An open letter to Brian Williams of the NBC Evening News

An open letter to Brian Williams of the NBC Evening News
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Brian, if I may call you that, I have written several messages, into the blind, to TV personalities over the past few years about things they have said or done in the course of their shows. In the news category, they include Tim Russert on NBC’s Meet the Press, followed now by David Gregory, as well as you. One difference between MTP and straight news shows, such as yours, is that MTP is constrained by the problem that if they start embarrassing too many interviewees, no one will appear on the show; but the news shows up no matter what. Therefore, you have no such restrictions on how you present the news; other than some propriety; network or personally enforced.

 

I think there are two things wrong with news presentation today, especially on MSM networks: one is that too much bad news is reported, numbing the public with that barrage; and the second being that the news is presented in such a way as to lull the viewer into ignoring the severity of the news items. This is not a new issue with the news, and was pointed out in Don Henley’s Dirty Laundry song back in 1982 with lyrics like:

“We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who comes on at five
She can tell you 'bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eye …”

 

I’m not saying, Brian, that you are a bubble-head, but you definitely soft-soap the news, IMO.  Where you should be delivering the news like a guided missile straight to the cerebral cortex, to get people fully engaged, you, instead, deliver the news as if it were a newborn baby, wrapped in a warm blanket. I don’t know if this is the way NBC wants it, or if it is an indication of some sort of reticence, or even some shyness, on your part. But I think you can be much more effective if you put a bit more of yourself into each story.

 

I remember when you first came on the scene and you were on the Tonight Show.  Cher and Jane Fonda were also guests; they were on before you, so they were already seated when you came on. Well, they just became two giggly school girls in your presence, making jokes about your gentlemanly appearance, and especially your manner of dress. You were obviously embarrassed, and you appeared quite uncomfortable with it, as I remember. And that’s all I remember. I can’t recall how it finally stopped, or if it even did; nor can I remember who the host was at the time. The reason I bring this up at all is because, IMO, it showed a certain inability of yours, early on, to handle such stress, even though it was coming from a couple “silly” girls.  You could have easily taken control of the situation by saying something like: “Shut your mouths, bitches, before I choke you with my manliness.”

 

Fast forward back to today, and we have you saying something very much like “And we thought this was over”, after reporting on the London Whale dropping $6B in illicit trading at J.P. Morgan.  Well, I “knew” it was not over, and did many others; so, you were not speaking to or for us. What you should have said, IMO, was something like: “Those SOBs did it again! Who, out there, is going to stop them?” I think I fired another feedback message off into the blind after that one.

 

One message I definitely sent you, Brian, was when Sullenberger landed that commercial airliner on the Hudson River. You were all over him and his “heroism”; and you had also been touting several others around that time as heroes for just doing their job; diluting the true meaning of heroism, IMO *1*. Sullenberger was an exceptional pilot, and demonstrated that in merely doing his job.  But, he did save his own life while saving the others; so he probably would have done exactly the same thing if the plane had been empty. And Sullenberger was the first to say that he was not a hero. So, in this case, I would rather you had commended him by saying something like: “God dammit; that guy sure can fly a plane. That ranks right up there with getting Apollo 13 back”.

 

And also along those lines, you keep using the line: “Thanks as always” to people like Dr. Nancy Snyderman, who helped out and reported from the Philippines recently, and Richard Engle, who is always putting himself in harm’s way. At the end of their reports, Brian, you should be saying things like” Damn, woman, you went way out of your way going there to help out and report in that hell hole”, and “Richard, you are the man, for risking your life to scoop us the real deal from the field.”

 

And now back to my first listed issue with MSM news: too much bad news is reported, numbing the public with that barrage.  You usually have a closing article of spiritual value.  We need more of that.  One slightly uplifting story after a slew of death and destruction is not any balance at all; even with your lightweight delivery.  How about turning it right around, having a slew of good news articles, followed by one bad news article; delivered by the “new” Brian.  Leave people angry with the way things are, not only because of the story itself, but also because you took one good story away from them.  The way things are now, you provide little to no hope at all, and just turn people numb to the ugliness that is rampant.  And, if you cut down on giving the crazies their “15 minutes of fame”, some of them might just stop acting so crazy.

 

So, Brian, in closing let me say that if you are striving to be a Huntley, Brinkley, or Cronkite, you have much more of a drive ahead of you; and you must drive driven.   Be the news; think Howard Beale.  And if you got this far, thanks for listening. “Good night and good luck.”

 

*1* I am using my own definition for hero.  A typical one is something like: “a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.”  I don’t think that a person can be considered a hero if he performs brave and noble acts from which he also benefits, the same way as everyone else.

