NBC discovers that the Web had an inventor, much to its surprise

During the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games in London on Friday night, there was a sequence called "Frankie and June Say, Thanks Tim." It was, as best I could tell, a montage of British rock and rap music combined with a look at the Digital Age. After the tribute to the Industrial Revolution, followed by a combination of Peter Pan, Voldemort, and the National Health Service, I was game for anything.

Frankie and June were fictional characters. "Tim" was Tim Berners-Lee, a fitting choice for the British to honor since Berners-Lee pretty much came up with the idea of the World Wide Web, which is making it possible for you to read my rambling thoughts right here. Berners-Lee was able to use the global connectivity of the pre-existing Internet combined with hypertext and other programming that has brought us the World Wide Web.

But to NBC's Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer, Berners-Lee could have just been as much of a fictional character as Frankie and June.

"If you haven't heard of him, we haven't either," [Vieira] said. "Google him," joked co-host Matt Lauer.
Source: The Guardian

Despite what Aaron Sorkin wants us to believe on his HBO show "The Newsroom", TV news hosts are not necessarily the greatest sources of accumulated knowledge and wisdom. Not everyone would know who Tim Berners-Lee is, but obviously someone in NBC's research department knew who he was. (Here is his mostly self-written biography.)

I know that people in TV news often have to speak knowledgeably about topics that they know little about. And sometimes they have to fake it. It is part of the business. That is why NBC likely gives its hosts volumes of notes to look at it. Maybe, Vieira and Lauer could have actually looked at them in this instance.

So why didn't Vieira and Lauer just fake some knowledge of the existence of Tim Berners-Lee instead of just making light of their own ignorance? Were they afraid that they would seem nerdy? Would it spoil the moment? (Trust me, that had happened much earlier in the evening.) Were people not supposed to know who Berners-Lee was because he was British? Perhaps NBC thinks DNA was discovered by James Watson and ... some other guy.

After the 16 days of the Olympics are done, there will be plenty more things people will dislike about NBC's coverage of the games. But, this bit of willful ignorance of one of the world's most innovative minds and someone who developed a communications medium that has made it possible for NBC to show us the Olympics online, just floored me.

I'm not worried about London's ability to pull together a well-run Olympics. I'm more worried about NBC's ability to find on-air talent who are not completely ignorant of any technological development. In the world of television news, it is still acceptable to laugh at one's lack of knowledge about science and technology.


More by Bob Timmermann:
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