National Broadcasting Company (NBC) News
- After reporting endorsements of Barack Obama by Oprah Winfrey and of Hillary Rodham by Barbra Streisand, Andrea Mitchell remarked about Streisand, "She's a funny girl, but she's no match for Oprah. What does that mean, and why was that opinion inserted in an otherwise objective story?
- On the Sunday 6:00 news of 28 November 2004, Jim Maceda said, "Ukraine is sandwiched between Europe and Russia." Ukraine is on the continent of Europe.
- "Students at the University of Virginia are doing their best to lead normal lives," said a reporter on the 11:00 news of 29 August 2004. What would motivate college students in that direction?
- A 20 March 2003, a war report called Target: Iraq began by reporting "the first casualties of war", 16 Britons and Americans. The missile that hit Baghdad at dawn seems not to have hurt anyone.
Adopting the strategy of tabloid papers, the Dateline program puts its efforts into spectacular draws backed with shoddy, one-sided reporting. The following nonsense has been featured:
- On 4 June 2004, Katie Couric mentioned to O. J. Simpson, "To this day, many people remain convinced that you killed Nicole and her friend, Ron Goldman." Couric failed to provide any exculpatory evidence that would lead people to change their minds.
- On 30 April 2004, Stone Phillips said the "case for war was based on a lie". It is unfair to single one out when many lies share the blame.
- A 30 April 2004 report on school lunch contamination juxtaposed various school systems with different rates of different types of violations, in no coherent order, making the 10% of Miami schools that kept food at the wrong temperature seem as important as the 90% of Phoenix schools that suffered from mouse droppings and dirty serving dishes.
- On 9 April 2004, Chris Rock, born 7 February 1967, recalled seeing his family watch The Love Boat when he was nine. That series premiered on 24 September 1977, when Rock was ten.
- In his 8 August 2003 report on illiterate adults, Tom Brokaw uttered the following gems:
- Brokaw said "Millions of school-age children are not learning to read." Those in kindergarten are not expected to learn reading. If any are older, Brokaw does not make that clear.
- Of a mother's personal _ad hoc_ calendar notation, Brokaw said, "Because Lana's system is not universally recognized, it is flawed." What do numbers have to do with it? Although understood by over a billion readers, the English language is far from perfect.
- On 31 July 2001, a woman who fell off a balcony was described as having a blood alcohol level " twice the legal limit". The limit for what? For flying or diving?
- On 11 July 2001, it was said that the old practice of losing virginity on prom night has changed. Do high-school seniors no longer have virginity to lose?
- On 19 June 2001, drivers on a test track were subjected to distractions. They lost points if they failed to maintain speed while driving between construction stantions. Isn't it normal practice to slow down in a construction zone? Those stantions were large enough to hide a child. After the test, viewers were advised to avoid distraction by setting the temperature control before moving the car. Turning on the heater before the engine is hot sends a blast of cold air at the driver, hardly the kind of thing one would desire in the winter.
- On 27 May 2001, a report on the political consequences of Glendale, Colorado Mayor Joe Rice's effort to impose restrictions on a strip club ended by claiming Mayor Rice had learned "not every new idea is a good idea". What new idea?
- On 16 January 2001, introducing "The Naked Truth", Stone Phillips indicated that it was frightening to see black and white in the rear-view mirror. (Our family used to own a black and white 1952 Chevy.) The story was about a Suffolk County NY police officer driving a blue and white patrol car.
- On 19 November 2000, it was said that Laura Schlessinger has been criticized for espousing "views gays decided didn't belong on network television". If gays don't believe those views should be on television, why don't they also protest Politically Incorrect and other panel shows? It is more likely that the objection is to the lack of challenge to biased views.
- On 19 November 2000, it was claimed that a "label on a bike helmet is a symbol of trust". The label would be there whether the public trusted the helmet or not. It is only a symbol of assurance by the manufacturer.
- On 6 September 2000, Maria Shriver said Jesse Ventura had gone from being "The Body" to joining the body politic. He has been a member of the body politic since reaching adulthood, along with millions of other voters.
- On the Dateline driving test broadcast on 27 June 2000, drivers were ranked as worse if they increased the number of things they did to stay awake (slapping the face, talking, etc.). These things may not help, but how can they hurt?
- On 23 June 1999, a report on Rep. George Nethercutt's decision to break his promise and seek a fourth term neglected the facts that the people of the state of Washington voted to impose term limits and Nethercutt's predecessor, Tom Foley, successfully challenged that law in the courts. As usual, Dateline left the key piece out of the puzzle.
- On 22 July 1999, it was claimed that even though Stanley Kubrick's last movie, Eyes Wide Shut had opened profitably, "films about sexual obsession" aren't always popular with American audiences. An example cited was the remake of Lolita. However, Kubrick's original film of "Lolita" was successful. And why are American audiences considered so important? The film is certain to draw crowds in Europe.
- On 21 July 1999, a pseudo-journalist said that someone learned from a personal experience "how powerful shock can be". It is common knowledge that shock can stop the heart, causing death. How much more could be learned about its power through a personal experience?
