The Daily Nightly from NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams

About this blog

The Daily Nightly began on May 31, 2005. As Brian wrote in his first post it aims to provide a narrative of the broadcast day and a window into the editorial process at NBC Nightly News. Brian weighs in every weekday and NBC News correspondents and producers post regularly.

Brian Williams became the seventh anchor and managing editor in the history of NBC Nightly News on December 2, 2004. Read his full biography.

The mean season

Our 2:30 editorial meeting was just breaking up... the first participants had risen and were making their way to the door... when someone looking at a computer screen said so all could hear it, "2,000."

We knew what that meant. After confirmed word of a soldier's death today, at roughly 3 p.m. eastern time, 2,000 American fighting men and women have now died since the invasion of Iraq.  And I will say just as quickly: while we will cover this milestone, and while it is indeed a milestone, it will not be our lead story. Having met families who have lost a loved one to this effort, as I pointed out in the after-meeting just now, they would all have just cause to write me and ask why we didn't lead the broadcast with the death of their particular son or daughter, father or mother, sister or brother. As one veteran's group so effectively reinforced today, every death means the loss of someone's whole world...and no single death carries greater importance than any other -- especially in a conflict where the milestones are decided upon by the media. We will use this number as a way of looking at the status of the war effort, hearing the words of the President today, and looking perhaps at the mood of the nation.

We'll have comprehensive coverage tonight of what the hurricane left behind in Florida. Robert Bazell has an interview with the Secretary of HHS, and has filed for tonight a rather scary piece on bird flu. Here's a preview: an outbreak here in the U.S. would rather instantly leave emergency rooms crammed with the dead and dying. It is infinitely clear, according to Bob's reporting, that this threat, combined with the sagging (that's being kind) U.S. vaccine production capacity, will require real leadership and then some.

We continue to be on a hair-trigger this week in anticipation of SOME news from Mr. Fitzgerald and the grand jury. Rumors continue to swirl... some with actual charges (and the number of people indicted) attached. Tonight we have an interesting look at the life of Mr. Fitzgerald, including what I think can safely be called the love of his life thus far: the law.

I caught some good natured hell from my wife last night, when she read (yes, she's a loyal Daily Nightly reader) my complaint about all the recent and relentless viewer complaints I've been receiving. I was referring to a file folder full of about 700 mostly virulent screeds that my assistant had printed out and sent home with me late last week. My wife pointed out that many of the e-mails you've taken the time to write to our blog have been good-natured and some in fact very complimentary. While I read all that come in, I especially enjoy the latter. I also enjoyed the Marine Lieutenant who wrote to me last week "don't let the criticism get you down." Lieutenant Kelly: thank you...that propelled me through several days of work last week. To the rest of you who've written with nice thoughts, or even THOUGHT nice thoughts... thank you.

There are two very good e-mail questions (from Josh and Swetha) that deserve answers... both about journalists and what we do... and I'll try to get to them in this space tomorrow. I look forward to tackling the question from Connecticut on the cliche of hurricane coverage.

Also a word about Wellington Mara, the longtime New York Giants owner who died today. He was the consummate old school gentleman. Catching sight of him at a Giants game was akin to the first time I saw Mr. Paley in the halls of CBS (a great story for another time) He always had the whiff of legend about him, while he carried himself in such a humble way. He gave us Simms, Parcells and L.T., among others. He was a decent man who showed his kindness to many of us, and recognized the love we Giants fans had for his franchise.

More dirty laundry: several of you have written, and rightfully so, pointing out that we had several spelling errors in graphics that appeared on the screen during last Friday's broadcast. I won't bore you with details, because any errors in our line of work are inexcusable... ESPECIALLY errors like that... that speak to what we do as journalists. Let's just say steps have been taken to prevent it in the future. My apologies.

Tom Shales, the veteran Washington Post television critic who often writes a terrific rant about our changing times, cultural choices and viewer habits (I think I can characterize him as wistful for certain aspects of our past, especially where television viewing and programming are concerned... something I share with him) has a great piece in this week's TV WEEK about telephones (TVWeek.com login required).  Specifically: what some view as the loathsome multi-task device known as the cellphone. It's worth reading.

Also, I wanted to make note of the fact that a comment I made in an ad-lib on-air "crash" circumstance has become grist for a recent thought-provoking Safire-esque column in the Hartford Courant... of special interest to those who love language... I've linked to it here.

Finally, to the woman who e-mailed me complaining of the graphic images in our story last week concerning the burning of the bodies of enemy soldiers in Afghanistan, a few points in response. While I'm sorry you found the images disturbing to watch with children present, please know that we do everything in our power to warn viewers that pictures like those are upcoming. We warned viewers prior to that very segment on the night in question. I routinely reference that quaint term "the dinner hour" on the broadcast, and that night we took the further step, out of sensitivity, of blurring the more graphic images. I operate by a simple principle, and always have: my children are often in the room when the broadcast airs in our own home, and it is more often than not during the evening meal. I wouldn't air any image that I wouldn't want beamed (without proper warning or justification) into my own home. While we cannot change what is news and needs to be reported, we WILL not operate using a double standard, either.

We've reached the end of today's novella-length posting. To all those who've stayed with me this far: my thanks and congratulations. Now all you have to do is join us for the real thing tonight on Nightly News.

