Last night, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams allotted eighty seconds to yesterday's momentous Supreme Court ruling that there's nothing unconstitutional with Indiana's law requiring a photo ID to vote. Meanwhile, during the same broadcast, it spent over two minutes on the concern caused by photos of teen star Miley Cyrus in Vanity Fair.
That would be embarrassing enough for a news organization purporting to be credible.
But earlier in the day on the Nightly News blog The Daily Nightly, anchor and managing editor Brian Williams (in a post titled "What Times Is It?") actually took The New York Times to task for publishing puff pieces. Now, Williams won't get an argument from me on The Times' penchant for such reporting in between serious news items, which can bump a crucial story to the back pages (that's why "NYT Front|Back" is an ongoing series here). But Williams is either in bunker-mentality denial or gallingly disingenuous to suggest he and his newscast - not to mention his network news colleagues and the mainstream media at large - don't regularly focus attention on the same kind of tripe at the expense of substantive news.
Talk about your glass houses.
How big has Williams' bubble grown? Did it not cross his mind that people might read his post, then watch his newscast and call him out on his hypocritical, cognitive dissonant analysis? Does he realize that even though he might wish to remain in his Big Media bubble, that it's precisely this kind of intellectual dishonesty and brain-dead hackery that drove, and continues to drive, millions of formerly trusting viewers to seek their news elsewhere?
What's more, Williams and NBC poorly handled those eighty whole seconds they allocated to the Supreme Court ruling on voter IDs. They not only failed to present one dissenting viewpoint - whether from a Supreme Court Justice, legal scholar, civil rights lawyer or voters in Indiana - but also to point out how this ruling will impact the upcoming primary in Indiana, where, as the Associated Press reported yesterday, "more than 20 percent of black voters do not have access to a valid photo ID."
Instead, ignoring substantive context, dissenting views and serious implications on the constitutional right to vote, Brian Williams framed the issue for NBC justice correspondent Pete Williams (former longtime aide to Dick Cheney) through a Fox News-like lens:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Pete, let's come at this a little differently. In a nation where in the post-9/11 era, we need a photo ID to fly, why was it a big story today, this court ruling that we need it to vote?
Yeah, what's all the fuss about, Pete? I mean, sure, we're only spending eighty seconds on this story, but let's take it from the angle of questioning why we should cover it at all.
Of course, Brian turned to the right correspondent to take a complex issue involving civil liberties and the Constitution and, for all intents and purposes, reduce it down to corporate media stenography and Bush administration talking points. A skilled piece of journalistic hackery in short form:
PETE WILLIAMS: Well, showing a photo ID at the airport has been upheld because of the need for security. Now the Supreme Court said that states can require voter ID at the polls to prevent voter fraud. Georgia, Florida and Michigan have laws like Indiana's and seventeen other states were waiting for today's decision before considering laws of their own to make voting another part of American life requiring a photo ID, just like flying. Today's vote was six-to-three, with one of the most liberal justices, John Paul Stevens, in the majority. He said most people do already have a photo ID and that for those who don't, who are poor, elderly or handicapped, this may add to their burden. But he said it was not enough to overcome the state's interest in discouraging fraud, Brian.
Our curious anchor's follow-up?
BRIAN WILLIAMS: All right. Pete Williams in Washington for us. Pete, thanks.
Adding insult to injury, this clip is not currently available on its own on MSNBC's Nightly News website (it's only accessible through watching a video of the full broadcast). But fear not, Brian's two-minute-plus Miley Cyrus (aka, Hannah Montana) report, covered by NBC correspondent Rehema Ellis, is there in all its gratuitously vapid glory.
Never mind how the Supreme Court's decision will directly affect the Indiana Democratic primary, the presidential election in November, and, potentially, voting rights of US citizens for years to come. NBC Nightly News and Brian Williams provided their viewers with a much more valuable piece of information: the "ruckus" over teen sensation Miley Cyrus' photo spread in Vanity Fair and an answer to the question that's keeping most Americans awake at night:
REHEMA ELLIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: How could this affect the pop star's career?
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