What Brian doesn’t tell you, Jon will

Posted on March 31, 2011

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I’m a huge NBC Nightly News fan—partly because I have a huge crush on Brian Williams—but mostly because I feel like a great deal of conscientious news judgement goes into each broadcast. I like that foreign news with the amazing Richard Engles has often led the broadcast in recent weeks, and I also like the White House coverage with Chuck Todd.

I can think of several occasions where Brian reminded viewers at home of NBC’s affiliation with General Electric and I always recognized this transparency, thanks to my time in News Literacy freshman year. This week however, Brian forgot to mention a huge story that many other media outlets emphasized. As much as I prefer the NBC news to the other networks, I was disappointed to read through “On NBC, the missing story about parent company General Electric” on the WashPo site.

The New York Times printed this story last week about how GE has failed to pay taxes. This huge story was not mentioned at all on the Nightly News, which made me think that perhaps the news judgment in this scenario was overpowered by the relationship between the two companies.

The Washington Post article featured this quote from NBC:  “This was a straightforward editorial decision, the kind we make daily around here,” said Lauren Kapp, a spokeswoman for NBC News.

I might have believed her, if I hadn’t watched a clip from “The Daily Show” that sort of defeated the idea that the broadcast simply chose other news stories. If Lester Holt had time to talk about “wassup” being added to the dictionary, he probably could have found time to mention the GE story.

I know Jon Stewart isn’t a journalist, but I still respect him. Sometimes he provides transparency when legacy media outlets fail to do so.

Click below to watch the video–It’s pretty short and hilarious, and it sums up the whole ordeal.

Back to the original NBC/GE story, to me it really represents why it is so important for news consumers to understand different biases and relationships between their news outlets of choice and various other companies. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t be necessary because all journalists would use only their very best news judgment. The truth of the matter is that the world isn’t that simple—biases and conflicts of interest exist, especially when most news organizations are now owned by large corporations.

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