At NBC News, the Anchor Has to Remind You You’re Not Watching an Ad

nbc-hamburger-helperLast night on the NBC Nightly News (7/9/13), anchor Brian Williams broke some important news:

There is consumer product news tonight. The folks at Hamburger Helper say they’d like to be thought of more as just Helper, since more and more people are eating chicken, and there’s a Helper for that, too. General Mills say they just want to help dinner in America. They say a million homes at night serve some sort of Helper.

And what else was in the press release?

In case you thought this was a weird blurring of news and advertising, a few hours later NBC’s Today show (7/10/13)–ostensibly part of the network’s news division–did a segment on a new cleaning product. The big news was that the Dyson company is coming out with a new device to clean hardwood floors.

FireShot Screen Capture #530 - 'TODAY_ Dyson unveils new vacuum-mop invention' - www_today_com_id_49063771_ns_today-video_#52438781Company founder James Dyson–who comes up with “all kinds of cool products,” as anchor Matt Lauer put it–was on hand to explain the details about his new product.  Co-anchor Savannah Guthrie chimed in to say she was was sure it would be “another one of those things where we think, ‘Yes, why did we wait so long for this invention!”’ 

The, umm, “report”–which, save for the lack of a toll-free number to place an order,  looked more like a paid infomercial rather than a news segment–closed with Lauer telling viewers this:

We don’t do this as a commercial. We do this because there is a cool factor attached to your products. And when other people develop cool products too, we’ll bring those on as well.

 So the lesson is that buying ads is for suckers. The hip, “cool” products–like vacuum cleaners and Hamburger Helper–are the news.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.