Comments

Christine Hegadus Added Nov 26, 2013 - 10:17am
I can't believe you're criticizing Brian Williams for calling Sullenberger a hero.  I clearly don't agree with that one and seeing that's your only specific example I still have no idea what Brian Williams did to upset you so much.  
Darrell Laurant Added Nov 26, 2013 - 10:34am
At some undetermined point, TV news crossed the boundary from information to entertainment. What that means, in part, is that the lead story on the 6:30 news has to be characterized as a big deal, even if it isn't. Case in point: Leading with a blizzard in the upper Midwest in January. And one of the ways to "interest" readers is to frighten them, or titillate them by overselling a story.   Example: Will the problems with the health care Website destroy Barack Obama's presidency? Answer: Probably not, because the public will have forgotten about it in a month or so, as long as it gets fixed. The most important stories don't normally lend themselves to sound bites or teasers, because they unfold gradually over time.
 
   
Steve Borsher Added Nov 26, 2013 - 10:50am
Christine,
Williams is just the most visible of the bunch; and he makes $10M/year feeding US pablum.  If you call non-heroes "heroes" often enough, they will most likely begin to believe it.  I'm sure most politicians think they are heroes.  They are doing " the people's business"; yeah, right. There should be a "True Hero Of The Year Award" to reset the inference of what a hero truly is; and that is not necessarily covered by the Nobel prizes. Read what Darrell said, He is my "hero".
David Erickson Added Nov 26, 2013 - 10:58am
The division between news, commentary and entertainment has been blurred for a couple decades now and it's getting worse. I do miss the forthright and unbiased news reporting of people like Walter Conkrite. You sensed you could trust him to give it to you straight. Nowadays I see too much bias that I assume is part of the media owner's game plan.

There is far too much emphasis on negative stories and it's sad that all the news broadcasters concentrate on rehashing the same stuff all the other channels are offering - nothing unique, nothing of any depth, nothing of useful value.

I do realize that the sole purpose of any broadcast is to sell advertising, but news used to be somewhat exceptional. It used to provide a public service. I don't see that anymore. Our loss. 
Tim Bryce Added Nov 26, 2013 - 11:09am
Steve -  Good job.  I agree.  I wrote something similar to this a few years ago, going back to the days of Huntley-Brinkley - http://timbryce.blogspot.com/2009/11/good-night-chet.html
Steve Borsher Added Nov 26, 2013 - 11:17am
Tim,
Thanks. Yes, they were my "heroes" too. And i would add Jim Lehrer and Tom Brokaw as well. Brokaw has become a senior statesman of news broadcasting; he remains extremely relevant.
David Shimtzon Added Nov 26, 2013 - 11:52am
I have not watched or listened to MSM news since I returned from living overseas twenty years ago, in 1991. In today's world there is no need to rely on such sources for news. My news comes from  internet sites all over the world, daily newspapers, and many alternative radio venues.
 
I discovered long ago that the MSM is based on certain axioms - (and they are indeed axioms for them - things that can be neither questioned nor proved) -  that are fundamentally at odds with my personal beliefs, and refuted by my overseas experiences. In addition, they have very particular agenda about what they cover, what they don't, and how they cover what they choose to cover.
 
IMO most Americans live in a bubble, and the MSM is simply a reflection thereof. To get a some semblance of what's actually going in today's very complex and dangerous world, it is necessary to get out of that bubble, and todays communication media provide us with the tools to do so.
Breitbart Lives Added Nov 26, 2013 - 11:58am
@ Darrell

Obamcare might wreck Obama’s presidency, usher in a new wave of conservatism, destroy the economy, etc. Accordingly, it is an important story which does lend itself to great sound bites or teasers like “if you like your plan you can keep you plan”. However, unlike a train wreck, the Obamacare fiasco is going to unfold gradually over time.

Generally speaking I agree with your comment, because the devil is in the details, most would rather see footage of twisters rolling through the Midwest than hearing another Republican say “if you like your plan you can’t keep your plan” when it was only a theoretical argument.
Steve Borsher Added Nov 26, 2013 - 12:41pm
The MSM is the logical, and political, extension of the smoke screen laid down by the politicians.  They have to report something negative about 0care now, because it is just too obvious, and it cannot be hidden by PC phrases; although 0bama and co tried very hard to do just that. When Axelrod had nothing left in his arsenal of catchy phrases to defend it on Meet the Press, you gotta know "something is rotten in the state of" 0bama.
 
Did anyone in the MSM ever say: "Nancy Pelosi is the epitome of a slimy politician"?  Well, she is, but that would not be PC.  There's a very good reason it is called "political" correctness. I'm surprised that it isn't called by its PC name: social correctness. That was a big gaffe by the politicians, IMO.
 
