Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Brian Williams Insults Jews, African Americans And Latinos On NBC Nightly News

On NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams often reports stories about inappropriate action or speech directed at religious, ethnic and racial groups.  He has already reported on Los Angeles Clippers' owner Donald Sterling's racist comments, and we can expect Brian to continue reporting this story in the coming weeks.  Not only will he report it, but he will do so with outrage and derision.  Because Brian Williams is a fair and just man with no biases or prejudices against any group.  Or so he would have us believe.  As we watch Brian report on Donald Sterling's comments, we should take a moment to remember some of Brian's own inappropriate comments.

On January 26, 2009, Brian wrote one of his Daily Nightly blog posts titled "Old man river at Obama's inauguration".  (http://dailynightly.nbcnews.com/_news/2009/01/26/4373517-old-man-river-at-obamas-inauguration?lite.)  (The blog's title referred Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, who was a guest at President Obama's first inauguration.)  A brief history lesson for Brian: The lyrics for the song "Old Man River" (also known as "Ol' Man River") were written by Oscar Hammerstein II for the 1927 play "Showboat".  And although the song was later sanitized, the original lyrics were extremely racist and even included the vile "n" word to describe African Americans.  It hardly seems appropriate for a news anchor to use a once-racist song title in a blog post about the inauguration of our nation's first African American president.

Later that year, speaking at the 2009 Nantucket Film Festival (as reported by the 6/22/09 bostonherald.com website [http://business.highbeam.com/3972/article-1G1-202214900/nbc-newsguy-steals-show-nantucket]), Brian told his audience, "Welcome to the Nantucket Film Festival--where Jews come to be honored.  Nantucket is actually a Yiddish word meaning where the WASPS live."  Isn't he hilarious?  I guess it's okay to mock Jewish people now and then--just don't make a habit of it.

And on May 29, 2013, Brian read a story on NBC Nightly News about President Obama having lipstick on his collar during a public appearance.  (Let's ignore the fact that this didn't remotely qualify as a news story and it didn't belong on a national newscast.  Obviously, Brian Williams makes a living reporting frivolous stories with no news value.)  During his introduction to the story, Brian said, "The President of the United States had a bit of 'splainin' to do last night...."  The reference was to a phrase Desi Arnaz often uttered to Lucille Ball on the 1950's sitcom "I Love Lucy".  (Senator Tom Coburn had also used the "'splainin'" phrase while questioning Sonia Sotomayor during Ms. Sotomayor's 2009 Senate confirmation hearing.  Coburn's use of that word set off a firestorm of criticism that the word was insulting to Ms. Sotomayor's Latina heritage.)  I don't think there's any question that this word is derogatory and insulting to Latinos and Latinas.  It's no different than affecting an exaggerated Chinese or Italian accent to mock a person from China or Italy.  It's nothing less than appalling that Brian had the nerve to use this offensive word on a network newscast.

So as we watch Brian Williams reporting on Donald Sterling's racist remarks this week, let us not forget some of Brian's own words.  Of course, his comments raise a larger question: If these are the types of things Brian is saying in public, what exactly is he saying in private?

Friday, April 18, 2014

NBC Nightly News's Dr. Nancy Snyderman Is A Shill For Merck

On Thursday, April 17, 2014, NBC News Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman reported a story about allergies for NBC Nightly News.  During this story, she informed us that allergy shots could alleviate allergy symptoms.  Then she added this: "But now there are alternatives to injections.  Two new prescription pills just approved by the FDA treat certain grass pollen allergies.  Both melt under the tongue.  Grastek is for ages 5 years to 65, Oralair for ages 10 to 65.  Another, Ragwitek is approved for ragweed pollen."  During Snyderman's narration, three animated prescription pads appeared on the screen, each prominently containing the name and logo of the drugs she had just described.  Two of these drugs--Grastek and Ragwitek--are manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Merck (Oralair is manufactured by Stallergenes and distributed in the U.S. by Greer Laboratories).

Exactly one minute after Snyderman's story concluded, Nightly News aired a commercial for Shinglesinfo.com--a pseudo-informational website sponsored by Merck that contains a link to another site for the shingles vaccine drug Zostavax, which is (not surprisingly) manufactured by Merck.  Five minutes after the shingles ad, Nightly News aired a commercial for Dr. Scholl's P.R.O. Pain Relief Orthotics--another Merck product.  There was a precedent for Snyderman's dubious behavior: She had previously plugged Merck's Grastek in an allergy story that aired on the 12/11/13 Nightly News, a broadcast that also carried a commercial for Merck's Oxytrol.

