Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Race at "Meet the Press"

The memorial service for the great broadcast journalist was held today, but people are already beginning to speculate who will replace Tim Russert on NBC's Meet the Press. This process isn't driven by a lack of respect for Russert, but because of the fact that this is one of the highest rated news programs in the country and filling that seat is very important.

The New York Times' Bill Carter and Jacques Steinberg raise a few of the expected names for potential Meet the Press anchor. "From inside NBC, the potential candidates include the evening news anchor, Brian Williams, who would be doing double duty (as [Bob] Schieffer did for a time at CBS), correspondents David Gregory and Andrea Mitchell and MSNBC hosts like Chris Matthews, Joe Scarborough and Keith Olbermann," they write. "Several of those names are already lightning rods for critics, however" (emphasis added).

Allow this critic to be among the first to say "amen." Here is my assessment of these candidates:

* Brian Williams. Williams is sharp, smart, and articulate, but many blame him for the leftward reputation that has come to NBC. Furthermore, his current job is full time plus and so is the position at Meet the Press (especially if it continues to include the Washington Bureau Chief post).

* David Gregory. Gregory always seems to have an agenda. His style reminds me of Sam Donaldson. Tough? Yes, but quite selectively and he seems to be more vindictive towards some than others. That was what made Russert so great, he was an equal opportunity attacker.

* Andrea Mitchell. Generally speaking, I like Mitchell. However, the Meet the Press demographic is almost identical to those who view the evening news. The experiment of placing a female in the anchor chair at CBS with Katie Couric will have everyone moving with extreme caution at NBC.

* Chris Matthews. Matthews is very smart, but clearly very liberal. He wears his convictions on his sleeve. He loves certain guests and shows disdain towards others. He is very well versed on political and national affairs, but he doesn't seem to be the kind of personality that should be in the Meet the Press chair.

* Joe Scarborough. Scarborough's roots are Conservative, but in recent years he has worked very hard to simply be fair with everyone. Furthermore, like Russert, he has roots in politics that have led him to the media. As a Conservative, I would certainly favor Scarborough over the others being mentioned, but his ideological roots are too far too Conservative to make MSNBC comfortable, in my opinion.

* Keith Olbermann. I think Jon Stewart of the Daily Show would be better, in my opinion. He's funny without being angry. I am actually shocked that his name was even dropped in consideration. I hope is is pure speculation and not serious discussion.

Rumor has it, the race seems to have already narrowed to Gregory, Scarborough, and Matthews. I believe Scarborough was put in that group to avoid the characterization that MSNBC was only interested in Liberals. Furthermore, the rumor mill has seemed to eliminate Gregory and the buzz is surrounding Matthews, who is certainly the most political animal on the MSNBC scene.

The one name that was not mentioned in the process, and the one that I think would have been the strongest, was Tom Brokaw in an interim position. Brokaw is serious and knows his trade, regardless of how uncomfortable I might be with his ideology, he was cautious in how it demonstrated it. Furthermore, he enjoyed the highest ratings of any of the big three anchors. His emphasis on "the Greatest Generation" (those who sacrificed during WW II) has placated the concerns of many and he will appeal to the dominant, older viewer, audience.

The great thing about Brokaw, oddly, is that he seems past the desire to do such long term, which will lead to the opportunity to have many others sit in the chair and audition for the post while everyone knows it is in good hands. It will be interesting to see what NBC finally does to fill this massive void.

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Anonymous Michelle Smith said...

Tim Russert was excellent. I am surprised that there is so many conversations about the future.

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Michael Haberman said...

Tom Brokaw gets my vote for the interim host of Meet The Press. He has the "gravitas" to do it at once. This would give needed time for NBC to make a solid choice. A penl with Joe Scarborough on it might be interesting, but I do not see any eivdence he can handle it alone. If Keith Oberman were chosen, I would never watch it, as he is the single most biased individual on air, in my opinion. As to David Gregory, I have lost a lot of respect for him since he left the newsman's role for his opinion show. As to Chris Matthews, he is right up there with keith Oberman, and I routinely switch them both off.

2:34 PM  

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