And now close your eyes, relax, breath slowly and evenly, and think about what it takes to keep this huge balloon of deceit in the air: the politicians, the MSM, the police, the military, the courts, etc.; all working in lock step to keep US all "barefoot and pregnant", and out of their way and in line.
JM Albaine Added Nov 26, 2013 - 1:25pm
The MSM (Main Stream Media, aka, Drive-by Media) are an extension of the Ministry of "Truth" (propaganda organ) of the Obama Regime in particular, and the whole apparatchik of the Democrat Party (aka Socialist Party of the USA)...Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, and the rest of them are just mouth pieces of the progressive ruling class...No credibility from this cabal in my judgement, thus I don't waste any time in what they have to say about any subject.  These are all teleprompter readers who one day will be replaced by "real" robots who probably will be more truthful  and objective in delivering the so-called news to the unsuspecting masses.
Ronald P. Added Nov 26, 2013 - 1:53pm
The only truth we see on the boob tube and the idiot box today are from PBS,and before it was taken off the US airways - the Canadian Broadcasting Company and now Aljazeera English. All of the others are bought and paid for by the corporations and are mostly right wing propaganda.
Steve Borsher Added Nov 26, 2013 - 2:55pm
Where PBS stands, or lays down, in all this is a conundrum. They are funded by major corporations and the gumment, so one has to wonder how independent and truthful even they can be.  Haven't they had some funding pulled recently?  IMO, the only really independent broadcaster would be a pirate station. Did anyone on PBS ever say: "Nancy Pelosi is the epitome of a slimy politician"? Well, is she or isn't she. PBS is the darling of big money that wants their donations to be highly visible.  And it is worth keeping their hands off the content, mostly, to maintain that respectable appearance.
 
Here's the funniest thing I ever saw in this vein.  Even while Bank of America was wallowing near bankruptcy and burning taxpayer money, they continued to fund PBS. Do I need to elaborate? OK, I will anyway.  Bill Gates did a similar thing in overcharging for his mediocre/unreliable software, and is now giving that ill gotten money away; essentially dictating (like that word?) where we want to donate our money.
Brian Hulse Added Nov 26, 2013 - 3:40pm
Language is a pet peeve of mine as well. My significant other's son had his left leg blown off, and most of the muscle mass removed from the right, in an IED attack in Iraq. The newspapers said he "lost" his leg. He didn't lose his leg. You lose your car keys. His leg was violently and intentionally blown off. Period. Call it what it is.
 
Brian, although called the Senior Editor, has a lot of pressures - that's for sure. My pet peeve with him (and others of his ilk) are the "teasers". At the end of every segment, 10-25 seconds are wasted on teasers, making sure you come back after the commercial break. We're Americans. We're on the couch. We're lazy. We're not going to change the channel. Trust us. We'll still be there when you come back!!! Use that time to give us MORE NEWS!!! If you add it all up, there's at least enough time to put one more story in there, or maybe extend the depth of 2 or 3. We don't want to be teased; that's not why we're there. We're there to be INFORMED. 
John Newman Added Nov 26, 2013 - 4:01pm
People seem to forget that commercial news exists to make money. The mass media, no matter the form, must make a profit to survive. Privately owned, for-profit media businesses have few obligations, to the public, on how news is presented. Think market share and see why Brian Williams is on NBC. This is no conspiracy, just business. As for PBS, a non-profit entity, corporate donations keep it viable. At least PBS tries to give us something more than reality fluff. Obviously, wise people seek out many portals of information and how to discern fact from fiction.  The internet is just one tool. As far as I know, nobody has yet created a completely bias-free and accurate news organisation everyone can access. 
 
Steve Borsher Added Nov 26, 2013 - 4:02pm
Brian,
Thanks. That is a very good addition to the article. And I do appreciate your "step-son's" sacrifice.
 
