Analysis of media issues, politics and current events.
The whispers are out. Rumors passed around by other members of the press, like the conservative Daily Caller and Daily Mail. The buzz; NBC, tired of disappointing ratings is rumored to be looking for a new host of NBC’s public affairs program Meet the Press. Meet the Press under David Gregory has lost a lot of viewers. Losses to the point Face the Nation is beating the show in total numbers and so is ABC’s This Week in the 25-54 age demographic. A far cry from when Meet the Press, hosted by the late Tim Russert, beat Face the Nation by over 1 million-plus viewers and was untouchable by its competitors. Why?
The show has lost its way. It’s become more of a coffee chat show. Or any run-of-the-mill show you’d see on any politically themed cable network. Seriously, doesn’t Meet the Press really seem so different than the rest of MSNBC daily news show lineup?
The only difference is it can get better show segment “gets.” Like President Obama, or John McCain. But with Gregory’s very casual style and propensity for asking something akin to, ” what’s the word on the political street?” or “say something politically sexy” questions rather than his predecessor, Russert’s, more grilling style, Meet the Press has lost its brand.
Like The Tonight Show for Comedians under Johnny Carson, a politician knew Meet the Press was the big time for themselves and their policies. And as a result, knew had to have their act together to go on the program. They were going to be asked tough questions, and they better have a good answer. It’s what made Meet the Press the gauntlet and proving ground politicians and the public knew they needed to go through to have ideas vetted. Russert clearly understood policy and kept politicians’ feet to the fire by researching then asking to explain or justify prior statements. Left or right, a politician’s ability to survive that grilling was like a seal of approval or a badge of honor for a politician or policy.
That’s what made Meet the Press a brand and a king maker. That also made it a power player to be noticed in Washington.
Honestly, The Daily Show’s research and pulling clips of previous political statements now does a better job of holding politicians accountable than what David Gregory does currently. It seems apparent that David Gregory will easily forgo tough, persistent grilling on policy or previous statements, if you just give him a nice quote that gets picked up by other news shows. That may be a nice way to show to others in the media that Meet the Press is a “newsmaker,” but you’re also communicating that the “press” in “Meet the Press” is a pushover. Pushovers are not king makers, and people who aren’t king makers in Washington are not powerful or listened to. Hence the low ratings.
I do attribute some of this to Gregory directly. In my book Does This News Make Me Look Fat?, I talk about Gregory’s response when asked by Jay Rosen to fact check more of his guests’ statements. A request, to which Gregory replied,
“People can fact-check Meet the Press every week on their own terms.”
If that’s the case, I interpret David’s point of view is that Meet The Press is merely a dumb conduit of conversation. We talk, you figure it out. If that’s true, then change the show to Political Chat with David Gregory. Or do as what’s rumored; get another host who will make Meet The Press a respected player in political circles. By politicians and the public.