- On 3 June 1998, a report on a rescue from a oil tanker with a broken bow indicated that the tanker threatened to spill its entire cargo. Of course, the oil is separated into compartments to stabilize the load, so it is unlikely that all the oil would spill.
- On 4 July 1997, a capsule description of Dateline read, "A teenager's meeting with a grizzly bear." That's not news. A bear's grisly meeting with a teenager would be news.
- Dateline reporters said Binti Jua, the gorilla who rescued an unconscious child, had acted against the threat presented by "her own kind". It should be obvious to anyone in possession of reasonable logical skill that if seven gorillas living in the same pen could get in a fight over an unconscious child, harassment would have become uncontrollable years before, forcing the keepers to separate the gorillas. The only way animals can live together in a group (as gorillas often do in the wild) is by staying out of each other's way. Binti Jua faced no threat.
- Although they had run teasers suggesting that it would be their first story, it wasn't until 10:45 or later on 20 August 1996, that NBC's Dateline told of a gorilla Binti Jua's rescue of an unconscious child who had fallen into a pit at the Brookfield zoo. Dateline described the incident as spectacular. However, anyone familiar with simian behavior knows that gorillas are gentle animals who direct aggression only toward threats. Even the expert they consulted considered this act normal for a gorilla. Perhaps there was confusion with chimpanzees, who, being closer relatives of humans, are known to act violently on occasion.
- In the amounts most Americans encounter, pesticides are not a cancer risk, implied NBC's Dateline on 20 August 1996. In fact, carcinogens have no threshold dose of toxicity. Such a threshold is a property of faster-acting poisons. Large exposures carry high risk. Small exposures carry low risk. The only way to completely eliminate the risk is to prevent any exposure to a carcinogen.
- Later on 20 August 1996, NBC's Dateline reported that a certain Tony Roland "pled" guilty to rape. The preferred form is "pleaded".
- On 21 and 24 May 1996, NBC's Dateline had the gall to present a poorly-documented report on honesty. On 24 May, they provided a test that was supposed to allow viewers to test their honesty. However, some of the questions did not do this. For example, one question asked, "You have an innocent lunch with an old flame. Knowing it would upset your spouse, would you tell?" A positive response may represent an attempt to provoke jealousy. In many cases, a person's honesty would not be a factor in the decision.
- Although the introduction to NBC's Dateline on 19 March 1996, promised to furnish results of all the primary elections held that day, there was no mention of voting or delegate selection in the Democratic party -- the party currently in control of the executive branch of the federal government. NBC must consider the Republican party the only party worthy of their attention.
- On 16 February 1996, NBC's Dateline claimed that J. Paul Getty III was kidnaped and that only after the kidnapers cut off his ear would his grandfather, J. Paul Getty I, agree to cooperate. This is not the way we remember the story. J. Paul Getty I never agreed to pay anything, fearing that all of his grandchildren would be kidnaped. Other members of the family negotiated ransom. After the young man returned, it was discovered that the kidnaping was a hoax--the young man staged the incident to get money.
- On 31 January 1996, NBC's Dateline reported on obsessive behavior. A featured mental health practitioner called it unhealthy behavior for a woman to a) use her foot to flush the toilet in a public restroom, b) use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door in a public restroom, c) avoid walking barefoot on her lawn, and d) disinfect her kitchen counter. The quack then "cured" the woman of this behavior, turning her into a slob who smears her kitchen with rancid food. (In contrast, a more responsible news program on ABC has educated viewers about the importance of kitchen hygiene.)
- On at least one occasion, NBC's Dateline described a chimpanzee named Casey at the San Diego Zoo as a "monkey". Chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, are great apes, not monkeys. If they were monkeys, they would probably have tails.
- On 17 March 1996, NBC's Dateline reported on landowners who "flaunt" environmental laws. However, these landowners had not been so patriotic as to boldly display statutes. In fact, they had flouted the laws.
- On 16 May 1996, NBC's Dateline called a child molester a "sex abuser". As we understand it, a spouse abuser is one who abuses ones own spouse. A child abuser is one who abuses a child. A sex abuser must be someone who abuses an entire sex. However, the person in question had only molested a few individuals, not an entire sex. The description was exaggerated in order to sensationalize the report.
- A reporter on NBC's Dateline described the O. J. Simpson trial as the "trial of the century". Considering that the Sacco-Vanzetti trial, the Scopes monkey trial, the Lindbergh kidnaping, Stalin's purges, the Nuremberg war crimes trial, the Tucker Motors trial, the Rosenberg espionage trial, Brown v. Board of Education, Simas Kudirka's conviction, the case of the Pentagon Papers, several Watergate convictions, and Roe v. Wade all occurred in the twentieth century, NBC's Dateline obviously lacks a sense of proportion.
- On 9 January 1995, NBC's Dateline stated that one out of every five injured workers files false claims. This must have been an error. Why would workers who have been injured fail to file reports accurately describing their injuries, so that they could legitimately receive compensation? The more significant problem is the uninjured workers who fabricate claims.
