Here's what you may have missed on NBC Nightly News this past week:
Sat. August 18--As Lester Holt introduced the lead story about the Medicare debate, there was a giant animated flag waving behind his head. No surprise--there is often a giant animated flag waving behind Lester or Brian Williams. It's just another way for the producers to pander to the God-lovin', NASCAR-watchin', middle Americans whose viewership is so prized. Another ratings stunt from Nightly News.
***After that, Lester (with the giant flag still waving behind him) brought in David Gregory for some expert analysis. By "for some expert analysis", I mean "to promote 'Meet the Press'".
***Did you really think the Olympics are over? Well, they're not. Lester read a story about Michael Phelps posing for some provocative photos, followed by a story about Olympic Athletes being honored in Des Moines. This story included footage of Gabby Douglas and Lolo Jones. NBC is busy selling their Olympic DVDs, so the Nightly News producers are doing everything they can to help with promotion.
***The next story was about an Indiana baseball team in the Little League World Series whose players are competing in the memory of their former coach who died of cancer. That's nice, but why is this on a newscast? It's not news. But that doesn't matter to the Nightly News producers. To them, news isn't nearly as important as ratings. And sappy, emotional stories like this one (usually involving cancer) are exactly the types of stories that keep viewers from changing the channel. If the producers can get viewers to bond with a story, then ratings go up. Nightly News leads all other newscasts in exploiting cancer as a way to get high ratings. Congratulations to the producers. They should be so proud of themselves. By the way, this story was titled "Field of Dreams". The producers love to give their stories the titles of movies, TV shows or popular songs because it gives the viewers something familiar to relate to. And if a viewer sees something familiar, he's more likely to keep watching. In the past four months, the producers have done this 25 times. Here are some of the titles they've used for stories: "The Rising", "Coming to America", "Moonstruck" (three times), "The Weather Channel", "Risky Business" (five times), "Modern Family", "A Star Is Born", "Ring of Fire", "The Natural", "Father Knows Best", "All in the Family", "Top Chef", "To Catch A Thief", "Back to the Future" (twice), "Deep Impact" and "Sudden Impact". Just another sleazy ratings ploy from your friends at Nightly News.
***The final story was about a National Guard veteran who tracks down purple hearts in pawn shops, antique stores and other places and then returns them to the original owners (or the owner's family). This is another story without a shred of news value. Like the previous story, it was included only because it's a good way to keep viewers tuned in and boost ratings. So the final four minutes of the broadcast did not contain any actual news. What a surprise. Not really. Nightly News reports on garbage because garbage gets high ratings.
Sun. August 19--No Nightly News on the east coast because golf ran late. Let's face it--golf gets higher ratings (and earns higher ad rates) than news, so pre-empting Nightly News wasn't exactly a tough decision for the NBC programming weasels.
Mon. August 20--Brian spent 3:10 on a story about a woman with Parkinson's disease who underwent brain surgery to lessen her symptoms. We're glad it worked out for her, but this isn't news. It's just another opportunity for Brian and his producers to exploit someone's serious medical condition in order to help their ratings. Shameful.
***Speaking of shameful, here's what Brian said about Rosie O'Donnell's heart attack: "She finally took a BAYER aspirin--the way she learned in the TV commercial." It's no coincidence that Brian mentioned Bayer by name. Bayer is by far the most frequent advertiser on Nightly News--they usually run two, three or even four commercials a night for their various products--Bayer aspirin, Aleve, One A Day vitamins, Alka-Seltzer products, Phillips Colon Health, Citracal, etc. Now I don't know what brand of aspirin Rosie actually took, but an anchor who blatantly promotes his largest sponsor on the air is the lowest form of journalistic life. Of course, plugging Bayer products on Nightly News is nothing new for Brian. On 12/6/10 and 10/27/11, Nightly News ran sham news stories about the health benefits of aspirin. In truth, these stories were created as product placement opportunities for Bayer. In both stories, Bayer was the only national brand of aspirin shown (multiple times, in fact) and both stories included clips from Bayer TV ads. Those aren't news stories, they're commercials. And on 6/8/10, Nightly News aired a story about an obscure Danish medical study which concluded that Naproxen (sold in the U.S. as Bayer's Aleve) can reduce the risk of heart attacks. Needless to say, this story featured many shots of Aleve. But I wouldn't want you to think that Brian only plugs Bayer products on the air. For a more complete list of Brian's on-air promotions and product placements, see the 4/8/12 Nightly Daily blog (http://nightly-daily.blogspot.com/2012/04/nbc-nightly-news-show-notes-4712.html).
