The big news on NBC Nightly News this week? Springsteen and the Olympics. Here's some of the other important stuff you may have missed:
Sat. July 14--Rerun queen Janet Shamlian did yet another story about the drought's impact on the Southwest. This is Shamlian's third story on this subject in the past week and it was virtually identical to the previous two. She again used previously-aired footage (nearly a week old) of corn farmer Josh Ibendahl and cow farmer Karen Haralson. And in keeping with the Nightly News policy of never identifying a person the same way twice, Ibendahl was described in a Nightly News graphic as a "Corn Farmer", whereas during the July 9 story, he was identified only as a "Farmer". Haralson was identified as a "Cattle Rancher", but on July 9, she was an "Arkansas Cattle Rancher". Whatever.
***Lester Holt told us about all the rain in London. Now why would he do that? Perhaps so he could talk about the Olympics?
***Then he reported the important story about two Oregon men who went for a ride in the sky by attaching helium balloons to lawn chairs.
***After that, we heard about a British farmer who planted trees in the shape of a heart to honor his deceased wife.
***The final story of the night was a "Making A Difference" piece about a man who founded an organization that takes pictures of kids with cancer. Nightly News loves to exploit kids with cancer because it gets them high ratings. This story featured plenty of shots of sick kids and tearful parents. These emotional, tear-jerker stories have zero news value, but the producers aren't concerned with news--they're only concerned with ratings. And they don't care how they get them. Shame on the Nightly News producers for using these kids as ratings props.
Sun. July 14--In a story about the Sunday morning talk show war of words between the Obama and Romney campaigns, Mike Viqueira refused to mention CNN's "State of the Union"--he only referred to it as "another program". The exact same thing happened on the July 9 Nightly News--they refused to mention CNN's "State of the Union" by name. This happens frequently on Nightly News--they refuse to mention competing programs for fear that it will hurt ratings for NBC shows. This gives us a whole new meaning of "petty".
***We then got 45 seconds of stories on "Lightning Deaths", "Deadly Floods" and "Freak Tornadoes". Based on these sordid story titles, viewers might conclude that Nightly News is exploiting the weather for sensationalist ratings. But of course, they would never do something like that.
***The Weather Channel's Kim Cunningham then spent more than a minute talking about dew points. I'm not sure if I can stand all that excitement. I don't know what a dew point is, and I don't really care.
***This next story was really breaking news. At a London concert, Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen had their microphones shut off because the show ran longer than the allotted time. Obviously, this isn't a story that deserves any time on a network newscast. But the Nightly News producers don't care. They don't make any distinction between entertainment news and actual news. Entertainment news is good for ratings, so Nightly News has become indistinguishable from shows like "Extra" and "Access Hollywood". And I think it's pretty obvious who was responsible for getting this silly story on the air. Everyone knows that Brian Williams has a pathetic, obsessive Springsteen fetish and uses any excuse to put the object of his man-crush on Nightly News. There's no doubt that he gave the order. So how much time did Nightly News waste on this "news story"? Twenty seconds? Thirty Seconds? Actually, it was 2:15. Appalling and irresponsible. By the way, for comparison purposes, on this night, Nightly News spent 1:20 reporting on Syria. It's clear where the producers' priorities lie. Also, it should be noted that this story ran in the broadcast's first segment, which is traditionally reserved for important news stories. So much for that.
***After that, Lester reported a story about the Tour de France. What a coincidence--the Tour is being televised on the NBC Sports Network. But I'm sure that had absolutely nothing to do with the decision to report this story. Nothing whatsoever.
***Lester then spent an interminable three minutes reporting a story about Booker Wright, an African American man who spoke out about race relations in 1960's Mississippi. Interesting, but not news. As it turns out, this story was just a promo for a longer "Dateline" piece that Holt would be presenting later that evening. A Nightly News anchor using valuable news time to selfishly promote his own prime time show? It seems that Holt has learned a valuable lesson from Brian Williams, the master of self-promotion.
