Plummeting ratings is forcing Meet the Press producers to innovate. Unfortunately, their ideas seem to miss the forest for the trees.
April 6, 2014

Meet the Press is in a bit of a pickle. Ratings are absolutely dismal, but they've just re-signed host David Gregory to a "long-term" contract at a significant enough price that hiring a new host--however smart that appears to those of us on the outside--is not a financially wise decision.

So they have to stick with their pathetic host and figure out a way to bring back viewers. One idea was to venture outside their Beltway bubble to see "real America":

For years and years, anyone who tuned in to America's Sunday morning political chat shows was invited into a world of cloistered elites whose understanding of the impacts of public policy ended at the bank of the Potomac River. It was a realm in which a massive unemployment crisis that swept across post-crash America was only perceived to affect a group of affluent political celebrities and their electoral hopes. "Will the terrible Senator What's-His-Nuts lose his ability to go on naming post offices after his cronies' children, or will he be forced to accept six-figure salaries on K Street or through meaningless board positions at useless foundations?"

There is, let's say, a disconnect between these shows and normal human Americans. So it's not surprising that normal human Americans have all but tuned out these shows, leaving them with a teensy audience of viewers who are either close to Capitol Hill or close to death (sort of the same concept, in some ways). But now, all of the sudden and quite unexpectedly, one of these shows has discovered that there is, like, this whole country called "America," and has decided to go and try to talk to it. From a press release I received Friday morning from NBC News:

“Meet the Press” is taking to the streets of hometowns across the country to uncover the real consequences of political decision-making in Washington, DC, and how it affects the day-to-day lives of Americans. In each Sunday’s “Meeting America” feature, NBC News Correspondent Kevin Tibbles takes the political conversation outside of the Beltway and into cities and communities where the issues debated by politicians and pundits on “Meet the Press” are hitting home.

But the same suits who cannot come to grips with the real reasons why people are tuning out Meet the Press (ahem, David Gregory, lack of fact checking, the same elites every week, need I go on?) miss the whole point of getting in touch with "real" Americans by Beltway-splaining to a miniscule town in Nebraska why the Keystone XL pipeline has some upside for them and the only reason they might not like it is because the farmers won't be getting enough money for their land, not potentially poisoning the aquifir. Way to frame the debate, Meet the Press.

I don't think it could be better stated than Jason Linkins did in HuffPo:

But here's some free advice, "Meet The Press." Your job actually isn't "translating" what's happening in Washington to the people in the hinterlands. Your job is afflicting Beltway elites with the perspective of people beyond the bubble in which those elites reside. Best to remember that the world needs more Beltwaysplaining like it needs pancreatic cancer.

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