I don't know if Europe still does this, but back in the day (you know which one) they used to batch all the commercials at one end or other of the program; now, that was civilized TV.  Of course, TV nudity wasn't taboo either over there. I watch Nightly News off the DVR, so my time isn't wasted; but I'll always take as much news as I can get. These days, Nightly News is mostly a digest of what I already read on the Internet; but the many of the "special correspondent" pieces are not to be missed.  We all have things that will suck us in, not matter how cynical we might be, ans Richard Engel just seems to me to be "the real deal".  I would be devastated to find out his reports were just so much dog wagging. Joe Scarborough dissed Engel on Meet the Press, and that was the end of The Morning Joke for me.
Stephen Jones Added Nov 26, 2013 - 9:44pm
The 4 nightly news services (Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC) are a "JOKE", and haven't given us the real "rounded" news in years... many years! PBS NewsHour does a much better job at fair and honest, "rounded" reporting of each and every story. The "major" 4 rely on sensationalized stories because they rely on ratings to get advertising dollars. In Germany, each resident with a television pays a small annual fee to support the news, which comes across like a PBS news hour show. The only difference is the payment method. In the USA, PBS is supported by tax dollars in the federal budget (a tiny fraction of the budget) and voluntary donations by members. PBS isn't dependent on ratings, and doesn't have to sensationalize the stories. That is the important distinction, in my humble opinion.
MSNBC, CNN, and PBS are the way to go, if you care. Of course, Bloomberg.com improves the reading skills of us OLD FARTS, and that's why I read most of my news; our Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper SHRANK to nearly nothing every day.
stepping off my soapbox now...
Amerigo Cimino Added Nov 27, 2013 - 5:36am
"An open letter to Brian Williams of the NBC Evening News"
I thought it was a good summary of "news" delivery, Brian Wlliams, just happened to be the target in this article; any other news reporter could have been used.  Trivia is given top billing; while "real' news is buffered to soften the impact!  The use of superlatives and slander give the stories ; (reports); more substace, but that's the by-liners meat!  Th real problem; the readers, who are ignorant of the facts, but "believe" what is printed!  There are not many readers who question these reports!   I think this applys to whatever we read!  What is the answer?  A better informed public.  The other problem; how to inform.  
A problem thaat has been around for years and still growing; TAXES!  The Supreme Court changed one word, in it's deliberations on ObamaCare; and called it a TAX, and allowed it to "pass"!  Shame on the Supreme Court!  We are going to pay the price for that "change"!  
I have been promoting the Fair Tax; and it's simplicity, and reliability!  All of the above would be History, with the passage of (HR 25), The Fair Tax.  The Fair Tax, is a tax on Consumption; instead of income!  There are many, many benefits that come with the Fair Tax, the best being a "Pay as You Go"; NO paperwork!  NO receipts needed; No exceptons; anyone who buys anything new; pays the tax  at the time of purchase!  That's it!
What do you think?
Norma Brown Added Nov 27, 2013 - 5:53am
I don't agree about reporting mostly good news. People like a nice story now and then, and it's good to know that the humane part of humanity has not yet been numbed to death or beaten to death. But we need the real news, and most of it isn't good. How do you make decisions on what your own personal actions should be if you aren't aware of your surroundings (and that is a reference back to another subject under discussion!)
Certainly 24-hour news scours the earth looking for something to talk about and in that respect, yes -- totally agree -- we don't need to know that some guy in some place we will never see or need to see has had some tremendous misfortune in his life; we can do nothing about it and don't need the angst since our own news is worrisome enough.
Steve Borsher Added Nov 27, 2013 - 11:38am
Norma,
Nightly News is, effectively, about 18 minutes long.  How much understandable "real" news can be reported in that amount of time anyway.  I think they should use it to do some "good": inspiring people instead of making them feel that things are hopeless.  Presenting a bunch of sound bits as "news" is almost a criminal act, IMO.  I wonder how many people that approach has driven to acts of desperation. Remember what a panic Orson Wells created with the "War Of The World" radio broadcast?
 
 
Steve Borsher Added Nov 27, 2013 - 11:40am
Amerigo,
The Supremes have a long way to go, IMO, to best their sanctification of lying on one's military "record".
Ken Mapp Added Nov 27, 2013 - 2:39pm
            Dear Steve.
            Thank you for your interesting and informative letter.  I want you to know that we value your opinion and those of all our viewers.  We work hard every day to provide you with a quality news program that is interesting, informative, timely, important and above all accurate.  And believe you me, that is not as simple as it sounds.  Dozens of people besides me are involved in creating the programming that you enjoy every day.  We have reporters and fact checkers to create and verify the content.  We have editors who choose and shape the stories.  We are constantly doing market research and running focus groups to help us determine what you like to see and how you like to see it.  And of course we have the business side, to sell advertising, run the business, and make sure that our costs do not get totally out of control. 
Every day our editors have to choose from dozens of stories competing for your attention.  They have to account for the interests of our marketing department, our corporate offices, their best guess as to what people want to see, and of course their sense of duty as journalists to the American public.  It is not an easy job.  We have come to expect that almost every decision we make will be criticized by someone for one reason or another. 
With respect to your call for an expression of judgment and feeling in the news, I whole heartedly agree.  There has been many a time that I would have liked to go on a rant and tear the subject of one our pieces a new one.  At the very least I wish that we, like our colleagues at the BBC, would challenge people on the factual accuracy of what they say instead of treating their misstatements as just another view on the subject.  But we are after all, a news organization, not an opinion organization; we present the facts and let you form your own conclusion.  But I tell you what, if you and your friends take to the street and express the opinions that I might like to express myself on the air, that would be news, and we at NBC would cover it. 
And finally, yes, I remember that night with Jane and Cher.  It was long ago and I was young and it was not my best moment, but certainly not my worst.  Some of my more ardent fans recall the coconut hill incident on the 3rd season of celebrity survivor.   But yes, on that night, I had considered standing up on the Johnny’s desk, ripping of my shirt, and pounding my chest in Tarzanianian demonstration of manhood.  Thoughts of my responsibility to my family though restrained me, and a good thing too.  For had I expressed my true feelings that night in the manner I describe above, I probably would not be here tonight to present to you the news that you so clearly value and enjoy. 
 