***The final story was such a benign piece of idiotic garbage that it makes the Springsteen story seem like Peabody material. It was about the search for the new Benji. That's right--two-and-a-half minutes of dog videos. Naturally, it also included clips from old Benji movies, as well as film clips of Rin Tin Tin, Lassie and other big-screen dogs, like Marley and Uggie. Incredibly, the producers even had the gall to insert clips from "Avatar", "Transformers" and other non-dog movies into this story! We all know that one of the producers' sleazy ratings tactics is to frequently insert movie clips into their stories to boost viewership, so this really isn't all that surprising. Even Mike Taibbi got in on the dog-exploitation act. During one segment of the story, he had a dog perched on his lap. This happens a lot in Nightly News stories. Recently, Anne Thompson and Stephanie Gosk also used prop dogs in their stories. By the way, throughout the broadcast, we were shown four promos--totalling thirty seconds--for the Benji story. Imagine--they could have reported an actual news story in just the time they wasted on promos for the Benji story. But of course they didn't. Why would they? Dogs get better ratings than news.
***So let's recap. On this broadcast, the producers wasted 8:15 on idiotic, pointless or benign stories about Springsteen, Booker Wright and Benji. Don't Nightly News viewers get sick and tired of being treated like idiots by the Nightly News anchors and producers? Why are they accepting this? Why aren't viewers marching on 30 Rock with torches and pitchforks demanding that Nightly News show actual news instead of garbage? Occupy 30 Rock!
Mon. July 16--A story about the "War of Words" between the Obama and Romney camps was virtually identical to Sunday's story--even using many of the same clips. And not surprisingly, Peter Alexander was still milking his interview with Romney from the previous Friday. A three-day-old interview isn't of much value, but no one at Nightly News seems to care. As Brian introduced this story, he had the obligatory animated flag waving behind his head because he loves to exploit the flag and show people that he damn well loves America.
***Later, we got a nearly-two-minute report about the Olympic athletes arriving in London. Is there any aspect of the Olympics that Nightly News will not report on? Clearly, no.
***Brian then took 25 seconds to announce that MSNBC.com was now NBCNews.com. There's nothing Brian likes reporting on more than himself and his network.
***Well--almost nothing. Brian took 25 seconds to tell us about the "Spectacular Northern Lights". This was the tenth story on the Northern Lights that Brian and his cronies have reported this year, and that's in addition to all the other stories they have also reported on eclipses, asteroids, meteors, planets, solar flares, the space station, the space shuttle and the Supermoon. Isn't it great when you have your own news broadcast and you can report on all the things you personally like and call them "news"?
***Brian spent 30 seconds reporting the death of Stephen Covey, author of the self-help book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". Really? He gets an obit on Nightly News? I guess it's easier than reporting real news.
***Speaking of real news: Brian then spent 36 seconds telling us about how Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen had their microphones shut off at a London concert. What's that you say? Nightly News already spent 2:15 on this story Sunday? You can't possibly imagine that that matters. On Nightly News, Springsteen gets precedence. Because Nightly News is about what Brian likes.
***The broadcast ended with a story about new recordings selected for the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry. Is this news? Of course not. It was just an opportunity for Brian to pander to viewers (and help his ratings) by playing popular songs by Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline and Bob Dylan. Oh, by the way, the story also included an audio clip (and photos) of Bruce Springsteen singing "Born to Run". So that's the second story this night to feature Springsteen. Nightly News didn't report any stories about Syria, but Springsteen was featured twice. Is there any doubt at all that Brian Williams is a fucking joke?
Tues. July 17--The lead story about the effects of the drought was titled "Deep Impact". The Nightly News producers frequently give their stories the titles of movies, TV shows or songs because recognizable titles keep viewers tuned in and stop them from changing channels. Another ratings gimmick from the producers.
***Just in case we didn't know how many days there were until the Olympics, Brian made sure to tell us that there were ten days until the Games begin. And just for good measure, Stephanie Gosk told us again during her story so we can start programming our DVRs. This was another report about Olympic security. A cynical person might conclude that the weasels at NBC are actually rooting for a Munich-like terrorist attack, because as the network with the greatest number of people and resources in London, NBC would be in the best position to cover such an event. And that would boost NBC's ratings. Good thing I'm not a cynical person. At the end of the report, Brian again told us that there were "ten days and counting" until the Games. So that's three times in two minutes that we were told how many days until the Olympics. I think we got it.
***Brian then told us about a NYC bus driver who caught a 7-year-old girl who fell from a third-story window. We're all glad he was there to catch her, but this trite story is local news--it certainly doesn't belong on a network newscast. This type of thing probably happens every day somewhere in the country. It's sad that Nightly News is now relying on WNBC, the local NBC affiliate, for news stories. I think it's just a case of laziness. The story has already been produced and reported by a local correspondent. All she has to do is put a new signoff on the end, and voila--instant story at no extra cost.