It seems pretty obvious what's happening here.  At the very least, Snyderman made a point of plugging one of NBC's big sponsors in her allergy stories.  But I suspect a much less innocuous situation.  I believe that both of these allergy stories were concocted by the NBC Advertising and Marketing Department for the sole purpose of plugging newly-approved Merck drugs.  They may have even been part of a package deal.  NBC could have offered Merck a certain number of weekly or monthly ads on Nightly News--plus one or more in-story promotional plugs--for a special rate.  Certainly a plug from NBC News's Chief Medical Editor offers gravitas--a tremendous benefit for a pharmaceutical company whose products are fighting for attention alongside all the other products that are crammed into a 2½ minute commercial break.  And many (if not most) viewers ignore or zip through commercials, so an in-story product placement virtually guarantees that people will be watching.

Even before these allergy stories, Snyderman had already shilled for Merck.  On 6/4/13, she reported a Nightly News story about the benefits of sunscreen as a skin protector and anti-aging agent.  That report began with a clip from a Bain de Soleil ad (including the familiar jingle "Bain de Soleil for that Saint-Tropez tan").  Later in the story, the camera panned across a well-placed studio array of seven bottles of sunscreen, including three bottles of Coppertone--which were prominently positioned in front of the other sunscreens.  Both Bain de Soleil and Coppertone are manufactured by Merck.  Eight minutes after Snyderman's story aired, Nightly News ran a commercial for the aforementioned Dr. Scholl's P.R.O. Pain Relief Orthotics--which are (as previously noted) also a Merck product.  This is no coincidence.  NBC Nightly News producers, anchors and correspondents have a history of using "news stories" to plug NBC sponsors' products.  (For a detailed list of NBC Nightly News plugs and product placements, see this blog's 6/12/13 entry: "Brian Williams Uses Product Placements In NBC Nightly News Stories" or click on this link: http://nightly-daily.blogspot.com/2013/06/brian-williams-and-his-producers.html.)

But please don't get the idea that Merck is the only company that Snyderman shills for.  On 1/2/13, Nightly News aired Snyderman's story on fructose.  It included ad clips for Lean Cuisine, Weight Watchers and the weight-loss drug Alli--which is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline--a frequent NBC advertiser and Nightly News in-broadcast sponsor.  A 7/15/13 Snyderman story on high blood pressure included a plug for Fritos (ironic, to say the least).  Her 8/2/13 story on gluten-free food options prominently featured gluten-free products like Ian's, Amy's, Glutino, Tastykake and Mi-Del.  On 8/10/13, Snyderman's story on new health insurance choices included 30 seconds of interior and exterior shots of a Starbucks.  Her 9/3/13 story on Diana Nyad featured a Dairy Queen plug.  On 1/15/14, Snyderman reported an alarmist story about how acetaminophen (most frequently sold in the U.S. as Tylenol) can damage the liver.  This story was clearly meant to hurt Tylenol and help its competitor Aleve--a pain-relief product manufactured by regular Nightly News sponsor Bayer.  On 2/27/14, she again railed about the dangers of acetaminophen.

It's shameful that any NBC producer, anchor or correspondent would use a news broadcast to plug a network sponsor, but it's even more shameful when done by a medical correspondent--and a physician, no less.  Of course, if NBC is, in fact, getting paid for these in-story product placements, that elevates the situation from shameful to unethical, and perhaps even to the point of illegality.  I don't see how viewers can possibly trust Nancy Snyderman to report honestly and objectively when one of her primary goals seems to be promoting the products of NBC sponsors.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Brian Williams & NBC Nightly News Plug, Plug, Plug The Sochi Olympics

