David Gregory set to "Meet the Press"? He would be a good choice

Reply Tue 2 Dec, 2008 10:21 am
David Gregory set to "Meet the Press"?
Tue Dec 2, 2008
by Paul J. Gough
Hollywood Reporter

NBC News denied Monday night that it was close to naming chief White House correspondent David Gregory as "Meet the Press" moderator.

The Huffington Post reported that Gregory would get the job.

"We have no announcement to make, and we are not making an announcement tomorrow," an NBC News spokeswoman said Monday night .

The decision on a permanent replacement for the late Tim Russert is expected sometime this week, possibly on Sunday's "Meet the Press." Former "NBC Nightly News" anchor Tom Brokaw has been filling in as moderator since Russert's death in June.

Gregory joined NBC News in 1995. Well known for his battles with White House press secretaries in the Bush administration, Gregory has covered just about every major news story of the past 13 years and has served as substitute anchor on "Today" and the weekend "Nightly News." He also served as a substitute "Meet the Press" moderator during the Russert era.

Recently, Gregory has raised his profile on MSNBC. He anchored the 6 p.m. "Road to the White House" newscast nightly, and, after August's implosion of the Chris Matthews/Keith Olbermann anchoring team, was the primary anchor for MSNBC's debate and election night coverage.

NBC was also reported to be considering NBC political director Chuck Todd, veteran correspondent Andrea Mitchell and PBS' Gwen Ifill, among others. There also is the possibility that there could be a rotating moderator, or the network might bring back its panelist format.


"Meet the Press" is the acknowledged leader among the Sunday public affairs shows. In the November sweep, "Meet the Press" under Brokaw remained the most-watched and top-rated of the shows by a comfortable margin despite the fact that ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" put in its best November sweep rating in eight years.

November was a heady time for the four public affairs shows, with Election Day and the economy of great interest to viewers. Yet the month looked like many Novembers past: NBC on top by a wide margin, followed by ABC and CBS, with Fox a distant fourth.

"Meet the Press" averaged 4.5 million viewers in November, compared with 3.5 million for "This Week," 3.1 million for CBS' "Face the Nation" and 1.5 million for "Fox News Sunday." That was the best viewership for the November sweep since 2004; in fact, all the Sunday shows were up double digits in viewership year over year.

Among adults 25-54, "Meet the Press" had a 1.3 rating, compared with ABC's 1.0, CBS' 0.9 and Fox's 0.5, Nielsen Media Research said. NBC, ABC and CBS also have seen double-digit increases in the adults 25-54 demographic, compared with November 2007. Fox was up, but only slightly.

But ABC's "This Week" has seen gains under Stephanopoulos. "This Week" achieved its best viewership and adults 25-54 figures since November 2000, two years before Stephanopoulos took over. There hasn't been a closing of the gap in total viewership, but "This Week" has made progress in the demographic subgroup. "This Week" also has beaten "Face the Nation" for three consecutive November sweeps and had the largest margin of viewership -- 410,000 -- in eight years.

"Face the Nation" had its best November ratings since 2005 among total viewers and adults 25-54.
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Reply Tue 2 Dec, 2008 10:23 am
Wow. Totally disagree. I hate David Gregory. He's the least insightful reporter that MSNBC has and is more interested in Controversy than anything else.

They should have picked Chuck Todd, but they didn't have the balls to do it.

Reply Tue 2 Dec, 2008 10:24 am
I like Chuck Todd's writing a lot, have never seen him on TV. How's he come across?
Reply Tue 2 Dec, 2008 10:34 am
sozobe wrote:

I like Chuck Todd's writing a lot, have never seen him on TV. How's he come across?

Awesome. He's the best of all of them these days. Mostly because he's fact-based and numbers-based. Always calm.

Reply Tue 2 Dec, 2008 10:37 am
Chuck Todd addresses the job in a similar fashion as Tim Russert did. He doesn't have as much of a charismatic personality as Russert but if Russert had to pick someone to replace himself, I think his choice would have been Todd.
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Reply Tue 2 Dec, 2008 10:50 am
You all have convinced me that Chuck Todd would be a better choice---which I had overlooked.

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Reply Wed 3 Dec, 2008 09:30 am
NBC exec: 'Meet the Press' deal close for Gregory
Dec 2, 9:18 PM (ET)

NEW YORK (AP) - NBC News is close to naming chief White House correspondent David Gregory as Tim Russert's replacement on the top-ranked Sunday political talk show "Meet the Press," a network executive said Tuesday.

Gregory is negotiating terms of a deal that would give him the job, said the NBC News executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't final.

Gregory has been considered one of the leading candidates for the job since Russert died last June, with Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd and Gwen Ifill also in the running. Tom Brokaw has filled in since Russert's death, and is interviewing President-elect Barack Obama on Sunday's show.

