal.  Unfortunately, the idiot Nightly News producers misspelled his first name as "Jonathan".  I guess they could have logged onto his website to get the correct spelling, but...wait a second, I'm laughing too hard to type any more.  Nightly News producers checking a website for correct spelling?  That's a good one!
***As Brian introduced the next story about New Mexico wildfires, he said, "NBC's Miguel Almaguer starts us off tonight from the front lines in New Mexico."  Actually, this was the second story of the night, so Almaguer wasn't exactly "starting us off".  Poor Brian.  He's just confused.  And just like on Saturday, Almaguer was standing with a waving American flag visible over his right shoulder because if you don't love the flag, you're a freakin' commie, goddammit!
***Speaking of the flag, as Brian introduced the next story about the Wisconsin Governor's recall vote, there was a giant animated American flag waving behind him.  I guess because this story took place in the United States it deserves to begin with a waving flag.  It's pathetic and desperate how Brian and his producers exploit the flag for ratings every chance they get.  Why doesn't Brian just wear one of those trucker's caps with a U.S. flag on it?  In this story, Stuart Rothenberg's name was once again spelled correctly, so the producers are on a roll.  Except for the Johnathan Tal screw-up.
***A story about new cancer drugs featured old footage of a 15-year-old leukemia patient named Sonali Verma.  This footage was first shown during a 2/13/12 Nightly News story about the shortage of the drug methotrexate.  But apparently, the producers have no qualms about continuing to exploit this poor young girl by rerunning footage of her in her hospital bed.  The Nightly News producers love to show footage of kids with cancer because sad stories like these tap into viewers' emotions and generate great ratings.
***OMG!  Prince Philip is in the hospital with a bladder infection.  Will he be able to attend the Queen's Diamond Jubilee?  Stay tuned to find out.  At the beginning of the broadcast, Brian teased this story by saying, "A member of the Royal Family is hospitalized."  Of course, he didn't tell us then who it was.  Obviously, he wanted us to think it was Will, Kate or the Queen.  That's how Brian operates.  Instead of providing facts, he teases us with incomplete information so we'll keep watching.  Sleazy.
***Here's what Brian said during a story about the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway: "It was just six months after Pearl Harbor and while our naval fleet was outnumbered four to one, we had great code breakers and brave pilots and the U.S. destroyed four Japanese aircraft carriers and more than 200 planes in that battle which then changed the course of the war."  That sounds like the sappy, cheesy voice-over that would accompany a documentary on the Military Channel.  News flash for Brian: The Japanese had great code breakers and brave pilots, too.  Ever hear of Kamikazes, moron?
***Brian took more than a minute to read an obituary for Joe Haggar, the clothing manufacturer.  The obit included a conversation between Haggar and Lyndon Johnson as the President was ordering pants.  It sounded like something from a Woody Allen story.  This is what merits a minute of coverage on Nightly News.
***Guess what story ended the broadcast.  If you said the Queen's Jubilee, you'd be right.  This 2:45 story showed footage from a concert that included Annie Lennox, Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.  So if you take footage of the Royal Family and then add footage of famous performers...that's a recipe for ratings success.  If only there were some Corgis in there as well, I think Brian would have come in his pants.
Tues. June 5--At the conclusion of his story about the Wisconsin recall vote, Ron Allen was standing in front of a giant flag.  Just another attempt to use hyper-patriotism as a way to pander to the viewers.
***Next, Brian spent 4:20 interviewing Bill Clinton.  Brian began the interview by asking Clinton about the headline "Bill Clinton Out Of Control On 2012".  Except Brian misquoted the headline.  He read it as "Bill Clinton Out Of Control In 2012" (I added the italics for emphasis).  So Brian can't even manage to correctly quote a headline and we're supposed to trust him to interview a former president?  He has zero credibility.  Instead of asking probing, relevant questions, he asked Clinton what he thinks of Facebook.  I was hoping Clinton would say, "You're an idiot and I'm unfriending you."  Brian has no skill as an interviewer.  His goal is not to challenge his interview subject, it's not even to elicit information.  It's to ingratiate himself with his subject and to ask easy questions that will make viewers like the interview, rather than learn from it.  If you need any further proof of this, watch Brian's 11/13/07 Nightly News "interview" with Chrysler's #2 executive at the time, Jim Press.  Brian's only concerns are appearing to be Press's pal and feed him softball questions about how great Chrysler cars and trucks are.  It was an infomercial, not an interview.  Brian billed the Clinton interview as a "one on one", clearly meaning to imply that it was an exclusive.  In truth, Clinton gave lots of interviews that day, including one to CBS' Scott Pelley, who asked much more pertinent questions.