Anyone who watches NBC Nightly News on a semi-regular basis knows that one of the main goals of Brian Williams and his producers is to use their broadcast to promote NBC sports, entertainment and news shows, as well as cable shows that appear on the many NBC/Universal networks such as USA, Bravo, SyFy, E! and The Weather Channel.  For example, on Monday, Feb. 17, Nightly News featured Brian's four-minute short-form documentary about Jimmy Fallon's new gig as host of The Tonight Show.  Obviously, this "news report" was meant to increase viewership for Fallon's premiere show later that night.  While some Nightly News promotions are blatant, some are not so obvious.  Last June 23 & 24, Lester Holt (Sunday) and Brian Williams  (Monday) spent a combined 4:35 promoting Nik Wallenda's tightrope walk across the Little Colorado River Gorge (adjacent to the Grand Canyon) which was also being aired as a Discovery Channel special.  Since Discovery Channel is not owned by NBC/Universal, these may have seemed like just another couple of stories that fell under the category of entertainment news.  However, neither Lester nor Brian (nor reporters Ben Fogle or Anne Thompson) disclosed that the Discovery Skywalk special was produced by Peacock Productions--a company owned by NBC/Universal.  So in actuality, this was a sleazy and deceptive way for Nightly News to drum up interest in a show that NBC would profit from--without any disclosure about the relationship between NBC and Discovery.  This is business as usual for Brian Williams and his Nightly News producers.  (Sidenote: In his June 23 story, Lester Holt announced that Wallenda would be walking across "the Grand Canyon".  That was an intentional lie--the Little Colorado River Gorge is not part of the Grand Canyon.  But Lester and his producers knew that invoking the Grand Canyon would be better for Discovery's Skywalk ratings.)  Another example: Nightly News occasionally does stories about the popularity of PBS's "Downton Abbey", but Brian and his correspondents often "forget" to disclose that "Downton Abbey" is produced by Carnival Films--which is owned by NBC/Universal.  These omissions are, of course, intentionally meant to fool viewers by promoting the show while masking the relationship between NBC and its subsidiary production companies.

But the Olympics are an entirely different animal.  No subterfuge is needed or even attempted in NBC's blatant and aggressive promotion of the Olympics every other year.  Since NBC paid dearly for the privilege of carrying the Olympics (their most recent deal, which began with the 2014 Olympics and runs through the 2020 Olympics, cost NBC $4.38 billion), they make sure to promote the Games through all NBC/Universal platforms.  And, of course, NBC Nightly News is a big part of that promotion.  A promotional story about the Olympics that airs on a news broadcast carries a lot more gravitas with the viewers than a similar story shown on an entertainment show.

Nightly News began promoting the 2014 Sochi Olympics on Feb. 5, 2013--more than a year before the opening ceremony was scheduled to begin.  That night's broadcast featured a 2:15 story on Lindsey Vonn's knee injury, and also included her then-rumored (and now public) romance with Tiger Woods.  Over the next 11 months, Nightly News aired 8 more Vonn stories totaling more than 14 minutes.  But those stories ended abruptly with a Jan. 7 story reporting that Vonn's knee injury had finally forced her to withdraw from the Olympics.  While this injury was devastating to Vonn, I suspect that it was even more devastating to NBC.  Up to that point, Vonn had been NBC's poster person for the Olympics.  And Nightly News had reported on every aspect of Vonn's life from her skiing to her romance with Woods to her "pretty" looks and "blonde hair".  After Vonn's knee injury, Nightly News's Vonn stories became a running will-she-or-won't-she soap opera about whether she would actually compete in Sochi.  When she finally announced that she would not compete, Nightly News dropped Vonn like a not-so-hot potato and instead began focusing on other Olympic stars like Gracie Gold, Lolo Jones and the Jamaican Bobsled Team.