Warmest regards
Brian Williams. 
Diana Brown Added Nov 27, 2013 - 9:05pm
Wow - I come back after a few days away and find this valued thread along with an answer from Brian Williams.  I am firmly in the camp of Steve on this one, a bit more radical I suspect.  I departed television some time ago. It all got to sit-com"y" for my taste including network news, My suspicion is there were too many masters to "serve" so I simply vote in taking my business elsewhere. To this I state directly to Mr. Williams, beware my like are growing in this US and soon you may find no one tuning in to be entertained. 
 
I will not compare Mr. Williams with anyone in the past. I understand those were different days and served different masters.  Here is what I do know: Americans are in search of unvarnished truth.  I don't think that need is met on television. As Brian Hulse indicated at best the news is trivialized.
 
My voice may not be of interest to Mr. Williams or network news. My hope however is that this thread serves to awaken all associated with news programing. News is not an extension of Hollywood. This is not about ratings like the latest sitcom.  This is about unvarnished truth NOT beings served as patronizing pablum.
 
continued...
Diana Brown Added Nov 27, 2013 - 9:08pm
It is my further suspicion, however, that , and with warm regards, you have long ago sold out Mr. Williams.  By this I mean sold out to those masters who direct you much as actors on that newest sitcom as to what you will say and how you will say it.  The specific direction to you is to relay all is well in the viewers camp.  It is not OK in the viewers camp Mr. Williams.  Now it is really about what you do and how you do it going forward to make a believer out of me. 
Diana Brown Added Nov 27, 2013 - 9:45pm
By the way,
who is Ken Map writing for Brian Williams?  Just curious.
 
Thanks all for your perspectives.
Steve Borsher Added Nov 28, 2013 - 2:29pm
Ken,
Prior to writing this article I had pinged Williams via Facebook, chiding him on his overuse of saying that JFK's death had "changed the course of histroy".  No event changes the course of history; it merely is history. I also called him a "drama queen".
 
I originally wrote this piece as a follow up, but then decided to post it here.  I also considered pinging him on FB with a link to this article.  I am sitting on the fence about that, because I think it would appear self serving.  Generally, I don't care much about appearances, but I would also like to see if he "discovers it himself".  Still, would the "$10 million dollar man" even care? Would he mention it on Nightly News?
 
So, "to (ping) or not to (ping), that IS the question".
Carole McKee Added Nov 28, 2013 - 4:41pm
You can't actually believe that Brian Williams has full control over what he reports. This is a job to him. He has rules that he has to follow, and with all of the political correctness forced on the media today, he must follow those rules to keep his job. I agree that the news is biasedly presented, and many times sugar coated, but that's not Brian Williams' or anyone else in the news media's fault. Various special interest groups have forced the media's hands (and mouths) into making news stories lukewarm so as not to offend.

 

As far as calling Sullenburger a hero--I don't necessarily agree that he meets the criteria for hero, but I believe that since we have very few heroes to worship, we are searching for them. IMO, the entire military deserves the title of hero, but many don't see it that way. Years ago, people looked up to athletes but not so much any more with all the illicit drugs, alcohol abuse, and sex scandals, in professional sports. People used to worship movie stars, but obviously there is no star quality there any more.

 

But honestly, Steve, to criticize Brian Williams for his polite and gentlemanly manner is a little off the deep end. If I wanted to hear crude talk and bad language along with the news, I could probably get that at any corner bar. Part of Brian's appeal is that he is a clean cut gentleman, and he would damn well be welcome at my dinner table any time.
Steve Borsher Added Nov 28, 2013 - 5:08pm
Carole,
Yes, I'm sure the entire thing is scripted; but he has interjected his "feelings" more than once, and could do so more emphatically. I doubt "we thought this wouldn't happen again" was scripted.
 
