NBC News Responds
My counterparts at NBC News took exception to my last post about their reporting during the Olympics. Seems I missed a few things when I suggested that NBC's news division had been co-opted by NBC corporate to help promote the Games.
NBC News didn't exactly dispute my main point. But they did offer a few more facts to fill out the picture.
The main fact: Not all of the stories on "NBC Nightly News with Brian Wiliams" have been so upbeat about China or so rah-rah about the Olympics. Some of the stories have actually been just as tough and hard hitting as anything you'll see or read elsewhere, NBC News said. To make its point, the network sent me a list of its toughest and hardest-hittingest work before and during the Games.
It's a fine catalogue, to be sure. "Nightly" has done stories on pollution in Beijing, on China's efforts to block journalists' access to certain web sites, on China's crackdown on pre-Olympic dissent and other relevant subjects.
No questions there.
But one thing jumped out at me: NBC's list includes stories on China or the Olympics that have aired since July 29. The Olympics started on Aug. 8. So why start on July 29th? NBC News doesn't say, but it seems a bit arbitrary to me.
So that's why I'm not listing all of NBC News' 18 hand-picked stories (see below). Since my posting addressed NBC News' cuddly-as-a-panda-bear coverage during the Olympics, I think it's only fair to assess how "Nightly News" has done during this period, not before it. (Because I'm such a fair and balanced guy, I'll even spot NBC one, moving up the start date to Aug. 7, the day before the Games opened).
Once you get past that technicality, we're really talking about 11 stories that NBC considers substantive and tough. Still a pretty good list, just a bit shorter than the one NBC News would like.
Ready? Here's what NBC News says are its greatest hits from China (Aug. 7-Aug. 21). I cleaned up some of the descriptions but this is more or less what "Nightly News" sent me:
Aug. 7: Brian Williams and John Yang report on President Bush's arrival to Beijing. Story talks about Bush's criticism of Chinese government and the negative reaction from the Chinese government ... Also mentions problems with press corps' arrival in Beijing -- arguments [about] how to handle baggage and gear on plane.
Aug. 8: Nancy Snyderman talks about the air quality in Beijing. She confirms that the "thick" air is mainly humidity, but that China has been criticized for not taking care of the environment.
Aug. 8: Mark Mullen reports on army of workers who constructed the iconic Olympic buildings. Profiles the tough life of one migrant worker who has been on the road for 14 years to find work throughout China and only sees his family once a year. Beijing has now shut down most construction projects leaving many migrant workers without a job
Aug. 10: John Yang reports on President Bush's reaction to the murdered [American] tourist [in Beijing].
Aug. 10: Ian Williams reports on the Uighur Muslim population in China, which the government says is the biggest security threat to the Olympics. In Khotan, mosques under close surveillance and people required to speak Chinese.
Aug. 11: Broadcast from Tiananmen Square. History of the square and the 1989 uprising.
Aug. 11: Ian Williams reports on the "charm offensive" and the training the Chinese have been through to host the games including how to act in front of tourists.
Aug. 12: Ian Williams reports on China's one child policy. Parents who lost their children in the earthquake demand answers from the government on why shoddy schools were built.
Aug. 15: Making a Difference: Ian Williams reports on the rise of volunteerism among China's 20-somethings.
Aug. 16: Lester Holt reports on the legacy of one pro-democracy demonstrator.
Aug. 18: Piece about the lack of protests. Not one of 77 applications approved, Richard Engel visits a Beijing jail where someone who had applied for a protest permit is locked up.
Now, I've got my own list.
This one (courtesy of the Nexis database) shows all the other Olympic-related stories that "Nightly News" has aired since the Olympics began. It speaks to my original point about how its news agenda has been shaped by its corporate parent's massive investment in the Games. Somehow, the other network newscasts missed most of these stories:
Aug. 8: Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony goes off without a hitch.
Aug. 8: Number eight very powerful for Chinese, bringing good, bad luck.
Aug. 8: Making a Difference; Former 'Lost Boy' of Sudan Lopez Lomong to carry flag for US Olympic team in Opening Ceremony.
Aug. 9: Swimmer Michael Phelps discusses what he hopes to achieve at the Olympics.
Aug. 9: Chinese beach volleyball players come to California to train for the Olympics.
Aug. 10: Olympic results update.
Aug. 10: Yao Ming feels pressure from celebrity status.
Aug. 11: Olympic results update.
Aug. 12: Olympic results update; Olympic medal count.
Aug. 12: Between Speedo LZR, the Cube, swimming records being broken at Olympics.
Aug. 12: Rowdy Gaines (NBC swimming analyst) discusses how swimming and sports are evolving.
Aug. 12: Lip syncing by girl in Beijing opening ceremony.
Aug. 12: Gymnast Shawn Johnson competing in Olympic Games.
Aug. 13: Olympics update; Olympic medal count.
Aug. 13: Rowdy Gaines (NBC swimming analyst) discusses Michael Phelps.
Aug. 13: Companies using Olympics to advertise.
Aug. 13: Table tennis player's long road to the Olympics.
Aug. 14: Olympic update; Olympic medal count.
Aug. 14: Project 119 helps China's athletes prepare for Olympics
Aug. 14: Michael Phelps sparking interest in swimming in U.S.
Aug. 14: Reese Hoffa, adopted as child, prepares for track and field events.
Aug. 15: American women take gold, silver in individual gymnastics, Chinese woman takes bronze.
Aug. 15: Olympic medal count.
Aug. 15: Taylor Phinney, with help of Olympian parents, takes up family sport of cycling.
Aug. 15: NBC Olympic intern learns English by watching 'NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams' in her English class
Aug. 16: Olympic medal count; Olympic update.
Aug. 16: Rowdy Gaines (NBC swimming analyst) on covering the Olympics.
Aug. 16: Science of timing athletes at the Olympic Games more precise than ever.
Aug. 16: America working to clean up its image of having athletes using banned substances.
Aug. 16: Forty years later, John Dane trying to win gold medal in sailing after not qualifying his last time out.
Aug. 17: Olympic medal count; Olympics update.
Aug. 17: Dara Torres wins two silvers at Olympics.
Aug. 17: Michael Phelps talks about his Olympic experience (part one).
Aug. 18: Olympic medal count; Olympics update.
Aug. 18: U.S. basketball team hoping to redeem its performance from four years ago.
Aug. 18: Michael Phelps discusses his Olympic experience (part two).
Aug. 19: Olympic medal count, Olympics update.
Aug. 19: Air cleanest it's been in 10 years in Beijing.
Aug. 19: Tour of a Beijing hutong (back alley).
Aug. 19: BMX is latest sport added to Olympic roster.
Aug. 20: Olympic medal count, Olympics update.
Aug. 20: Allyson Felix hoping to sprint for gold in Beijing
Aug. 20: Lang Ping, Chinese volleyball star, coaching Team USA.
Aug. 21: Olympic medal count; Olympics update.
Aug. 21: Lopez family hoping to make history in Olympics in taekwondo.
Aug. 21: Two members of US water polo team hail from unlikely Commerce, California.
Um, not quite so solid, guys.
And here's a whiny little follow-up question, just for kicks: Why didn't NBC News tell me a thing about the stories that "The Today Show" is doing while it's been in Beijing for the past two weeks? "Today" is part of NBC's news division, too.
Surely it couldn't be because "Today" has become a virtual infomercial for NBC's primetime Olympics broadcast, could it? Just wondering.
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