So how much time did NBC Nightly News actually spend promoting the 2014 Olympics?  Beginning with that 2/5/13 Lindsey Vonn story, NBC Nightly News spent a total of 225 minutes--3 hours 45 minutes--promoting the Sochi Games.  Before the Sochi Opening Ceremony took place on Feb. 7, Nightly News had already spent 101 minutes promoting the Olympics.  And over the 17 days of competition, Nightly News spent another 124 minutes on stories meant to insure that viewers would tune in.  Permit me to state the obvious: The more people that watch the Olympics, the higher NBC's ratings will be.  And higher ratings translates to more ad revenue--either for these games or for subsequent Games.  So--no surprise--Nightly News's extensive promotion of the Olympics was really just a way to generate revenue for NBC.  Let's put this in perspective.  Nightly News isn't a 30-minute broadcast.  It isn't even a 24-minute broadcast.  After filtering out the commercials, the opening tease, the incessant promotions (for The Today Show, The Tonight Show, Meet the Press, Dateline, etc.) and Brian Williams's overlong sign off, a Nightly News broadcast usually contains somewhere between 18½ and 19½ minutes of news (the word "news" is really a misnomer, since a Nightly News broadcast often includes many minutes of non-news stories.  But for these purposes, we can generously consider all Nightly News stories to be actual news).  Occasionally (though rarely), a broadcast will run a few seconds over 20 minutes.  So even assuming a 20-minute run time for a broadcast, the 225 minutes that Nightly News spent promoting the Olympics is equivalent to more than 11 entire Nightly News broadcasts.  That raises a disturbing question: What stories didn't Nightly News cover in order to spend 225 minutes promoting the Olympics over the course of an entire year?  In 2013 and early 2014, there were elections in Kenya, Cambodia, Mali, Pakistan. Zimbabwe, Australia, Norway, Germany, Austria, Chile, Bangladesh and Thailand.  Nightly News did not report a single story on any of these elections.  But we sure learned an awful lot about Lindsey Vonn's knee.

So how did the 3 hours 45 minutes Nightly News devoted to promoting the 2014 Olympics stack up against past Olympics?  Before and during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Nightly News spent a meager 2 hours 40 minutes on Olympic promotional stories.  And Nightly News aired 3 hours 9 minutes of promotional stories for the 2012 Summer Games in London.  But the 3 hours 45 minutes Nightly News spent promoting the Sochi Olympics represents a new Olympic record.  Well done!  Brian Williams, his producers and everyone at NBC Nightly News deserve a gold medal for their efforts.  (Although sadly, despite the combined efforts of everyone at NBC, ratings for the Sochi Games were down an estimated 12% from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.)  And I think it's a safe bet that for the 2016 Rio Games, Nightly News's promotional story total will easily eclipse the 4-hour mark.  Now there's something to look forward to.  Starting, no doubt, in the summer of 2015.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Brian Williams And The NBC Nightly News Producers Fudge The Numbers--Again

Here's something interesting for NBC Nightly News viewers: Brian Williams was off Friday, Dec. 20.  He returned to anchor Nightly News on Monday, Dec. 23, and then took off Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  That seems odd.  Why would he take Friday off, return for just one day and then take the next four days off?  If not for Monday, he could have had a vacation of ten consecutive days (or more, depending on his schedule for New Year's week).  Well, remember that nothing at Nightly News happens randomly or by accident.  There was a very specific reason why Brian anchored the broadcast for only one day this past week.  And, not surprisingly, it has to do with ratings.  On those weekdays when Brian is off and someone else anchors the broadcast, the ratings are always lower than on the days when Brian anchors.  So on those days when Brian isn't anchoring (and he and his producers know the ratings will be lower), they submit Nightly News to the Nielsen ratings company intentionally misspelled as "Nitely News".  When that happens, Nielsen counts the lower-rated "Nitely News" shows in a separate category from the correctly-spelled Nightly News broadcasts, and thus they don't detract from the higher Nightly News ratings.  For example, let's say Monday's Nightly News broadcast anchored by Brian earned a 7.5 rating.  And let's say the other four broadcasts (with a substitute anchor) averaged a 6 rating.  The actual average Nightly News rating for the week would be a 6.3.  But because Brian and his producers submitted the Tuesday through Friday broadcasts misspelled as "Nitely News", they are not counted in the same category as Nightly News.  So Brian and his producers can claim that Nightly News actually had a 7.5 rating for the week--even though that number is deceptively based on just a single broadcast.  That's why Brian made sure to anchor one broadcast this past week.  Whatever rating Brian achieved on Monday will be considered the Nightly News rating for the entire Christmas week, since the other four (lower-rated) broadcasts were submitted to Nielsen with a different spelling.  And with a higher weekly rating, NBC can charge higher ad rates.  It's fudging the numbers and playing the system.  Another way to describe it: Cheating.  It's like giving a false name to the police so they won't know you have outstanding warrants under your real name.  This sleazy practice of intentionally misspelling Nightly News as "Nitely News" has been going on for years with the full blessing of Brian and former NBC News President Steve Capus.  And apparently, new NBC News president Deborah Turness has also signed off on this unethical practice.  This is the type of organization the NBC executives preside over.  Their main concern is high ratings--rather than delivering news--since that allows NBC to charge higher ad rates.  And let's face it--earning higher ad rates is what matters most to the NBC executives.  So Merry Christmas from all the highfalutin lowlifes at NBC News!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Brian Williams Just Doesn't Care Anymore