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COMMENTS

Disturbing images during the "dinner hour." I find the lack of disturbing images in the media even more disturbing. As we march past the 2000 mark in Iraq, we live in ignorance as to the magnitude of the destruction being allowed in the US's quest for "liberty" in the Middle East. We hear of US and British casualties as well as Iraqi forces; but few listen when they hear the words "collateral damage." Perhaps more disturbing images during the "dinner hour" is what we need, because not nearly enough people are disturbed by what is happening.

I live in Japan and have begun to regularly make sure I get up at 7:30 a.m. to catch the NBC Nightly News live (and with the commercials replaced by "musical interludes"... bonus!). In part that's because of this thoughtful blog, which not only humanizes the media people involved, but also provides some admirable transparency on issues of editorial choice, etc. To be able to read about the decisions leading up to a broadcast and the thoughts and reactions of the news staff adds an unusual depth to the news.

I find particularly interesting the times when you comment later on stories you did some time ago. For some reason it is rather tempting to see stories as flashing onto our screens and then disappearing, and it feels as a result like the people who report on them forget them sometimes. This blog provides a useful sense of continuity and connection, a reminder that those stories have effects across time, and that they stay in our minds.

I'm rather staggered at the idea that you take home sheaves of emails to read. Frankly, I think it takes a lot of bravery to open yourself up to the criticism any newscaster would get. If that work helps to foster the self-aware, reflective tone of this page, it's time well spent.

For what it is worth, although I am not a Marine lieutenant or even close, you should know that a certain group of teenage girls, yes -- you read correctly -- teenage girls, now watch the news and read this blog down in Wichita because of your excellent coverage.

I really appreciate the honesty that you write with in this blog. While I always been a 'news buff', after I started reading this blog, I really began to spend time talking to others about current events. I love the fact that my friends now know to ask me about what's happening in the world.

I thoroughly enjoy reading this blog every day and watching your broadcast every night. Your thoughtful reflections here on the broadcast, the journalism process and your struggles to bring the best to the Nightly News each and every night are fascinating and enlightening reading. Thanks for bringing your thoughts to us on a daily basis.

The terribly sad thing is that many more American soliders died after returning home from the war. My nephew was a "soldier's soldier" with the 101st Airborne serving in Mosul following the initial invasion into Iraq. Watching friends die within feet of him, being injured himself, being sprayed with something when a scud missle passed overhead before they could get on their protective gear, all led to complications for this sensitve man upon his return home. He suffered great emotional and physical pain while trying to deal with the things that he had survived in Iraq. He was 26 years old and died in his sleep this past September, most likely of an accidental overdose of pain medication and alcohol. What person in their right mind cannot compare this war to Vietnam? That my nephew served with honor and loved his country is undisputed. What is clear is that these fine young men and women have no idea how this service will affect them once they get home and try to live normal lives. Yes, 2000 have officially died in the war--but how many will unofficially die from wounds received both physically and emotionally in Iraq?

I wanted to ask you if you feel like network news does as much truly investigative reporting anymore. More often I see questioning of public officials, but very little uncovering of corruption, etc. It seems to be mentioned, then goes away (e.g. Halliburton abuses in Iraq were reported, but who authorized them, etc. never made it to my newspapers or TV).

Why can't we talk about all the good the U.S. military is doing in Iraq and the fact that our efforts overseas to fight terrorism make it less possible that we will have to fight them here in America? I'm a Vietnam veteran and I think we are doing the right things in Iraq and Afghanistan to undermine terrorism and promote freedom and democracy.

This was the first blog entry I have ever seen. I cannot imagine there are those that would criticize you. I grew up with Chet and David (at the dinner table), and all who have followed. You have stepped into a great job; you are doing a great job! If there is any critism out there, just understand that you made enough of a difference in their environment for them to do something (doing something vs. the right thing is a polar comparison). If others do not agree, they can shut off the TV.

I enjoy your blogs. It provides additional coverage and insight into your nightly braodcast, which I also enjoy. I am looking forward to many years of your comments and reporting.

2,000 of our soldiers have given their lives so that many millions of others do not have to. I am a supporter of this war for many reasons. Some of which go back to 1979 when the Muslims took terrorism to a new level and started messing with the United States. It's about time that people started looking at the big picture; if we back down now, we will have no credibility in the future. Bringing our soldiers home now would be a huge mistake.

I am a 27-year vet and my National Guard Unit returned last year from deployment. It is unfortunate that any life is lost, BUT we understand that our job is not to sell insurance. Being in the U.S. Army during war time can be dangerous. During WWII the 2,000 people lost during this campaign would only reflect the loss of 5.9 days. Please do not undermine our mission and the war. Place all comments in context.

"Grim Milestone"... don't you think your headline is atrocious? Do you really think that it was someone's goal to reach 2,000 deaths? Last time I checked a milestone is a goal someone sets to achieve.

I find myself more inclined to watch the NBC Nightly News than the other two because of the transparency provided by this blog and its authors. I also enjoy the way you use the blog to share experiences and elaborate on things that didn't make it to air, especially around the time of Hurricane Katrina.

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Whose Child Is More Important? Everyone thinks that their child is the most important in the world.

Posted on Oct 26, 2005 8:39:30 PM at: Web of Influence