***Brian then told us about the Queen's "spectacular" Diamond Jubilee.  I've noticed that everything is either "stunning" or "spectacular" to Brian.  He has an extremely limited vocabulary.  I guess that's what happens when you flunk out of college.  This is the seventh story about the Queen's Jubilee that Nightly News has done in five days.  Over that period, they wasted an appalling 17 minutes on this story while ignoring other, more relevant, news.  But of course, Brian's goal is not to enlighten the viewers, but rather to present stories that will cause people to tune in.  Higher ratings generate more ad revenue for NBC and that is Brian's ultimate objective.
***Brian then read an obituary for Herb Reed of the Platters.  The Platters had lots of hits in the 1950's, but I can think of better ways than this to fill a newscast.  But of course, Nightly News isn't a newscast, it's a pop culture-cast.  This was just an excuse for Brian to play some doo-wop music and appeal to the viewers' sense of nostalgia.  After all, what's more interesting--news or pop culture?  Would you rather hear an economic forecast or "Only You"?
***After that, he told us about Sheryl Crow's benign brain tumor.  She's a pop celebrity, so of course Brian reported this story as if it was real news.
***Next, Brian took 35 seconds to tell us about a high school track athlete who helped carry a tired rival across the finish line.  This is just idiotic.  Is there no depth to which he will not stoop in order to dumb down the news for mass-market ratings-boosting consumption?  Here's how he began the story: "It was an act of valor and selflessness the likes of which you see in a war movie...."  Pass the barf bag, please.
***Because of Brian's personal obsession with all things NASA, he reports every move made by any of the space shuttles.  Today he spent 33 seconds telling us about minor damage incurred by the Shuttle Enterprise as it was being transported to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.  Isn't it great to have your own news broadcast so you can as much time as you want each day reporting on things you personally like (instead of, let's say, actual news)?  Funny thing--I never hear Scott Pelley doing that.  But then again, Pelley is a journalist, not a self-promoting carnival barker.
***The final story was--drumroll, please--about something Brian likes.  He's infatuated with anything that happens in outer space, so that means he reports every one of these stories to us as if they were important news.  He spent 2:20 telling us about the Venus Transit across the face of the Sun.  Most other newscasts spent about 30 seconds on this, but then most other newscasts aren't anchored by egomaniacal narcissists.  During the broadcast, Brian read three promos for this story--totalling 25 seconds--including a promo that played the Shocking Blue song "Venus".  Wow--the Platters, Sheryl Crow, Shocking Blue--this wasn't a newscast, it was a top-40 radio show.
Wed. June 6--The lead story was about pension and service cuts in local governments.  There were lots of shots of fire trucks because Brian is obsessed with shiny red fire trucks and big, beefy firefighters.  And the news is always about what Brian likes.
***As Brian introduced the next story about the Wisconsin recall vote, there was the obligatory animated flag waving behind him.  I guess if something happens in the U.S., it requires a waving flag to pander to the viewers' sense of rah-rah, gung-ho superpatriotism.
***I almost fell out of my chair laughing when Brian said this: "If you join us regularly here then you know we've been tracking the progress of that Japanese tsunami debris making its way here to the U.S. west coast...."  Really?  You don't say.  Come to think of it, I have noticed that Nightly News reports on every single piece of tsunami debris, and now Brian is actually bragging about it.  This time, it was a floating dock that washed up in Oregon.  I suspect that this isn't the last story we'll see about this particular piece of debris.
***Stop the presses!  Breaking News--Abraham Lincoln was assassinated!  Brian presented a 2:10 story about a doctor's account of the Lincoln assassination because it's much easier (and cheaper) to report 147-year-old news than to report current news.  Coming soon to Nightly News: The North wins the Civil War.  Naturally, as Brian introduced this story, an animated flag was again waving behind him.  Doesn't he ever get tired of shamelessly pandering for ratings?  Apparently not.
***Because Brian did not adequately exploit Sheryl Crow's brain tumor the previous night, he brought us another--much longer--story about it.  Tonight he spent two-and-a-half minutes on a "follow-up" story.  Definition of a Nightly News follow-up story: When the NBC News research department informs Brian and his producers that a previous story had high ratings, they immediately do another story on the subject to milk those ratings even more.  But it wasn't enough for Brian to merely exploit Crow's condition.  He also had to humiliate her by showing concert footage of her forgetting the lines to one of her songs.  I wonder how Brian would feel if a brain tumor caused him to forget his lines on the air and some scumbag leech played that footage over and over.  Expect many more stories about Crow and her tumor in the coming months.
***Guess what?  It's time for another story about the Shuttle Enterprise.  I'll let Brian tell it: "The Shuttle Enterprise has landed tonight after an amazing final journey up the Hudson River on a barge past the concrete canyons, the New York City skyline, Statue of Liberty and finally hoisted by crane onto its new home--the flight deck of the USS Intrepid the World War II-era aircraft carrier--it is now a museum.  The Enterprise, of course, was retired along with the entire NASA shuttle program last summer.  We put more of the stunning images of this day and the shuttle's Hudson River journey on our website...."  Amazing.  Stunning.  How about a little less amazing & stunning and a little more news & information?  That will never happen, of course, because news & information doesn't get big ratings.