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.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

NBC News' Janet Shamlian Shills For The Pharmaceutical Industry

On Sunday's NBC Nightly News (6/30/13), correspondent Janet Shamlian reported on a new drug called Brisdelle that, for some women, may reduce hot flashes associated with menopause.  Of course this is Nightly News, so the story was just a 2:05 product placement for Brisdelle (and its manufacturer Noven).  But really it was so much more.

Shamlian and Lester Holt (the anchor who introduced the story) told us that Brisdelle had been approved by the FDA.  However, neither Holt nor Shamlian disclosed the following information:  "In March, the FDA's Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs voted 10 to 4 against recommending approval of paroxetine mesylate [Brisdelle] as a treatment for hot flashes."  (That information courtesy of Medscape News: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/807082.)  It is highly unusual for the FDA to go against an advisory committee recommendation, and Nightly News viewers deserved to know this information.  But that would require Shamlian to be fully truthful about Brisdelle, which she was not.

Shamlian also failed to disclose that Noven Pharmaceuticals has entered into a licensing agreement with Procter & Gamble whereby P & G will license Noven's as-yet-unnamed hormone skin patch which is designed to boost sex drive in women.  P & G is the largest consumer products company in the world, and each year it spends millions and millions of dollars in advertising and sponsorship money with the many NBC/Universal/Comcast television networks.

Later in the story, Shamlian explained that Brisdelle contained a lower dose of paroxetine, the major ingredient found in the anti-depressant Paxil.  We were then shown a full-screen photo of a clearly-labeled Paxil pill.  Paxil is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceutical behemoth that advertises heavily on Nightly News and other NBC/Universal/Comcast programs.

Shamlian's report began with a silly clip from "Mrs. Doubtfire" that showed Robin Williams' character complaining that he'd only been impersonating a woman for one day and already he's getting hot flashes.  Obviously, this did not help the viewers' understanding of menopausal hot flashes--it was just a gratuitous clip shoehorned into the story to make it more interesting to viewers.  One of the core philosophies of the NBC Nightly News producers (and anchor Brian Williams) is to pack their broadcast with movie and TV clips because the NBC Research Department has found that that tactic is very effective in boosting Nightly News's Nielsen ratings.

So let's recap: Shamlian intentionally omitted important information about the FDA's approval process for Brisdelle.  She neglected to mention Noven's licensing arrangement with NBC/Universal advertiser P & G.  She plugged Glaxo's Paxil.  And just for good measure, she threw in a clip from "Mrs. Doubtfire".  This wasn't a news story--it was a sleazy, unethical piece of biased yellow journalism.  It was a product placement (several of them, actually) masquerading as news.  But for NBC Nightly News, that's just business as usual.  Shame on Janet Shamlian and the Nightly News producers.  Interesting tidbit: You can't spell "Janet Shamlian" without the words "sham", "shame" and "lie".

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Brian Williams And Lester Holt Are Sleazy Shills For NBC Shows