***Brian then took 30 seconds to read the obituary for Scott McKenzie, who had a hit (his only hit, actually) 45 years ago with "(If You're Going To) San Francisco". Brian likes to read obits for musicians because it allows him to show us how hip and cool he thinks he is. Also, the NBC research department has informed him that playing clips from pop songs is a good way to boost the ratings. After all, viewers would much rather hear a clip from a classic rock song than hear about an economic summit or another massacre in Afghanistan. I'm surprised that as he read this, Brian didn't wear some flowers in his hair.
***Brian followed this with obits for director Tony Scott and actor William Windom, during which he showed clips from "Top Gun", "Crimson Tide", "Murder, She Wrote", "Star Trek" and "To Kill a Mockingbird". Obviously, viewers like seeing movie and TV clips just as much as they like hearing classic rock songs. Altogether, these three stories lasted seventy seconds. So that's seventy seconds of pop songs, TV and movie clips. That's not a news broadcast, it's an episode of Extra or Access Hollywood.
***Here's some important news--Michelle Obama hosted a state dinner for kids. Michelle Obama is one of the most popular people in America right now, so Brian makes a point of showing her on Nightly News as often as possible.
***The broadcast ended with Brian's 2:10 tribute to Phyllis Diller. At first I couldn't figure out why Brian would devote so much time to Diller's obit (and why he would narrate the story himself). But the reason soon became clear--after Bob Hope died in 2003, Diller gave an interview to Brian on his CNBC newscast. So naturally, Brian used a clip of that interview. I actually believe that the only reason Brian spent so much time on this story was so he could include the clip of himself interviewing Diller. After all, there's nothing Brian likes reporting on more than himself. Because the news is always about Brian.
***After Brian signed off for the night, the broadcast continued with 25 seconds of theme music accompanied by a panoramic shot of the New York City skyline. Now, Brian and his producers could have used this time to air an additional story--perhaps on Syria, Iran, Iraq or some other country that they didn't cover that night. But they didn't do that. As usual, Brian would prefer to waste time than to report news. Well done.
Tues. August 21--In the broadcast intro, Brian told us about Diana Nyad's "incredible sea quest" to swim from Cuba to Florida. Later, he spent two minutes on this ridiculous non-story--which ended with a promo for Nyad's appearance on Wednesday's "Today Show". As always, Brian chooses to cover stories based not on their news value, but on how they can be used to promote other NBC shows like "Today", "Dateline" or "Rock Center". There's a phrase for what Brian does: Sleazy snale oil salesman.
***Brian reported the breaking news story that starting in January, Jimmy Kimmel's late night show will begin at 11:35 instead of 12:05. Obviously, this is just a way for Brian to promote "The Tonight Show", which he did by showing clips of Jay Leno. Sleazy snake oil salesman.
***In another piece of breaking news, Brian told us about this year's Beloit College Mindset List. For incoming freshmen, Brian said, "exposed bra straps have always been a fashion statement, not a wardrobe malfunction." This is what a network news anchor chooses to report on his broadcast. How classy.
***Wait--there's even more breaking news. Michelle Obama gave an interview in which she discussed having "the talk" with her daughters. Brian reported this as if it was actual news. Obviously, Michelle Obama is great for Brian's ratings so he reports on everything she does. But even more important, she gave the interview to ivillage.com--a NBC Universal website. So that's the third NBC media property Brian has plugged on this broadcast. Sleazy snake oil salesman.
***The final story of the night was a "Making A Difference" piece about an organization that takes disabled children scuba diving. Kudos to them--that's a very noble thing to do. Unfortunately, in no way, shape or form does this qualify as news. In fact, of the hundred or so "Making A Difference" stories that Nightly News airs each year, not one of them has ever contained a single shred of actual news. This is just another opportunity for Brian and his producers to exploit disabled children in order to get a ratings boost. A story about disabled kids scuba diving is just a variation of the tried-and-true Nightly News "kids with cancer" theme. It's a story that appeals to viewers on an emotional level, and it obviously tested well with focus groups. And a positive focus group response translates to higher ratings. This is what's given 2:35 of valuable news time on Nightly News. By the way, this MAD segment was sponsored by Prevacid, so Brian and his producers actually got paid for exploiting disabled kids. Sleazy snake oil salesman. Now that I think about it--why does Prevacid on Nightly News sound familiar? Oh yeah--now I remember. Back on the 5/25/10 Nightly News, Nancy Snyderman reported on an FDA warning about the dangers of proton pump inhibitors--like Prevacid. Apparently, they can weaken bones and cause users to be at an increased risk for fractures and even osteoporosis. So in 2010, Nightly News reported that Prevacid can be dangerous to users. Now fast-forward a couple of years. Prevacid's manufacturer pays for a MAD sponsorship, so Brian and his producers don't care how dangerous it is. Sleazy snake oil salesman.