The Sullenberger event took place during a period when Williams was calling football players heroes; and I don't mean Tillman.  There is absolutely nothing more disgusting to me than calling any sports figure a hero for merely are doing their "job". Most of the "dream team" basketball players skipped a game just after 911, because they were afraid to fly, IMO  Some heroes, huh? That included Shaq, among others. Maybe LeBron should be considered a hero because he did go.
 
Yes, he is definitely a clean cut all-american boy; something that Cher and Fonda found quite funny.  I don't want "bad language" either. I just want something better than robotic repetitive delivery. Yes, we don't pay cash for network broadcasting, but we end up paying in more insidious ways. WIlliams has wooed you, just as 0bama once wooed the country; but Williams' is not on a "hot" seat, and so will not suffer the same fall as 0bama.  I still reel at the number of people in need of Snake Oil. Today they call it Kool-Aid.
Steve Borsher Added Nov 28, 2013 - 7:47pm
Carole,
How would you describe Alex Trebek in your personal comparison to Brian Williams?
Anthony Simeone Added Nov 28, 2013 - 9:24pm
Reply Part 1.
Steve, being new to the site, I have only taken the time to read a few of everyone’s writings. This is the second of yours. I also appreciate the comments you made in response to another’s posting that I too had commented on. You have a knack – as do many of the contributing writers – for picking subjects that will get a robust response. I assume that is important to you or you would not be wasting your time and creative energy to offer what you do.
I can easily identify with many of the points you make. For numerous reasons unimportant to share, many in my family have often considered me to be a cynic. Let’s say, I have high ideals that have been honed over time. I resemble the time weary Appalachians.
In fact, I was also planning to write a note to Brian for his clearly skewed use of “as always”. Before getting too deep into our media issues, let me share my concerns with “as always”. I must first admit that I prefer to watch Nightly News over other news sources. Sometimes you grow up and into things that are difficult to explain. I guess that I have always been more of an NBC “guy” than et al. But then, with our media bloodline being what it is, my stronger preference for one over another is not a heavy endorsement.
But Brian’s selective use of “as always” has clear partiality. The winner, by too many lengths is Dr. Nancy Snyderman. Occasionally, one will be parsed out to Andrea Mitchell and even Richard Engle. RE is so much into the global action centers that when he does appear in person with Brian, he seems a misfit – as if on display. He definitely deserves a few more “as always”. We can only guess to the real motives behind this Freudian behavior.
Anthony Simeone Added Nov 28, 2013 - 9:24pm
Reply Part 2.
Now to the heart of your “Letter to Brian” – the news delivery system. Steve, you are not a naïve man. You must understand the reality of business accounting principles, i.e. Accounting 101. It is about viewers, ratings, profits, sponsorships, profits, ratings, profits and apple pie. If I may, I would like to use the world of radio as a comparable example. Pick your city. Pick your time slot. Pick your market. Pick your audience. At one time, there were a limited, but well-plugged into affiliated network, “shock jocks” punishing the airwaves with sarcastic wit that was most often simply sarcastic comment. After a few glasses of alcohol, we would all begin to lose enough of our inhibitions that we would be able to compete with the best of them.
You may remember some of the more famous ones: Opie and Anthony, Mancow, Don and Mike and of course, The King of All Media, Mr. Howard Stern. On the political side of the “entertainment” scale is/was Don Imus, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh. These are some of those who set the agenda for radio dialogue. Their strong views are/were often pretty extreme and often crossed a line – THE line – for what was considered proper by the FCC. Egos got as big as salaries. Limbaugh landed $30M and Stern got Mercury, Pluto, Fort Knox and Boardwalk to go to XM Radio where he was free to say whatever he wanted without restrictions and corresponding fines.
But, when you get into mainstream television, the Big Three, they still control the agenda. CNN tries to be more controversial but all try to outgun the other with inoffensive assaults such as: An Exclusive Interview With…or The First On The Scene…or On The Scene Even Before An Event Occurs! That is being on the front lines – not just some obscure report by a Richard Engel with his copycat version of Al Franken who strapped a satellite dish to his head and became a one-man remote TV crew for Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update.
The fact is, whether it is Brian Williams today or Tom Brokaw before, the script is tightly orchestrated. Our best chance for real-time, “cutting edge” commentary is likely to come from Saturday Night Live. Better yet, The Simpsons. I missed Brian’s debut on The Tonight Show but can easily envision the giddiness that surrounded him. They could have really raised the stakes – and ratings – of that show if he happened to be a guest with Howard Stern. The Guppy would have succumbed to The Great White.
No, there will never be any SOBs or goddams used on the air. Unless there is some catastrophic event – like Revolution – to occur, we will continue to have our news “as if it were a newborn baby, wrapped in a warm blanket.”
In closing, let me add my support for your disdain of the highly-over/misuse of hero. Look around the Third World and heros would abound if survival was a prereq for its application. Sullenberger knew that he demonstrated great piloting techniques in landing his plane in the Hudson River. In addition, there was no collateral damage!
Good job for raising some valid points for discussion and energetic exchange. But don’t confuse EXchange with Change. And don’t forget those Accounting 101 course objectives.
Diana Brown Added Nov 28, 2013 - 10:48pm
Interesting contributions from all. Recently I checked out an HBO series Newsroom by Aaron Sorkin from library.  Within it there are several real world news events along with several of the challenges one must face in order to bring truth, as opposed to distilled version, to public awareness.  It actually reflects many of the issues brought forth in the Brian Williams post under the persona of Ken Mapp. Here there is evidence of missed opportunity for all in serving too many masters.  The point is we, as public, continue to accept less and most want more than a well dressed good looking man in a nice suit assuring us (with warm regards) that all is well.
 
