April 21, 2014

What is NBC going to do about the post-Russert crashing ratings of "Meet the Press"?

It's not just that no one can match the magnificent Tim Russert, because David Gregory has fallen behind the elderly Bob Schieffer (on "Face the Nation") and the once-cute but never particularly popular George Stephanopoulos (on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos"). So what is NBC doing about its David Gregory problem? I'd recommend reading my blog posts on the subject, like this one. ("Gregory plays favorites, shoring up liberal commentators when they seem to be stumbling, supplying arguments and glossing over rough spots for them. Russert would go in for the kill.") I'm a longtime viewer who loved Tim Russert, and I've kept up my habit of watching the show (which I record along with other Sunday shows), and I am very unhappy with it.

But according to this WaPo article, here's something NBC has done in an attempt to fathom its Russertlessness problem:
Last year, the network undertook an unusual assessment of the 43-year-old journalist, commissioning a psychological consultant to interview his friends and even his wife. The idea, according to a network spokeswoman, Meghan Pianta, was “to get perspective and insight from people who know him best.” 
The people who love him, personally, love him, so why don't we find out what makes him lovable to them and use that information about his personal, private-life lovablity to draw people who don't and can't interact with him personally into loving him? Are they crazy? Can I get a psychological consultant to do some interviews to ascertain whether NBC is crazy?

Another thing NBC did is hire "media consultant" Rob Yarin to adapt the show to what WaPo refers to as "a changing media environment." This expert came up with faster "pacing," "shorter interview segments," and mixing in some less news-oriented topics. For example, they have a segment called "Meeting America," where they go find something that's not in Washington, such as, recently "a debate in Kentucky over the building of a Biblical theme park using tax subsidies."
Gregory says the new look "delivers on the core of what 'Meet the Press' is" but "widens the aperture . . . I’m dedicated to building something that says we’re not just thinking about politics. We’re thinking about who the real influencers are in this country."
He has no idea how smarmy and patronizing that sounds. My advice, stay out of what you call "America" (i.e., not Washington). Have your Washington people on and grill them for us. That's what Russert did.

We're not interested in you as the host of a vicarious cocktail party to which We the People never get an invitation, to which — this may surprise you, David — most of us would send our regrets.


BigFire said...

First Rule of the Hole: When you're in one, stop digging.

Guess NBC didn't know that one.

Michael said...

Also, a photography nerd aside: "widen[ing] the aperture" would narrow the depth of field. Isn't that exactly the opposite of what Gregory's trying to do?

traditionalguy said...

Never seeing anything at all wrong with Obama's destructive ways and lying alternate reality leaves Gregory with very little to talk about.

So he filibusters for NBC's Nothing But Crap News Department. It's a living.

RecChief said...

Judging by NBC's actions and quotes from Gregory himself, it looks like they have a blind spot for what actually worked about the show when Russert was the host. Maybe they should save the millions they are paying that 'media consultant' and just watch the footage in the vault. Especially where Russert went in for the kill on liberals/progressives. That would assume that they believe it to be a 'news' show and not the prog propaganda that it has become. Most likely, they don't see a problem with the show as it is now, just that the audience isn't educated enough to grasp what they NBC is showing them. Let it circle the drain, I hope they spend millions and end up with a worse product than they have now.

Donald Douglas said...

I got you linked up, Althouse: 'NBC News Conducted Psychological Assessment of 'Meet the Press' Host David Gregory'.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Sharyl Attkisson from CBS could be a good fix, but we all know that is not going to happen at NBC.

It's interesting that ABC has signed up Laura Ingraham as a commentator.

As for NBC getting a psychological profile on David Gregory, that's a sound procedure whenever someone brings an illegal assault weapon magazine into the workplace.

Freeman Hunt said...

Last year, the network undertook an unusual assessment of the 43-year-old journalist, commissioning a psychological consultant to interview his friends and even his wife. The idea, according to a network spokeswoman, Meghan Pianta, was “to get perspective and insight from people who know him best.”

He agreed to that?!

BDNYC said...

If his presidential aspirations fizzle, Chris Christie would be an excellent replacement for Gregory. Tough prosecutor. Presumably skilled at cross-examination. Not afraid to ruffle feathers.

B said...

"Gregory plays favorites, shoring up liberal commentators when they seem to be stumbling, supplying arguments and glossing over rough spots for them."

Reminds me of Jonathan Chait's experience with Melissa Harris-Perry:

"The segment lasted 12 and a half minutes, and Harris-Perry spent almost half that time on an extended soliloquy about how I am wrong, only allowing me to join the discussion about my story for the second half.

"There was also a panel following that segment, consisting of four panelists who agree with Harris-Perry and none who agree with me. I declined the invitation to stay for that part."

cubanbob said...

There is no fixing stupid. NBC doesn't get or doesn't want to get is the fact that half of the country doesn't buy the predicate of the questions asked by the host and the tag team commenters. Althouse would far better than Gregory in attracting viewers simply because she isn't so predictably left. It wouldn't surprise me if Reynolds and Althouse have more readers combined than MTP has viewers. But then again they arent't party hacks with bylines.