***The final story of the broadcast was hilarious.  It was a "Making A Difference" piece--reported by none other than Brian Williams himself--about a NYC school called the Harlem Village Academies.  I don't know why Brian chose to report this story--maybe his kids went there, maybe he thinks it's good for his image--but I'm sure he must have had some ulterior motive.  Most "Making A Difference" stories run in the 2:15-2:20 range, but because this one was reported by King Brian, it was given a whopping 4:10.  And Brian made sure that he was on-screen for more than a minute during this story--so he personally hogged more than a quarter of the story's total air time.  None of the teachers or students were given nearly that much screen time.  But, of course, the story wasn't meant to be about the teachers or students, it was meant to be about Brian Williams and how wonderful and magnanimous he is for bringing the school to our attention.  I hope he didn't injure his shoulder from repeatedly patting himself on the back over this.  I know that I injured an abdominal muscle from laughing so hard at his narcissistic egomania.  My favorite part of the story was when Brian condescendingly talked to the students in a desperate attempt to make himself seem like a cool adult who was really just like them, only older.  I'm pretty sure none of the kids bought his sad self-promoting act.
Thurs. June 7--Whenever Nightly News has a few minutes to fill, they do another story on climate change where they repeat the same information over and over from previous reports.  And there's no one better at wasting time than the idiotic Anne Thompson who doesn't really seem to know much about anything.  Thank goodness for Wikipedia.  This story wasted 2:20 of valuable news time on previously-reported gobbledygook.  And just for good measure, they threw in ten seconds of bear videos because bears are cute--and cute animals help to boost the ratings.  Well done.
***Once again, Brian bragged about how much coverage he gives to tsunami debris washing up on the west coast.  This night he said, "As you know, we've been tracking the tsunami debris from the Japanese earthquake just now arriving on the shores of the Pacific Northwest...."  Oh--I hadn't noticed.  Except for the dozen or so tsunami debris stories Nightly News has already done.  A few tsunami debris stories are okay, but Nightly News has done them ad nauseam.  So Brian is actually boasting about how much time he wastes on silly stories.  This time, it was a floating dock that landed in Oregon.  So how many stories do you suppose Nightly News will report on the floating dock?  Stay tuned to find out.
***Great news--it's time for another alarmist medical story.  Nightly News does these stories all the time.  They called this one "Cancer Risk?" (of CT scans to children).  So don't ever allow your child to have a CT scan--even if he or she really needs one.  Here are some of the other ridiculous alarmist medical stories Nightly News has presented recently: "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), "Measles Outbreak" (4/19/12), "Hidden Hazard" (of kids swallowing batteries--5/14/12), the danger of the Flesh-Eating Virus (5/16/12), the "Health Risk" and "Hidden Risk" of antibiotics (5/17/12), the "Health Risk" and "Hidden Danger" of Hepatitis C (5/18/12), the "Cancer Risk?" (of sleep apnea--5/22/12) and the "Heart Risk" posed by calcium supplements (5/26/12).  Do you see a pattern here?  "Health Risk", "Hidden Risk", "Hidden Danger"--they use the same stupid alarmist titles over and over again.  Some of them contain question marks because that's a way to avoid legal action (the Nightly News producers are not making an accusation, they're simply asking a question).  These stories take small-risk situations (lipstick and cruises--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.  These stories are just ratings stunts.
***Immediately after the "Cancer Risk?" story, we were shown another alarmist story titled "Risky Behavior".  I guess the Sesame Street words for the day are "Risk" and Risky".  This story was about all the kooky things those crazy kids are doing these days.  Kids are smoking, drinking, taking drugs, having sex and texting while driving.  That's really some breaking news.
***Speaking of breaking news, Brian took 30 seconds to tell us about the death of Eugene Ferkauf, who started the Korvette's chain of discount stores in the 1950's.  Well I can certainly understand why Brian took time out to report this important obituary.
***The broadcast ended with a story about a falsely-accused man who, after being released from prison, got a try-out with the Seattle Seahawks.  It's obvious why Brian chose to report this story--because it has to do with the NFL.  One of Brian's main responsibilities on Nightly News is promoting NBC sports programs, and Sunday Night Football is always NBC's highest-rated program.  Remember--the NFL season begins in less than three months!  By the way, this story also included 24 seconds of Jay Leno footage because Brian's other main goal is promoting NBC entertainment shows.