For my time, television is the past now I find  internet information is generally unfiltered.  I become the fact checker, production manager, producer and research director.  I find that in doing so one actually discovers the news.
Anthony Simeone Added Nov 29, 2013 - 7:27am
Diana, I'm sure many/most of us do the very same thing. That does not absolve the media of the fact that what is considered "news" has become a profitable line for networks. And, knowing that you have been in television, I know you know that before the digital explosion, Arbitron ruled as does Nielsen today. And, to further demonstrate the importance of viewer acceptance, with more and more people getting their news from the Internet, the birth of Internet rating companies has given us comScore, Wakoop and Hitwise who measure hits on internet pages.
Of course, there will always be places in our hearts for the "well dressed good looking man in a nice suit" and yes, we even expect our weather forecasters to be comedians, and inter-active commentators who can easily banter the relevance of weather with news and sports. It has become a Disney world.
I provide these few excerpts from a NY Times article to support the importance of changes being forced onto networks and the implication of audiences use of the Internet to obtain news content and entertainment.
"For decades, the big three, now big four, networks all had the same game plan: spend many millions to develop and produce scripted shows aimed at a mass audience and national advertisers, with a shelf life of years or decades as reruns in syndication."
"Financially, the networks are on shaky ground, partly because they rely almost solely on advertising. CBS reported that for the fourth quarter of last year, as the recession deepened, operating income in its television segment declined 40 percent, even though it was by far the most-watched network. In the second week of February, CBS had 12 of the top 20 shows, according to Nielsen Media Research.
News Corporation, which owns Fox, reported operating income of $18 million in broadcast television, compared with $245 million a year ago. And Disney's broadcasting business had a 60 percent drop in operating income.
For years the major networks raised their ad rates, despite the shrinking audience, because they still offered advertisers a larger audience than anyone else.
“More dollars are chasing fewer eyeballs...”
I agree with you that it is not Brian Williams. He has a job, gets paid well and wants to continue to be a celebrity and not sent to some remote Aleutian Island because of a careless - though truthful - spin on the news. To the networks, his (and he represents all) opinion is really not important. He is merely the Messenger.
I believe Brian said it best to summarize why he behaves the way he does. "Thoughts of my responsibility to my family though restrained me, and a good thing too.  For had I expressed my true feelings that night in the manner I describe above, I probably would not be here tonight to present to you the news that you so clearly value and enjoy."
Steve Borsher Added Nov 29, 2013 - 12:51pm
AS,
I offer what I do in order to help humankind evolve. I do not do it for the comments. I started doing this several years ago, elsewhere, took a break for a couple years, and now I have started up again here, because I like this site.
 
I watch nightly news because it is on a convenient time, we eat late, although I do usually watch the recording of it about an hour later.  I seek out information wherever I can; if that information is new, I always validate it elsewhere.
 
Obviously, I agree with you in Snyderman, and Engle.  Andrea Mitchell suffers a loss of my respect in being married to Alan Greenspan.  She is an excellent correspondent with a huge albatross around her neck, IMO. If you think that RE seems a misfit on Nightly News, you should have seen him on Meet the Press, when Joe Scarborough questioned his insights into our status in the Middle East.  I no longer watch Morning Joke because of that; as I said above.
 