Anyone who's watched NBC Nightly News more than a handful of times knows that one of its main goals is self-promotion.  Brian Williams, Lester Holt and the Nightly News producers have made a conscious decision to use their broadcast as a promotional vehicle for NBC sports, entertainment and news programs.  Some of these promotions are subtle--such as the repeated inclusion of clips from "Meet the Press", "Dateline", "Rock Center", MSNBC and CNBC shows--and some of these promotions are about as subtle as a brick to the head.  During the 17 days of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Nightly News spent an astounding 130 minutes "reporting" on Olympic-related stories as a way to aggressively promote viewership of their prime-time Olympic coverage (they also spent an additional 30 minutes on Olympic stories that were reported before and after the Games).  When you consider that a Nightly News broadcast contains less than 20 minutes of actual news, those 160 minutes represent the equivalent of 8 entire broadcasts.  For the 2012 London Olympics, the totals were even more egregious: Nightly News spent 147 minutes rabidly promoting the Olympics during the 17 days of competition plus an additional 45 minutes of Olympic-related stories leading up to the Games.  That works out to the equivalent of more than 9 entire Nightly News broadcasts.  I think we can safely say that Brian Williams, Lester Holt and their producers do everything they possibly can to shamelessly promote the Olympics for NBC (I can only imagine how much time they will spend promoting the 2014 Sochi Games).
But it doesn't end with the Olympics.  The highest-rated regular-season shows for NBC are the Sunday Night Football games they broadcast.  In fact, Sunday Night Football is usually the highest-rated network broadcast of the week.  So it would be an understatement to say that Nightly News (which precedes the game on Sunday nights) aggressively promotes NBC's Sunday Night Football.  On Sundays during football season, the last "news story" of the night is often a football-related story.  And more often than not, it's a story involving a player, players or teams scheduled to play later that night on NBC.  2010 was a standout year for Nightly News's promotion of Sunday Night Football.  Here are a few examples:  On Sept. 8, Nightly News ran a story about the Vikings' Madieu Williams.  And the following night, Brian Williams actually anchored the broadcast from New Orleans just so he could promote that night's Saints-Vikings season opener on NBC.  On Sept. 19, Nightly News did a story on Eli and Peyton Manning--right before NBC's Giants-Colts game.  On Sept. 26, there was a story about how the NFL recruits young fans.  On Oct. 17, we saw a Nightly News story about how members of the Washington Redskins were raising awareness about breast cancer--immediately followed by the Redskins-Colts game.  On Oct. 24, the story was about a college football coach who was recalled to active duty in the navy reserve.  And on Nov. 28, the final story of the night was about a charity run by the San Diego Chargers' Philip Rivers--right before the Chargers-Colts game.  But my favorite Nightly News football promotion story was on a Tuesday (Dec. 28, 2010, to be exact).  That week's Sunday night game in Philadelphia had been postponed due to a blizzard, and the game had been rescheduled for Tuesday.  That night, beginning at minute nine (before the first commercial break, which is considered prime news space), Brian spent an incredible 5:45 talking about that night's Eagles-Vikings game--first with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (nattily attired in a Comcast jacket) and then with NBC Sports commentator Bob Costas. Obviously, the only reason for this segment was to make absolutely certain that viewers knew the game would be airing THAT NIGHT ON NBC.  It's hard to imagine a sleazier, more unethical promotional segment than this one.  (A similar Rendell interview had already aired on Monday in addition to Brian Williams' two-minute talk with Michelle Kosinski about the rescheduling of the game to Tuesday.)  Clearly, none of these stories qualified as actual news--Nightly News ran them for one reason and one reason only--to promote NBC's Sunday Night Football.
And to this day, nothing has changed.  Brian and his producers continue to use Nightly News as a promotional vehicle for other NBC sports, entertainment and news shows.  Here are some examples from just this past week:
Monday 6/17/13--During a story about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Andrea Mitchell mentioned an interview that President Obama had given to Charlie Rose.  Mitchell told us that the interview would be airing "tonight on PBS".  That's true--but Mitchell intentionally omitted an important piece of information.  The Obama interview was also scheduled to run on Rose's other gig--Tuesday's "CBS This Morning".  Mitchell didn't mention that because "CBS This Morning" competes with NBC's "Today Show".  And we all know about "Today's" recent anchor troubles and ratings slippage.  So Mitchell intentionally refused to mention CBS in order to protect "Today".  That's pretty unethical.  And sleazy.  I used to think that Mitchell was an honest, respectable reporter, but as it turns out, she's just another NBC shill.  Also during her Snowden story, Mitchell showed some old Nightly News footage of herself from 1995 because if there's one thing Nightly News anchors and correspondents love reporting on, it's themselves.