Wed. August 22--Brian took a moment to talk about the New York Times photospread that published pictures of the second 1,000 U.S. military personnel to be killed in Afghanistan. "I just looked down and saw a kid from MY hometown in New Jersey." MY hometown. Because the news is always about Brian. By the way--does anyone really believe that he just happened to look down and see that? More likely, he assigned a couple of associate producers to scour the photos until they found someone from his hometown. And who even knows if Brian was telling the truth? He may have just claimed to see someone from his hometown. I wouldn't put it past Brian to lie about this since he lies about so many other things.
***Brian spent 30 seconds showing photos from the Mars Rover. In the past six weeks, Brian has spent more than nine minutes reporting on the Mars Rover. That's far more news time than he has devoted to Africa in that time span. Here's a thought for Brian: Instead of covering an event 154 million miles away, how about reporting on stuff happening a mere 7,000 miles away in Africa? And it doesn't even have to be instead of Mars. There's time to report on both Mars and Africa if he would just eliminate all the idiotic non-news stories he reports on every night. But let's face it--Africa is a ratings loser for Brian and his producers. Africa is filled with mostly black people and Brian's mostly white viewers are not really interested in news about black people, especially if they're on another continent. So Brian continues to ignore Africa unless George Clooney goes there, in which case Ann Curry follows him around like a puppy.
***Brian spent 1:20 reporting on a recently-discovered 1960 taped interview with Martin Luther King, Jr. Just to prove that he actually does report on black people occasionally.
***The "Making A Difference" story this night was an "update". That's a code word meaning a previous MAD piece had really high ratings so the producers are going to keep milking it for all it's worth. This story was about Mini Tyrell, a seven-year-old kid who drives mini-cars to raise money for kids with cancer. Did I just say "kids with cancer"? You bet I did! The Nightly News producers LOVE to air stories about kids with cancer because the ratings for these stories are off the charts! The story featured lots of heartwrenching shots of kids with cancer because those are the money shots that make viewers so sad. And sad viewers equal high ratings. This is the third story Nightly News has done on Mini Tyrell in less than a year (the others were on 10/24/11 & 10/31/11). So that's seven-and-a-half minutes the producers have devoted to a story with absolutely no news value. Great job! By the way, this story spelled Mini's last name as "Tyrell", but when it was reported on some NBC websites, it was spelled as "Tyrrell". I guess we can pick whichever spelling we like best. Cool--no reason why reality should intrude on our spelling fun! This story was reported by newsmoron Anne Thompson because it didn't require any journalistic skills whatsoever. She just sat there with that idiotic grin on her face as if something was really, really funny. She was probably grinning because she earns a six-figure salary for reporting the same lame garbage over and over and over again. I'd grin too, if that was me.
***Meanwhile, on this day nearly fifty people were killed in a dispute over cattle grazing rights in Kenya. You didn't seriously think that Brian Williams would report this story? Come on people--it's in AFRICA for Christ's sake!
Thurs. August 23--At the beginning of the broadcast, a tease for the Hurricane Isaac story was given the title "High Anxiety", and a story about Prince Harry was given the title "Casino Royale". Yet again, the producers gave their stories the names of movies in order to keep viewers interested and boost ratings.
***As part of the Hurricane Isaac coverage, Mark Potter reported on the possible damage the storm could do if it scored a direct hit to Haiti. Here's what Brian said at the end of the story: "Port-au-Prince, Haiti tonight where perhaps this will focus the world's attention on that nation again." Is that some sort of a sick fucking joke? On Feb. 12, 2010, Exactly one month after the Haiti earthquake hit, the Vancouver Olympics began. And from that point on, Nightly News barely reported on the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake because they were too busy promoting NBC's Olympic coverage in a desperate attempt to boost the network's ratings. And Brian has the nerve to talk about focusing the world's attention back on Haiti? He was one of the decision makers who chose to virtually ignore Haiti after the Olympics started! Brian's pathetic attempt to rewrite his network's own history makes him a hypocrite of the highest order.
