When networks willingly place so much emphasis on personality, the show’s fortunes become too tightly intertwined with the who and not the what of its broadcast.
If It’s Sunday, It’s Meet The (1%) Press
Credit: DonkeyHotey
August 22, 2014

Over at the Nation, Reed Richardson writes about why no one should feel sorry for David Gregory, but why personality-driven "news" is failing, anyway:

As a result, most Sunday news show hosts serve as purveyors of the Washington conventional wisdom as much as, if not more than, the officeholders they’re purportedly covering. Meet the Press , and with it the whole Sunday morning news show genre, has devolved into a kind of cloistered, clubby, faux-accountability chinwag, one where a rich and powerful host mostly asks gentle questions of rich and powerful politicians about things that mostly only matter to rich and powerful viewers. (Or, even worse, rich and powerful journalists and pundits simply talk amongst themselves.)

Voices and issues considered outside the mainstream—or in D.C. parlance, “not serious”—end up either marginalized or completely disappeared from the discourse. Need more proof? Look no further than the Sunday news show advertisers, a list of which is routinely populated by multinational conglomerates and defense contractors. ( Boeing exclusively sponsors the Meet the Press news app .) These companies know that the ‘programming’ they’re selling adjacent to on Sunday morning isn’t about to question the status quo.

While Gregory could never match Russert’s mega-watt screen presence, he nonetheless followed in his predecessor’s too-clever-by-half and insular journalistic footsteps. That’s why Gregory so publicly used his MTP perch to parrot 1% talking points about the need to cut Medicare and Social Security, so that regular Americans could feel more “pain.” That’s why one of his few notable attempts at confrontation— holding up a 30-round magazine to NRA chief Wayne LaPierre in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting —backfired into a PR debacle. That’s why one of his shows’ few real moments of newsmaking— the endorsement of same-sex marriage by Vice President Joe Biden —happened because of a guest intentionally going off-script rather than succumbing to Gregory’s tough questioning.

That’s why by far the most memorable moment in Gregory’s tenure at MTP —and quite possibly his journalistic career to date—was his disturbing, thinly veiled attack on the kind of adversarial journalism that he never bothers to do.Plenty of smart people have proposed good ideas for resuscitating the value of Meet the Pressand its ilk. But the essential problem to be corrected can really be boiled down to making the Sunday morning shows more about the journalism and less about the journalists .

It would require democratizing and diversifying viewpoints; more actual reporting, less speculative posing. Of course, to re-orient MTP ’s focus off of political palace intrigue would necessarily jeopardize the loyalty of the audience that lives and works in and around said palace. But recapturing such a prominent news platform for the interests of the rest of the country should be a risk worth taking for TV news organizations that enjoy the privilege of using public airwaves to make their money.

Unfortunately, we know which path NBC News has chosen to follow. Chuck Todd, the network’s named replacement for Gregory, currently works as NBC News’ chief political handicapper and launched his career in Washington working at The Hotline, a prototype of insider-y, horse race-obsessed publications like Politico. No surprise then that Politico Playbook blogger Mike Allen, pre-eminent Beltway tout and steadfast shill for corporate America , recognized in Todd a kindred spirit, admiringly describing him as someone with a “love of the game” that would attract a loyal following among “newsmakers” and “political junkies.”

Whether or not Todd can reverse the damage done to Meet the Press ’s ratings by Gregory remains to be seen. But when it comes to the impact of the new MTP host’s journalism, I have little doubt that the powerful in Washington will notice much of a difference.

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