***Here's how Brian signed off for the night: "And a reminder to please join us this evening for 'Rock Center' in its new home at 10 eastern, 9 central from this very studio."  How dignified--a network news anchor begging people to watch his other show.  Unfortunately, "Rock Center" didn't fare so well in the ratings.  It got a measly .7 rating (and a 2 share) among the important 18-49 demographic.  "Rock Center" actually managed to lose viewers from NBC's 9 PM show--the poorly-rated Canadian summer time-filler "Saving Hope".  That's just sad.  Brian should really wake up and smell the coffee--people don't like him or his stupid "Rock Center" show.  Take the hint.  Put "Rock Center" out to pasture once and for all.  The NBC execs would be grateful--they only keep that clunker on the schedule as a favor to Brian because they want to keep their "news star" happy.
Fri. June 8--During a story about the economic problems in Spain and Greece, commentary from financial analyst David Buik was accompanied by the on-screen logos of Apple, Intel, General Motors, Ford and McDonalds.  This sad display was just a way for the producers to shoehorn in a bunch of gratuitous product promotions for some of NBC's best advertisers.
***After that, we saw 45 seconds of "Wild Weather".  There's always wild weather somewhere in the U.S.  Does Nightly News really have to show us all of it every night?
***Here's how Brian introduced the story about I'll Have Another being scratched from the Belmont Stakes: "Now to the story people have been talking about all day--the news that broke a lot of hearts and scuttled a lot of betting plans today."  I didn't hear anyone talking about this.  I don't know anyone who even cared.  Then again, I don't hang around race tracks or OTB's with a bunch of degenerate gambling addicts.  You know whose hearts were broken?  The executives at NBC.  They were planning on big ratings for the Belmont if I'll Have Another was vying for the Triple Crown, but without the chance of a Triple Crown winner, their ratings could be heading into the toilet.  I'm sure the NBC weasels would have preferred to see the trainer keep the horse in the race, even if it meant endangering its life.  They would rather see the horse break a leg and have to be destroyed than suffer a ratings drop.  Too bad they didn't get their wish.  This story was reported by Anne Thompson.  Finally--the Nightly News producers found a story that Thompson wasn't too stupid to cover.  Talking about a nice horsey was just about right for her shallow intellectual capacity.  There was only one problem--I had a hard time telling the difference between Thompson and the horse.  I think the horse was the one that didn't dye its brown hair a hideous shade of blonde.
***Later, Brian showed us some YouTube video from the Middle East of what he wanted us to think was a UFO.  Turns out it was just a Russian ICBM missile.  What would Brian report on if he didn't have YouTube clips of UFO's, lions growling at toddlers from behind glass, idiotic engagement proposals, dancing wedding videos, infants talking to each other, soccer stars being comforted by their daughters and other garbage that he shows us every week.  I guess Brian would have to report actual news.  Thank God for YouTube.
***Speaking of which: The next "news story" was about a couple's wedding picture that also included a bear in the photo.  This is the second night in a row that Nightly News has featured bears.  And why not?  They're great for ratings.
***Then Brian took 36 seconds to tell us about a Boston transit driver who stopped his train in order to retrieve a stuffed bunny that a three-year-old girl had dropped out the window.  The bunny's name was Nummy.  Brian said "Nummy" six times.  Brian is a fucking moron for wasting our time with this shit.
***Another important story: The NPR "Car Talk" guys are retiring from their radio show.  Since the show originated from Boston, Brian made sure to use his fake New England accent and pronounce it as "Cah Talk".  Because it's always nice to condescend to a segment of your audience.
***It's hard to find the right words to describe the night's final story.  Pointless?  Indulgent?  Idiotic?  All are applicable.  Quick quiz: Who doesn't belong in this group: Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Academy Award winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, actress Jane Lynch, Actress Viola Davis and Brian Williams.  Answer: I think it's glaringly obvious who doesn't belong in this group.  These people all gave speeches that were all included in Nightly News's 2012 commencement story.  That's right--we got to spend four-and-a-half minutes listening to them talk mostly about nothing.  But the most hilarious part of the piece was that Brian forced his producers to include his own idiotic address along with the speeches of these genuine dignitaries.  But wait--it gets better.  This is actually the second time we got to hear Brian's address.  On May 20, Lester Holt spent nearly a minute reporting on Brian's commencement address at George Washington University.  So Brian's address actually got more air time than a mayor, a Supreme Court Associate Justice, an Oscar winning screenwriter, the creator of one of the most influential comic strips of all time and the chief of Google.  Can you imagine a more narcissistic, egomaniacal, self-promoting display?  Is there no containing Brian's massively out-of-control ego?  Was there no one at NBC News who could tell him how really tacky and inappropriate it is for a news anchor to include his own commencement address in a news story?  Apparently not.  And even if someone had said something to Brian, he probably would have just ignored them.  Or fired them.  Becaue he does whatever the hell he wants.  All the time.  He's Brian Fucking Williams.