I mostly ignored what followed in your comment, as I did Ken Mapp’s letter from Brian.  I am not interested in the whys or wherefores of the current state of the news; I am only interested in seeing change. Even if Brian Williams responded, I probably would not read much of it; but that would depend on how the letter started off.  “Actions speak louder than words”; yet another one of the Golden Rules that I live by. So, you can also understand, therefore, how I feel about 0bama.
Anthony Simeone Added Nov 29, 2013 - 1:20pm
Steve, I stopped watching MJoke because of the supporting cast. As for AM, well she did what she did and is who she is. It's not that I am at a loss for words, it's just that I often see couples and wonder how they made their spousal choices. The choices get tougher if the couple in question happens to be an acquaintance.
Since we know the writers' engagements are just that, an opportunity to express thoughts and opinions rather than conversion, I do not intend to try to persuade you or others to my views as I know you do not expect that to happen as well. It is just an interesting forum to say and hear. I close only by saying that it is difficult to expect change to occur without appreciating the context in which the needed change is being nurtured. And, without a doubt, too few adhere to the simple rule that actions do speak louder than words. In business, change only occurs when the bottom line is being impacted as is the compensation of those at the top. Impact that and you will see change.
Steve Borsher Added Nov 29, 2013 - 2:08pm
AS,
Change requires careful planning that many are not prepared to spend time doing.  Many people who think they are in control of their lives are merely "going with the flow". And that is true right up to the top echelons of business and government. Jamie Dimon was a paragon of of banking after not being scathed by the 2008 financial crises; but that was not to last long.  Obviously, he is no more in control of his business than Donald Trump is with his. Business acumen is an oxymoron these days, IMO.
 
And, yes, Mike Barnacle, the Boston Globe plagiarist, made watching The Joke difficult.  I never watched when he was alone.
Anthony Simeone Added Nov 29, 2013 - 2:35pm
SB, I grew up in technology sales/marketing yada, yada. I witnessed the Jack Welshes, the Larry Abrahms, the rise and rise of Bill Gates, the rise and fall of global Internet market - the "soft" asset that was going to obsolete corporate brick and mortar. I saw the predictions fall short that Big Computers (a la IBM mainframes) would fall to the side of distributed computing. Global Services didn't exist in the 80s and 90s.
C. Michael Armstrong was going to transform AT&T. He was indeed ahead of his time but went from hero to goat because he just tried to jab evolution down the throats of Ma Bell. Look at Verizon today.
What was true of the technology rise and bust was even more dramatic for the great financial demise of 2008 and beyond. Jamie rose and stumbled. Mazilla never went to jail. The list is long.
Amen to business acumen. It is both oxymoron-ic and moronic!
Diana Brown Added Nov 29, 2013 - 3:33pm
Anthony- Thanks for your insight.  I need to clarify something - I am not now, nor have I ever been associated with television media. By this I mean professionally.  It seems to me you got that impression.  I discontinued television subscription years ago when I recognized news broadcasting had become (at best) trivialized. Between the reality shows and sit-coms, basically all programming, seemed to be aimed at that 12-24 age group.  Boring is the best and kindest word I can summon up for that one.  In so far as the news goes, and Ill go back to the recommendation of The Newsroom HBO series here you get the experience of taking someone by the shoulders, shaking them, and telling them they can be (and are) better than the vanilla they seem to be so proud of producing. What I mean by departing television is I see no value there, I find much more elsewhere.
 
Its time for change in television media if it is to survive.
 
Anthony Simeone Added Nov 29, 2013 - 4:10pm
Diana, yes I missed the distinction. thank you.
Stephen Jones Added Nov 30, 2013 - 9:29am
Diana, it's all moving toward on-demand services over the web, and that has cable companies reeling such that they have all added ISP services to their product mix. It's a changing world, and thank god for the world wide web. Now, we just need to make sure that Congress doesn't screw that up too!
Steve Borsher Added Nov 30, 2013 - 10:50am
I'm hoping the WWW will screw up Congress. I have a plan ...
Stephen Jones Added Nov 30, 2013 - 11:21am
Email me if you wish; I would love to be included in that plan. Nevertheless, have you used http://www.opencongress.org ?
Steve Borsher Added Nov 30, 2013 - 11:57am
I've been threatening to publish an article about the "plan". Unfortunately, or fortunately, it is not writing itself, like most of what I write does. So, it has become "work".  Still, I hope to get it finished soon.
 
I'm really not too interested in the details of what goes on in Congress. It's broken, and nothing else beyond that matters.  I try very hard to keep my stress levels down.
Tarhaka Bey Added Jan 5, 2014 - 12:50pm
@Steve
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Driver Licensing vs. Your Right to Travel
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and have great writing skill
Once again thank you and the great God within me thank you
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