***Brian spent nearly a minute reading an obit for former Washington Post columnist William Raspberry. This isn't really a story for a national broadcast, but Brian likes pretending that he reads newspapers and that he is part of the literary elite. Except when he's pretending to be a blue-collar, working class regular guy. He pretends to be different things to target different audience demographics.
***Air conditioning celebrated its 110th birthday, so apparently this merits 35 seconds of coverage on Nightly News.
***Then he reported the important story about the President and Mrs. Obama being featured on the Kiss-Cam at an Olympic basketball exhibition game.
***I know what you're thinking--not even an asshole like Brian Williams has the balls to report on the Springsteen microphone shutoff kerfuffle for three days in a row. Wrong. This night, he took 35 seconds to tell us that Springsteen played his next scheduled concert in Dublin and his microphone wasn't shut off. So over the past three days, Nightly News spent 3:25 reporting on Springsteen and 2:35 reporting on Syria. Are we supposed to believe that Brian Williams is a professional network news anchor? We certainly wouldn't know it from the stories he reports.
***The "Making A Difference" report this night was about a New Jersey woman who rescued a dog from a shelter and then returned it to its rightful owners in Georgia. It's truly amazing that this kind of crap is what passes for news on Nightly News. But as we all know, real news doesn't get high ratings. Lost dog stories get high ratings.
Wed. July 18--At the top of the broadcast, Brian teased the lead story on Syria by asking, "Is this the final stage in the civil war?" Funny thing--I can actually remember a time when anchors answered questions instead of asking them as a way to generate interest and ratings.
***Here's how Brian introduced Andrea Mitchell's analysis of the bus bombing that killed five Israelis in Bulgaria: "Andrea, I have to say the world nine days from now is gonna gather in London for the Olympic Games and the last thing the world needs is tension in this area involving Israel and Iran." Unbelievable. He used a terrorist bombing to plug the Olympics. Brian Williams is a truly man without shame.
***In the obligatory story about the "Wild Weather", Brian introduced Jim Cantore as "Our friend" because Brian is desperate to make viewers believe he's well-liked by NBC News and Weather Channel correspondents. That's not what I hear.
***A story about the drought was identical to all the other drought stories Nightly News has done over the past week. These drought stories are this month's "gas prices" stories.
***Brian told us that Canadians now have a higher average net worth than Americans. Fortunately, super-wealthy Americans like Brian are trying to tilt the balance back to the U.S.
***Here's a breaking news story--a monkey in Borneo seemed to be smiling as his photo is captured by a hidden camera. I'm surprised this wasn't the lead story of the night. This was part of Brian's commentary: "But it certainly appears the monkey seems to know exactly what's going on here." So this is what Brian considers responsible journalism? Implying that monkeys have a human-like consciousness? Appallingly inappropriate.
***The broadcast ended with a story about Nelson Mandela's 94th birthday. Nothing wrong with that--it's a legitimate story. But every time Nightly News does a story about Mandela, I'm reminded of Brian's 7/12/10 MSNBC.com Daily Nightly blog post, where he spelled Mandela's last name as "Mandella". How much respect could Brian have for Mandela if he can't even spell his name correctly?
Thurs. July 19--The lead story about the whooping cough outbreak was really just an excuse to show lots of close-up shots of sick babies. This is one of Brian's favorite tricks to boost his ratings--playing to the viewers' emotions. Shots of sick kids appeal to the viewers' sense of sorrow and keeps them tuned in. It's difficult to watch, but we can't turn away. The last time Nightly News did a story about sick kids? Five days earlier, on Saturday (see above). It's a regular recurring theme on Nightly News. This story also featured a clip from a whooping cough Public Service Announcement featuring NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon. The use of Gordon's PSA clip on Nightly News was no coincidence--it was also a carefully-planned part of Brian's ratings strategy. He makes a point of aggressively trying to pander to the NASCAR demographic because that's a lucrative group from a ratings and advertising standpoint. It's part of Brian's secret coded message that tells the viewers, "I'm a beer-drinkin', flag-wavin', country music lovin' NASCAR fan just like y'all!"
***The story about Syria was titled "On The Brink". They use this ridiculous generic title for so many different stories they should copyright it.
***Lisa Myers spent 2:12 reporting on a General Services Administration awards ceremony that cost taxpayers $268,000. Is this really news? That amount is excessive, but it only represents a fraction of one percent of the total GSA budget. Isn't there any other news to report?