The final story of the night was a frivolous, vapid piece about how Russian President Vladimir Putin supposedly stole a Super Bowl ring from New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft.  This is hardly a legitimate news story, but football season is less than three months away and it's time to start promoting NBC's Sunday Night Football.
Tuesday 6/18/13--Again reporting on Snowden, Andrea Mitchell showed a clip of Rose's interview with Obama--from his PBS show.  There was still no mention that the interview had also aired on "CBS This Morning".  The overwhelming mandate ringing through the halls of NBC News's 30 Rock studios is to protect and promote "Today" at all costs.  Even if it means a once-reputable NBC News correspondent like Mitchell has to lie.
Also on this broadcast, we saw a two-minute story about the protests in Brazil.  This was somewhat curious, considering that Nightly News doesn't pay much attention to foreign news.  But of course, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is the site of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games (which, of course, NBC is airing), so naturally the Brazil story got coverage.  I can guarantee that if it weren't for the Rio Olympics, this would have been a 20-second story, if it even got any coverage at all.
Wednesday 6/19/13--An obituary for Slim Whitman included a clip of him on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson (Carson was featured in the clip, as well).  "The Tonight Show" is one of the biggest beneficiaries of Brian's promotional largesse.  He loves to constantly promote it under any circumstances, but with the impending changeover from Jay Leno to Jimmy Fallon, "Tonight" will no doubt be receiving plenty of extra promotion from Brian and the other Nightly News anchors.  And if you think that showing an old clip of "Tonight" doesn't have any current promotional value, you should check with the NBC research department.  They'll set you straight.
Earlier in the broadcast, while Brian was reporting on the 1996 crash of TWA flight 800, he showed an old clip of himself reporting the crash on MSNBC in 1996.  I guess in the game of narcissistic one-upmanship, Brian refused to be outdone by Andrea Mitchell's 1995 clip of herself that she showed on Monday.
Thursday 6/20/13--Because promoting the 2016 Rio Olympics is so important to NBC, correspondent Miguel Almaguer was hastily dispatched to Brazil to cover the riots.  Almaguer made a point of specifically mentioning the Olympics in his story.
During Brian's unbelievably long 4:40 obituary for James Gandolfini, he included some footage of himself interviewing Gandolfini.  Because let's face it--the news is ALWAYS about Brian.
Friday 6/21/13--Again reporting from Brazil, Miguel Almaguer mentions the 2016 Olympics.  Since Tuesday, Nightly News has spent 5:20 reporting on the Brazil riots.  That's 5:20 of free promotion for the 2016 Olympics.
During a report about teaching math to Chicago grade-school students, correspondent Rehema Ellis asks a little girl what she likes so much about forensic science.  The girl responds that it makes her feel like "the detectives on Law & Order".  I wonder how many times Ellis had to shoot the scene before the girl said "Law & Order" instead of "CSI".
Saturday 6/22/13--The final story of the night was an idiotic 2:18 piece about the two men who sing the National Anthem for their respective hockey teams--the Bruins and the Blackhawks--at the Stanley Cup Finals.  Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals would be airing later that night on NBC so this was just a sleazy way to promote the game.  And just to make sure we didn't forget, Lester Holt ended the broadcast with another "reminder" for us to watch the game.  On NBC.  By the way--the story was titled "The Voice"--the name of an NBC entertainment show.  So in a story that shamelessly plugged NBC's Stanley Cup Finals, they also managed to throw in a plug for their idiotic singing competition show.  Nice job.
Maybe Lester should concentrate more on reading the news and less on plugging NBC sports and entertainment shows.  Earlier in the broadcast, he referred to Edward Snowden as "Eric" Snowden.
Sunday 6/23/13--A story about "Extreme Weather" featured the Weather Channel's Julie Martin.  Nightly News spends a lot of time promoting the Weather Channel.  That makes sense, since NBC/Universal owns the Weather Channel.  And spending 2 or 3 minutes a night reporting on the weather is a cheap way to use existing Weather Channel resources to fill news time.  And keeping costs down increases profitability.