- In January 1995, NBC's Dateline's report on emergency operators chided the Philadelphia police for not finding St. Cecilia's Church on Oxford Avenue, where a boy was being beaten to death. We couldn't find it there, either. The Church is actually located on Rhawn Avenue at Ridgeway Avenue, two blocks away from Oxford Avenue. Although a telephone directory might have been useful, the police emergency patrol could hardly be expected to see a church hidden from view by the attached two-story commercial buildings that line Oxford Avenue.
- Dateline aired a lengthy whitewash about Publisher's Clearing House. The favorable report neglected to mention a recent scandal concerning the dishonest way the company cleared its house. In 1994, a station in New York had reported finding legitimate contest entries dumped unopened along a New Jersey road. NBC's Dateline chose to ignore the company's record of fraud, running an illegal gambling operation, and littering.
- To illustrate a safety hazard, NBC's Dateline staged explosions of trucks. They admitted rigging the trucks with smoke-emitting devices only after being threatened with a libel suit. Unfortunately, it was too late to prevent tragic imitation of the incident. Terrorists employed the idea. They exploded trucks in New York and Oklahoma City, causing hundreds of deaths and injuries.
- On 27 April 2006, it was claimed that Dolly Parton and "a young Elvis Presley will appear in a commercial to promote tourism in their native Tennessee." Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi.
News at Sunrise
- On 26 August 1999, a graphic with the legend, "forced abortion" accompanied a story about a court decision in Arizona in which a teenager had asked for the abortion.
- On 13 August 1999, a change in Kansas educational policy regarding evolution was described as a controversy over "the beginning of life". That is impossible. Evolution could only take place after life already existed.
- On 23 June 1999, Nanette Hanson alleged, "The first election of the next century is at least 17 months away." Actually, 17 months away is 23 November 2000, which is still in the 20th century. As the next century was more than 18 months away, the next election could not be any closer.
- On 14 January 1999, Brigitte Quinn announced, "A winter storm is developing in the Tennessee River." The stream must have been splashing violently to have such an effect.
- On 12 November 1998, Brigitte Quinn quoted Sen. Arlen Spector as saying the Senate was unlikely to vote for impeachment. That's an understatement. Only the House has the power to impeach. The Senate then holds a trial at which it convicts or acquits.
- On 16 October 1998, Brigitte Quinn called Sen. John Glenn "America's first man in space." Alan Shepard was the first American in space.
Sloppy reporting is not confined to prime time. The NBC Nightly News has also presented misinformation:
- On 13 August 2007, a correspondent spoke of George W. Bush's "two terms as governor". Bush did not complete two terms, resigning less than halfway through his second.
- On 14 Dec 2005, Brian Williams described a "poll asking how people feel about the president and the Iraq War". He said 39% approve, while 55% disapprove. Thus, Williams stated the quantity of opinion, but not how people feel. Does the war induce annoyance, nausea, fear, or anger?
- In a 11 Dec 2005 report on computer security, users complain that a computer becomes useless after the security expires. The announcer mentions stealing credit card numbers and passwords. How can that information cause a breakdown?
- On 15 October 2004, Brian Williams called Tom Daschle "one of South Dakota's top two senators". South Dakota has never had more than two U.S. Senators, of whom Daschle was one. The office is inherently of higher rank than a state senator.
- On 30 April 2004, a journalist said, "EU members share a common currency." Not all. Denmark and Sweden use crowns. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland uses the pound sterling.
- On 11 February 2004, it was reported that Georgia is considering a constitutional amendment that would outlaw marriage for "gay couples". If it passes, the only same-sex couples allowed to marry will consist of two heterosexual partners.
- On 16 October 2003, a correspondent mentioned "the dome Michelangelo built" atop the Sistine Chapel. The chapel's construction was complete by 1483, when Michelangelo was eight years old.
- On 10 January 1998, there was mention that a "gag order" was in effect on all parties to a lawsuit. Then there was an interview with one of the defendants.
- On 26 May 1996, at about 6:58, the NBC news announcer mentioned "a war that divided the country". He was describing not the Civil War, but the Vietnam War.
- On 10 January 1996, Tom Brokaw called Radio Marté a "network", yet it was described as having no more than one station. How can one station be a network?
- On 8 January 1996, a blizzard was called "the worst storm in a half-century", apparently compared to Hurricanes Andrew and Camille.
- On 24 May 1995, a story about Sen. Robert Byrd was illustrated with a map showing Interstate 33 in West Virginia. Interstate highways are numbered starting from the west. If any road bore such a designation, it would be near I-35 on the Great Plains. Interstate highways 77, 79, and 81 pass through West Virginia.
The news department at NBC is incompetent and negligent.
- On the morning of 13 February 1998, it was reported that at the end of the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein's Iraq was "surrounded by Arab states that oppose him". There are four Arab states that border Iraq. Of these, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Syria opposed him. Jordan was on friendly terms. The other two bordering countries, Turkey and Iran, contain only minorities of Arabs.
- A newscaster described a boy who ran away with his teacher "is an illegal immigrant". What makes him an illegal immigrant in Mexico? Is he a Gringo who sneaked southward across the Rio Grande?