***Peter Alexander spent a minute-and-a-half reporting on Mitt Romney's five sons. In truth, this was just a promo for a longer piece that would be appearing on "Rock Center" later that night. More shameless self-promotion from circus ringmaster Brian Williams. Throughout the entire story, the "Rock Center" logo was displayed in the lower right corner, and Brian ended the piece with an outright plug for his show (accompanied by a full-screen "Rock Center" promo still). I don't know how much good all this promotion actually did--"Rock Center" was creamed in the ratings by a "Person of Interest" rerun.
***Newsshill Anne Thompson spent more than two minutes reporting on an attempted child abduction in Philadelphia. We're all glad that the abduction failed, but this is a local story, not a national one. My favorite part of this story: Thompson and her producers showed us just how shameless they are by inserting a clip from NBC's "Law & Order: SVU". How classy--using an attempted child abduction to plug an NBC entertainment show. Thompson is without a doubt one of the biggest weasels on network news.
***Brian spent 33 seconds narrating the obituary for Tom Davis, who was a writer, performer and producer on "Saturday Night Live". For comparison purposes, when Israeli statesman Yitzhak Shamir died on June 30, Nightly News spent 27 seconds reporting his obit. So Davis got a longer obit than Shamir. The times spent on those respective obits may seem out of proportion--but we must consider that Shamir never worked for an NBC television show.
***Here's a breaking news story: A wrongly-convicted man who spent 27 years in prison got to sing the National Anthem at a Tampa Bay Rays game. Yes, Nightly News is a serious news broadcast.
***The final story was a two-minute "news report" about the new Batman movie. This means one of two things: Either the Nightly News producers ran this piece as a big "thank you" to Warner Brothers for all the advertising dollars they've spent with NBC networks over the years, or else Warner Brothers actually paid NBC to have this "news story" run on Nightly News. Either way, it's another sleazy move by Brian and his producers. The story featured 45 seconds of clips from "The Dark Knight Rises". That's not a news story--it's a movie trailer. And just for good measure, the producers threw in a clip of Prince Harry at the movie's London premier. Because Prince Harry is good for ratings. And when you put Prince Harry together with Batman--that's a ratings bonanza.
***Brian ended the broadcast with--surprise--another shameless plug for "Rock Center". Who woulda guessed?
Fri. July 20--The entire broadcast was devoted to the shootings in Aurora, Colorado. Fair enough--all three networks followed that format. Here's how Brian began the broadcast: "It's one of those huge multiplex theaters, it's in this community, it's the same kind ALL OF US go to...." All of us. Of course. Because the news is always about Brian. Always.
***He later said, "When WE arrived on the scene this afternoon, WE immediately had a conversation with one of the witnesses...." Obviously, "we" means "me"--as in me, Brian. For the next 2:52, Brian did interview one of the witnesses who was in the theater. And every shot of the witness was a two-shot that also included Brian. He was in every shot she was in! Is there any other news anchor so desperate to be on-camera, and so shameless in the way he goes about it? Clearly, no.
***The rehabilitation of Ann Curry has officially begun. For the first time since being fired, she appeared on Nightly News doing what she does best--pretending to care. She interviewed a young couple that had been in the theater--all the time wearing her fake look of concern. She even got some face time standing next to Brian, which is pretty funny considering how invisible Curry was when Brian was vigorously promoting Savannah Guthrie's ascension as the new "Today" co-host. Brian ended his chat with Curry by promoting a "special hour of 'Dateline'" that would be airing later that night.
***During Anne Thompson's story about the national and international implications of the shooting, she made sure to show a clip of the Olympic torch arriving in London. Because even during a report on a mass shooting, NBC still has to plug the Olympics. How do these people sleep at night?
***As usual, Pete Williams refused to say "Good evening, Brian" when Brian introduced him with a treacly "Good Evening. Pete." It's obvious that Pete doesn't really like Brian. Who can blame him?
***Brian ended the broadcast with yet another plug for the "Dateline" special later that evening. I'm sure Brian was wishing that the shooting had taken place on Thursday, so he could have used it to boost his "Rock Center" ratings. No such luck.
***During this broadcast, Nightly News still managed to show eight minutes of commercials. So I guess no one at NBC News had any qualms about profiting from the shooting. Why is that not at all surprising?