The Huffington Post had earlier reported Gregory was the selection, to which NBC News spokeswoman Allison Gollust said Tuesday: "We have nothing to announce. Just because the Huffington Post says something doesn't make it true."

Gregory declined to comment. "I've said nothing all through this process and won't say anything until NBC makes an announcement," he said in an e-mail.

The reporter, who has exchanged some angry words with Bush administration officials during news briefings, has seen his profile increase at NBC News, particularly over the past year.

He was MSNBC's chief anchor on Election Night and during general election debates. He also has an hourlong show each weekday on MSNBC - first focused on the campaign and now on the transition - that he would no longer do if he got the "Meet the Press" job.

There has been some question about whether NBC wanted to name a sole anchor to dominate "Meet the Press" in the manner of Russert, or have a regular panel of reporters with Gregory as the moderator.

He would take over the show that has long dominated the Sunday morning political landscape, a ratings lead that Brokaw maintained during his temporary stewardship. All the political talk shows have benefited from the intense interest in the campaign and transition.

During November, "Meet the Press" averaged 4.5 million viewers each Sunday, up 29 percent over November 2007. ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopolous had 3.5 million viewers, up 26 percent, and CBS'"Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer averaged 3.1 million, up 23 percent, according to Nielsen Media Research.

NBC News is owned by NBC Universal, a division of the General Electric Co.
Reply Wed 3 Dec, 2008 09:37 am
The Russert Chair
by Felix Gillette
This article was published in the December 8, 2008, edition of The New York Observer.

On the morning of Sunday, Nov. 30, David Gregory, NBC News’ ubiquitous robo-anchor, popped up in front of the cameras at Rockefeller Plaza where over the course of several drizzly hours, he held forth on such topics as the dismal weather, Barry Manilow and the world’s largest floating Christmas Tree, which turns out to be in located in Rio de Janeiro.

Mr. Gregory"NBC’s chief White House correspondent, host of MSNBC’s 6 p.m. show 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and the world’s most indomitable substitute anchor"was filling in on Sunday for Lester Holt as co-anchor of Weekend Today.

But if Mr. Gregory has his way, as he often does at NBC, he will soon be spending his Sunday as moderator of Meet the Press.

Tom Brokaw had said he didn’t plan to stretch his interim hosting duties through the December holidays; and the network had scheduled an interview with President-elect Barack Obama for the Sunday, Dec. 7 program. Surely NBC News chief Jeff Zucker would have completed his plan for the future of Washington’s most important Sunday news program by then?

The conventional wisdom leading into Thanksgiving had been that the network was in the final stages of a bake-off between Meet the Press round table regulars Andrea Mitchell, NBC’s chief foreign affairs correspondent; NBC political director Chuck Todd; and Mr. Gregory.

Outside names were largely regarded as nonstarters: NBC is not in a financial position to enter into a bidding war.

But by Monday, internal betting was favoring Mr. Gregory.

“He’s the one who has substituted on the show,” one TV executive told The Observer over the Thanksgiving break. “He’s the most logical choice.”

Following a day of intense speculation inside the network about the future of the show, a report surfaced on the Huffington Post the evening of Dec. 1, citing no sources by name, declaring that Mr. Gregory had gotten the gig.

But inside the network uncertainty about what was going on continued through the following day. If the report was true, why wasn’t it being announced? Were there contracts remaining to be signed? And if so, were there conditions still to be met? And if those were not to be met now, then when?

Steve Friedman, the former longtime television news producer and current president of Vir2L Media, said that NBC executives had made most logical choice. “There are no bad ideas in television,” said Mr. Friedman. “There’s only poor execution.”

Mr. Friedman said there were a number of reasons to go with Mr. Gregory. “One: He’s a pro,” said Mr. Friedman. “Two: He’s there. Three: In a time of financial problems at the networks, it makes a lot of sense to stay in-house and not go outside to hire somebody at big dollars that are added. And"four"as important as Meet the Press is from an image point of view, it really isn’t a huge financial number.”

Mr. Friedman pointed out that while NBC makes a profit on Meet the Press, and can charge advertisers a premium for the prestige of the show, it’s still on only once a week for an hour. Compared to, say, Today, which is on for four hours a day, seven days week, Meet the Press has a smaller window of opportunity for gain and loss. “The difference between first and third, outside of ego, is not a big financial hit,” said Mr. Friedman. “The difference between first and third might be five or six million a year.”

Earlier this year, Noah Oppenheim, a seasoned producer who had worked with Mr. Gregory on Today, was tapped to help produce Mr. Gregory’s show on MSNBC, Race for the White House. Mr. Oppenheim, who has since left MSNBC to become vice president of Reveille Entertainment (the production company started by Ben Silverman, now the head of NBC Universal entertainment), told The Observer on Monday night that, if true, Mr. Gregory would be a natural fit for Meet the Press.

