Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Good "Nightly News"

This week, “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” once again provided fair commentary and criticism.

This story covers the Wednesday morning incident in Reno, Nev. where a medevac plane had to land itself because the air traffic controller on duty had fallen asleep. Anchor Brian Williams opens up the story with remarks about how and when the event took place, stating that the sick person was in desperate need of medical attention.  A sound bite of the pilot’s voice saying that he would just have to land whether or not he had clearance is then played.  The report goes next to correspondent Tom Costello.  He begins by talking about how the pilot repeatedly radioed the air traffic control tower to no avail.  A radar station in California was listening in and called the tower but was unable to rouse the sleeping controller.  The pilot then landed on his own and rushed the patient to the hospital.  Costello then investigates why the controller was allowed to fall asleep on the job.  The reason, he concludes, is that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been cutting costs by understaffing towers at low volume hours.  Ray LaHood, secretary of transportation, is then quoted as saying that these instances are unacceptable.  Next Costello provides insight into just how many of these occurrences have happened.  He cites episodes of air traffic controllers sleeping on the job, accidentally and willfully, across the country.  The report concludes with the proclamation that the FAA will now make it mandatory for there to be at least two people working in the tower at all hours.  This change affects a total of 27 airports, even some in major cities.
                This report is a bit one-sided.  No one is really going to be supporting the sleeping controllers, and the FAA comes out as the bad guy for its wish to reduce costs by cutting employees.  Williams may sensationalize the story a bit by making it sound like there were other planes waiting to land and that the pilot had no experience whatsoever in landing.  Costello is also a bit guilty of this when he makes note at the end of his segment that the person in the medevac is “now is stable condition.”  This was a life-or-death situation though.  The FAA is adequately ribbed by this report and the comments about their budget cuts are warranted.  The inclusion of LaHood seems to be an almost unnecessary appeal to authority.  The report is somewhat bolstered by having his statement but would have been fine without it, too.  I appreciate Costello’s use of the other recent sleeping controllers.  This graphic really brought the issue into a larger context.

This feature deals with the United States’ budget and how President Obama plans to reduce the national debt.  Williams starts with a chart explaining how much the federal debt has grown since 1980.  He reports that the debt is hovering around $14 trillion.  Williams segues into correspondent Savannah Guthrie’s report by asking how the president plans to “chip away at spending.”  Guthrie leads in by discussing Mr. Obama’s Wednesday press conference on spending.  She highlights how he rips the Republican ideas for the budget.  Obama does concede that the debt is currently out of control.  The president proposed a plan to cut $4 trillion from the national debt in 12 years, Guthrie states.  He plans to do so by cutting discretionary, defense, Medicare, and Medicaid funding along with some increased taxes to the highest income brackets.  Guthrie then focuses on the Republican retort, showing how congressional leaders do not feel the president is willing to thoroughly execute his plan.  The report ends with Guthrie discussing how Vice President Joe Biden will be meeting with Republican leaders to negotiate more on the budget.
                This report keeps things fairly balanced.   Williams controls himself when discussing the rising debt and how it relates historically.  I would have liked to know more about how the debt grew almost one trillion dollars between 2010 and 2011, though.  That, however, is probably better suited for another report at another time.  Guthrie could have taken this report in a direction that utterly bashed the Republicans’ ideas, but instead goes with a more balanced approach, letting the president make his points and then allowing the Republicans to fire back.  This style prevents partisanship and makes for a better newscast.  The president’s plan to cut funding and raise taxes was discussed very quickly though.  More analysis would have provided a better understanding of what Obama plans to do and why the Republicans are so frustrated.  I like how Guthrie points out how Obama invited Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to attend the event.  It was necessary for her to include this detail, and it highlights the antagonism between the parties.  This was a quality story on a hot issue.

1 comment:

  1. Without being too light about a serious situation, every time I hear about the sleeping air traffic controllers, I have an urge to yawn!