On Tuesday's NBC Nightly News (7/2/13), Brian Williams read a story about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Brian informed us that Snowden has made asylum requests to almost two dozen countries--including "nine countries in Europe". However, as Brian said this, the accompanying on-screen map of Snowden's potential destinations highlighted eleven European countries: Iceland, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Poland, Austria and Italy. Perhaps Brian doesn't realize that Scandinavia is part of Europe. But if you subtract the three Scandinavian countries, that would leave eight, not nine, European countries. It's more likely that Brian just doesn't give a shit anymore. Nine, eleven--whatever. His job is secure, so why should he care about accuracy.
Later in the broadcast, Brian introduced a story about the increasing number of women who die as a result of addiction to prescription painkillers. This was his intro: "Big news today about a spike in the number of middle-age women who are becoming addicted to prescription pain medicines and a warning from the CDC about the thousands who are dying from it--over 6,000 women every year. Our report tonight from NBC's Tom Costello." And here's how Costello's report began: "The statistics from the CDC are cause for real concern for doctors, pharmacists and hospitals. Between 1999 and 2010, nearly 48,000 women died of prescription painkiller overdoses." So if 48,000 women died over that 12-year period, that averages out to 4,000 a year--not the 6,000 Brian quoted us. (The CDC website confirms that in 2010, 6,600 women died from painkiller overdoses, but the 1999-2010 total clearly shows that that is not the case "every year", as Brian claimed.) But quoting the most recent year's number of "over 6,000" makes the story sound a lot more alarmist and sensationalistic than the smaller (but accurate) yearly average of 4,000 so Brian went with that. When it comes to selling a story, Brian doesn't care about accuracy.
But here's something Brian really, really does care about: Promoting fast-food chains on his broadcast. Brian began reading a story about the so-called worst meal in America, but it quickly turned into a commercial for the chain in question: "The folks at the Center for Science in the Public Interest--sometimes affectionately known as the food police--have identified what they are calling 'The Worst Meal In America'--'The Big Catch' at Long John Silver's. It features fried fish, hush puppies and onion rings and comes in at 33 grams of trans-fat." But then Brian shifts gears: "The company today called the meal a tremendous value at $4.99 and said customers had the option of healthy side orders." The last 10 seconds of this story was comprised of clips from Long John Silver's TV ads. So clearly, what started out as a negative story became an excuse for Brian to help Long John Silver's advertise their products and battle any negative publicity associated with the Center's report. "A tremendous value at $4.99"! If Brian says it, it must be true. Because he's, you know, trustworthy. Of course, shilling for fast food companies is nothing new for Brian. Here's a "news story" he read on the 4/5/13 Nightly News: "There's marketing news--in what USA Today calls an astonishing brand reversal, KFC is about to go big on boneless chicken. If you like a bucket of chicken, you know you'd never think to say 'boneless' when ordering it but now they're betting on the new original recipe boneless in what brand experts say is the biggest new product introduction for KFC in modern times." I'd love to know how much KFC paid Brian to read that shameless ad. Of course, when it comes to getting on-air endorsements from Brian Williams, KFC can't hold a candle to McDonald's. Over the past four years, Brian Williams and his Nightly News correspondents have reported an astonishing 17 "news stories" on McDonald's (all positive, I might add). That's not surprising when you consider the staggering amount of money McDonald's spends on advertising and promotion on the many NBC/Universal/Comcast television networks. So I guess working McDonald's product placements into news stories is just a way for Brian and his NBC News cohorts to give a great big "thank you" to a regular advertiser.
Sometimes, though, the best strategy is to say nothing. A 7/1/13 New York Times article reported that the pharmaceutical mega-conglomerate GlaxoSmithKline was being investigated in China for "economic crimes" including bribery (read the full story at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/02/business/global/glaxosmithkline-under-investigation-by-chinese-authorities.html?ref=global). Glaxo is a frequent sponsor and advertiser on NBC Nightly News (and other NBC/Universal/Comcast shows), so Brian certainly wasn't going to report this story. He may like to shill for his sponsors, but he also knows when to keep his big mouth shut.