“He’s got great instincts when it comes to what area of stories to probe,” said Mr. Oppenheim. “I don’t think there’s much of a learning curve when it comes to politics. He knows that world as well as anyone. He gets great stuff out of people.”

“He brings great star power,” said a person familiar with the inner workings of NBC News. “He acts like a star and can be one. He’s certainly got the ego for it. He can be an aggressive questioner"as he showed in the White House Press Room. He was a dramatic and good and persistent questioner. And he’s not afraid to be disliked.”

“The trick that Russert pulled off, however, was to make it all about Russert and yet not to seem to be about Russert at all,” added our source. “That’s why people liked him and viewed him as a good inquisitor. The question is whether this guy can pull off the same trick.”

To date, Mr. Gregory has already hosted multiple shows on MSNBC, neither of which succeeded (à la Rachel Maddow) in developing much of a cult personal following for Mr. Gregory. As a result, many casual observers might wonder in the days to come why NBC might choose the guy with the worst ratings in their cable channel’s prime-time lineup for the most prestigious job in political television. But the truth is that while Mr. Gregory has not attracted much love during his stints on cable, nor has he stirred up much trouble. In the cable universe, not causing controversy is a death sentence. In the world of Sunday morning public-affairs programming, it’s a trait that has great appeal to network executives.

Back on Aug. 17, Mr. Gregory got a solo flight moderating Meet the Press. Along the way, he interviewed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; moderated a square-off between two candidate surrogates, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal; and presided over a political round table featuring Josh Green, Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd. Overall, the show went smoothly"if not remarkably. NBC won the ratings battle for the weekend with roughly 3.2 million total viewers (CBS’s Face the Nation had 2.5 million and ABC’s This Week had 2.4 million).

“This is the definitely the safest choice,” said one network staffer. “He’s a smart guy with the political chops. The question is going to be, can he maintain the audience? The most important thing will be making sure that Meet the Press continues to dominate when it comes to guests.”

And Mr. Gregory certainly has the will to dominate. Every year, Television critic Andrew Tyndall tallies up the time spent in front of the camera by all correspondents on the evening newscasts at CBS, NBC and ABC. In recent years, in a profession teeming with insatiable camera hogs, Mr. Gregory has dominated. In each of the past four years, Mr. Gregory has finished as either the single most heavily used reporter in network news or the second most. Not to mention that he is a relentless substitute anchor. Over Thanksgiving weekend, for instance, he was everywhere viewers looked on NBC, filling in on both Today and the Nightly News. Even his critics concede that Mr. Gregory has an incredible motor.

Unsurprisingly, his omnipresence has done his reputation more good among viewers and network executives than among some of his colleagues and inferiors.

“I think it’s a tragedy,” said one of his colleagues, about Mr. Gregory’s apparent ascent to the Meet the Press position. “It’s depressing. It shows that your skills as an inside fighter matter more than your skills as a journalist.”

“The last supposedly safe decision a network executive made was giving the CBS Evening News to Katie Couric,” said one TV insider. “That was considered the safest possible move. And look how that worked out.”

In fact, NBC may be contemplating an even safer move. What if it were possible to keep David Gregory at NBC and still keep everyone happy who wanted this job?

On Tuesday morning, Mike Allen of Politico posted a story stating that “network executives” had confirmed to him their plans to name Mr. Gregory moderator of the show. “The executives provided elliptical information,” wrote Mr. Allen, “that did not either raise or preclude the possibility that a supporting cast could be named along with Gregory.”

On Monday and Tuesday, several sources inside and outside of NBC News speculated to The Observer that NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker would eventually name a couple of current NBC staffers (such as Andrea Mitchell) to a beefed-up group of semi-permanent panelists.

“It seems very likely that no matter who winds up in the moderator chair, the panel will probably be more prominent that it was in the past,” said a former TV news executive. “Because whoever fills the anchor chair, even if they are a very experienced interviewer, we’re in a more p.c. world now, and there are a lot of different demographic boxes that NBC needs to check off. Also, even though it never seems to work, that’s another way for them to try and keep their passed-over talent happy.”

And unhappy talent may not be affordable at NBC right now. Not long ago, a large number of NBC News staffers were offered buyout packages. In recent weeks, the deadline for the buyouts has come and gone. And the latest rumor is that if NBC doesn’t receive enough buyout applications, newly minted D.C. bureau chief Mark Whitaker would soon begin laying off a number of his D.C. staff.

And so, several sources said, the decision was less about what great talent the network could afford to attract"Katie Couric! Ted Koppel!"but whom, given the shallow backbench of name-brand personalities, the network could not afford to lose.

With all the other big NBC gigs tied up for the foreseeable future, the only plum left to give out is Meet the Press. And if the reports hold up, it would seem, that last plum had to be dropped in Mr. Gregory’s mouth.

“It’s a time for reflection and change,” said our source. “Everyone is doing it. NBC is just being forced to do it in a more public manner.”
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