The final story of the night was a ridiculous 2:20 "news story" on Nik Wallenda, who was preparing to walk across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope later that night.  Both Lester Holt and correspondent Ben Fogle told us that Wallenda would be crossing the Grand Canyon.  And both of them lied.  Wallenda would actually be crossing the Little Colorado River Gorge, which is adjacent to, but not part of, the Grand Canyon.  Calling it the Grand Canyon was just a way to further sensationalize the story.  The story included lots of promotional footage from the Discovery Channel, which would be televising the walk live later that night.  Fogle did everything he could to build anticipation, including telling us that Wallenda was "putting his life on the line".  This was nothing more than a 2:20 commercial for the Discovery Channel special airing later that night.  And like he did with the Stanley Cup Finals story in Saturday, Lester ended the broadcast with another plug for Discovery's "Skywire Live" (including a full-screen promo) and told us that it would be hosted by Natalie Morales and Willie Geist--two anchors from "The Today Show".  That's a lot of promotion for a Discovery Channel special.  But there's something Lester Holt and Ben Fogle didn't tell us: The Discovery Channel Special was being produced by Peacock Productions--a production company owned by NBC.  So obviously NBC had a financial stake in the special and NBC had an interest in boosting viewership.  So NBC used Nightly News to plug a Discovery Channel special that they were producing.  And profiting from.  That's not just sleazy, it's unethical.  And Lester Holt and Ben Fogle are sleazy scumbags for refusing to disclose NBC's financial interest in Wallenda's walk.
And once again, maybe Lester should have concentrated more on reading the news than promoting NBC-produced shows.  During a story about the Dayton Air Show crash, he described the wing-walker who was killed as Jane "Walker", rather than Jane Wicker, her actual name.
Monday 6/24/13--Before the second commercial break, Brian Williams said, "We're back in a moment with news of a big loss in the entertainment world."  A big loss?  Is it Barbra Streisand?  Tony Bennett?  No--it was Gary David Goldberg.  Who?  He was the creator of "Family Ties"--a show that ran on NBC in the 1980's.  No disrespect to Goldberg's family, but he isn't a big loss.  Hardly anyone knows who he is.  The only reason Brian reported this story was to boost sales of "Family Ties" DVD's and other memorabilia at the NBC on-line store.  And just to whet our appetites, this 45-second story included 25 seconds of "Family Ties" clips.  We all love Michael J. Fox, right?  Right.
Later, Brian reported that Paul Giamatti would be joining the cast of "Downton Abbey" next season.  The story featured lots of "Downton Abbey" clips.  But Brian neglected to mention one little fact: "Downton Abbey" is produced by Carnival Films--which is owned by NBC/Universal.  So Brian used Nightly News to promote an NBC property without disclosing NBC's involvement.  Sleazebag.
Brian also reported a 30-second story on Paula Deen's crumbling empire.  He ended the story by telling us that Deen would be appearing on Wednesday's "Today Show".  Brian had already spent 2:30 reporting on Deen's troubles on Friday's Nightly News, but this "news story" allowed him to promote "Today".  Shameful.
Brian ended Monday's Nightly News with a 2:15 story--I should say another story--on Nik Wallenda's Sunday tightrope walk across the not-quite-Grand Canyon (at least Brian admitted it was "across a gorge NEAR the Grand Canyon").  As was the case with Lester Holt and Ben Fogle, Neither Brian nor correspondent/shill Anne Thompson (who reported the story) disclosed that NBC had produced Sunday's Discovery Channel Special, although Thompson made sure to tell us that 13 million people had watched and that it had been seen in 217 countries.  So that's the second "news story" on Wallenda's walk in two days--4:35 of prime news time wasted on a story whose only purpose was to promote an NBC-produced show.  But why would Brian and his producers bother promoting a show that had already aired?  Because in this day and age, TV shows are never really over (except for "Rock Center", Brian's failed exercise in narcissism).  Discovery's "Skywire Live" special continues to air on Discovery On Demand--along with lots of "extras" and behind-the-scenes clips.  So any additional ad revenue that Discovery derives from the repeat airings, DVD's, etc., will certainly be shared by NBC.
So let's recap: Monday's Nightly News was an opportunity for Brian Williams to plug "Family Ties" DVD's, Downton Abbey and Discovery's "Skywire Live" special.  That's a pretty good day for NBC.
Here's a little irony: On Sunday and Monday, Lester Holt and Brian Williams both reported on the start of the George Zimmerman trial.  And after their stories, they each read this disclaimer: "We should note that George Zimmerman has sued NBC/Universal, the parent company of NBC News, for defamation.  The company has strongly denied his allegations."  What Brian and Lester are referring to is Zimmerman's lawsuit against NBC for intentionally altering his 911 tapes to make him appear racist.  (Even after this became public, Brian and Lester never once acknowledged on the air that this misdeed had actually taken place.)  So when it comes to offering a weaselly denial/disclosure that helps NBC, Brian and Lester are more than willing.  But when it comes to disclosing that NBC is producing "Downton Abbey" and the Discovery "Skywire Live" special, they suddenly become tight-lipped.  Brian Williams and Lester Holt are scumbags of the highest order.