***A story about a book on the killing of Osama bin Laden written by a Navy Seal included a 30-second "Rock Center" clip of Brian interviewing Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen. Hardly surprising, since one of Brian's most important jobs as Nightly News anchor is to promote NBC's prime time shows, including, of course, his own "Rock Center".
***Here's how Brian introduced the very next story: "Tonight on 'Rock Center', we are devoting the entire hour to one subject--the Mormon Church in America." Brian then spent the next 90 seconds promoting his "Rock Center" broadcast by inexplicably showing an excerpt from his interview with Abby Huntsman (daughter of former Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman) in which she talked about how she met her husband, how much she loves him and what a great guy he is. Huh? How is this news? This is the kind of garbage that Brian chooses to fill his broadcast with on a nightly basis.
***Breaking News! The U.S. Post Office had to destroy $1.2 million worth of Simpsons stamps due to a lack of interest from the stamp-buying public. I'm really glad that Brian told me about this important piece of news.
***For the final story of the night, Brian spent 2:45 telling us about Prince Harry's Las Vegas vacation, including the photos of Harry playing naked billiards. The story was titled "The Trouble With Harry" (as opposed to the "Casino Royale" title it was given at the top of the broadcast). An earlier promo for the story was accompanied by the song "Viva Las Vegas". Brian Williams is practicing the most idiotic and base type of sensationalistic yellow journalism. He airs stories solely because of their ratings value and doesn't give a damn about actual news. When is the FCC going to shut down Nightly News for being a sham newscast? When are they going to ban Brian from the airwaves for being a pandering sycophant? When are irate viewers going to march on 30 Rock with torches and pitchforks, demanding that Nightly News stop its horrible and unethical practice of showing crap instead of news? When is that going to happen? When?
***On this night, Nightly News did not report any stories on Syria, but at least we know all about the Simpsons stamps, Abby Huntsman's awesome husband and Prince Harry's naked Vegas romp. Amazing.
Fri. August 24--Brian was off this night and the broadcast was anchored by David Gregory. And I'm pretty sure I know why. Friday newscasts in August are traditionally among the lowest-rated newscasts of the year. So rather than see Nightly News suffer a ratings drop with his name on it, Brian took it on the lam and got out of town. Here's what I mean: When Brian is off and doesn't anchor a weeknight edition of Nightly News, his producers understand that the broadcast will have lower ratings than if Brian was anchoring. So when Brian is off, his producers submit those Nightly News broadcasts to the Nielsen ratings Service intentionally misspelled as "Nitely News". That way, the lower-rated "Nitely News" broadcasts are counted in a separate category from Nightly News, and they don't detract from Nightly News's higher ratings. So by taking Friday off (a day when the broadcast would have a low rating anyway), Brian insured that his producers would submit that broadcast to Nielsen as "Nitely News" and that it wouldn't bring down his weekly ratings. Another ratings manipulation trick from the sleazy weasels at Nightly News.
***A story about Mitt Romney included twenty seconds worth of clips of Donald Trump. Obviously, the producers are promoting the new season of "Celebrity Apprentice".
***A story about the USADA stripping Lance Armstrong of his Tour de France titles was narrated by the idiotic Anne Thompson. It's obvious that she knows nothing about Armstrong or cycling--she's just reading the script that was handed to her. Any time the producers have a story that doesn't require any knowledge on the part of the reporter, they give it to Thompson.
***During a story about Hurricane Andrew twenty years later, we heard commentary from Erik Salna, of the Florida International University International Hurricane Research Center. Unfortunately, a Nightly News graphic identified him as being from the "FLU International Hurricane Center". Note to the producers: Florida International University is abbreviated as "FIU", not "FLU".
***Gregory spent 40 seconds narrating the obituary for Jerry Nelson, who operated the Count von Count muppet on Sesame Street. Really? A Muppeteer? This belongs on a network news broadcast?
***The broadcast ended with a story about how Drive-In movie theaters are making a comeback. It's hard to imagine a story more trivial and less important than this one. Which is exactly why the producers gave it 2:05 on Nightly News. Because Nightly News is a show about nothing. Absolutely nothing. As if to prove that point, this story included a clip from "Grease" because showing movie clips is a great way to boost the ratings without showing any actual news.