The Drill SGT said...

The Katie Couric approach to hard news.

Jake Tapper or Attkisson would help, but not be acceptable to NBC execs

madAsHell said...

When they start hiring psychologists to evaluate your performance, then they are pushing you out the door.

Besides, there is something in his eyes that says....CREEPY.

Kansas City said...

Awfully tough on Gregory. To me, he is just another liberal media guy, he is younger than Schieffer (a little sharper but less likeable), and he is less clever and politically tuned than Stephanopolus. It would help all these guys if they listened to the answer and asked logical follow up questions, a skill either not taught or frowned upon by the media. The basic problem is that the media guys and the politicians and mutually dependent upon one another and, therefore, protect one another. I read once they have an informal rule that they can repeat a question once to a non-responsive answer, but then they move on. The one change that would significantly improve the media is for them to politely state "I didi not hear the informaton sought by my question" and then repeat the essence of the question. Then, if the guest evades again, state "since you will not provide the information, I take it the answer is [fill in the blank], if that is not correct, you can correct it, but otherwise, we will move on." I understand they do not have much time and a evasive politician can be a tough interview, but they are supposed to be the best in the media. They also should realize that not getting through their list of questions/subjects is a good thing if it results in some meaningful information being provided.

I thought Russett was good, not great. He also would give up too soon and move on (as I remember him). But he at least understood the strength of prior inconstent statements as a tool to show deception.

PB Reader said...

I've stopped watching the ABC/CBS/NBC Sunday shows. They're just ads for the Democrats. Nothing interesting to say and completely predictable.

William said...

I don't agree with Rachel Maddow, and I don't find her especially likable, but she is open about her beliefs and her loyalties. She has a core.. That's a mitigating factor. Gregory seems far more manipulative and occult about his agenda. That's an aggravating factor.......I wonder if the tall load on VEEP isn't to some extent based on Gregory.

rhhardin said...

Gregory dumped Imus rather than defending him, when he knew better.

He sells out for anything.

Patrick O said...

It's like scurvy. If you start by ruling out vitamin c supplements, you'll come up with a huge amount of other responses that don't work.

NBC has news scurvy.

Sam L. said...

Beer, cry in their, one (1) each.

Rob said...

The magnificent Tim Russert? Give me a break. Did you ever read Big Russ and Me? The only reason the book had that title was because the publishers rejected his first choice: Me. Put aside the fact that nobody ever referred to Russert's father as Big Russ. Let's just concentrate on the content of the book, anecdotes such as, "And then I went to the Vatican to interview the Pope, and I arranged to have it catered with sandwiches, and I thought, this is just the sort of sandwiches Big Russ would want to serve the Pope if he was as much of a big shot as I am."

David said...

Freeman Hunt said...

He agreed to that?!

Edward R. Murrow he is not.

Such an assessment of Morrow would have been interesting. His psychological profile was probably bizarre, which of course helped make him into a great newsman.

Richard said...

Gregory = Antipathetic

Russert = Sympathetic

Ken Davis said...

My Sunday morning begins with CSPAN, then at 8:00 CDT, I turn to Fox and watch Chris Wallace and team. This to me is the current best how, with a host that actually challenges folks from both left and right. Then I turn to Meet the Press (out of long habit.) I find myself often thinking how dishonest an interlocutor Gregory is. As you note, he helps the folks on the left who stumble and gets argumentative with folks on the right. It is absolutely clear which side he comes down on in every interview, so by 9:30, I am usually switching to This Week, and lord knows that Stephanopolis has always been a shill for democrats, but he is at least a somewhat more honest one. MTP has the history, but they have GOT to find someone more like Russert (rest his soul.)

Jum said...

I think David Gregory has a problem unrelated to his partisanship and political cheerleading: he looks like an a-hole. When I look at him at him, I see a chip-on-the-shoulder, snotty-nose, smart-ass, Irish high-school kid (no offense intended to the Irish).

And I bet I'm not alone.

wildswan said...

This reminds me of Putin "softening his image" by singing Blueberry Hill at a charity concert. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IV4IjHz2yIo

It was unforgettable but not attacking Chechnya and the Ukraine would have done more to soften Putin's image. In other words sometimes image and reality are connected and the reality is undesirable and can't be disconnected from the image.
As in the case of this show
Image: Show Not Worth Watching Because Predictable
Reality: Show Not Worth Watching Because Predictable.

Image: He loves his wife.
Reality: Show Not Worth Watching Because Predictable.

Bobby Dupea said...

He's a DC fanboy and his show is an odd salute to the DC Fed-Left country club.

This is the only country club in the nation where the groundskeepers (that would be us) pay the dues for the members.

Gregory is the same on TV as he is in person (I've met him at a couple of Sidwell events). (Incidentally, Sidwell has armed guards, Gregory's 'illegal magazine' fiasco aside). For me this is the key. He's hosting a national news show but the audience in his head are the people living in Kalorama or Georgetown or Bethesda who circle in the same aquarium.

Interesting thing happens when one converses with a Gregory or Milbank about politics or the country. They issue their opinions, smile and wait for affirmation. If one disagrees, or simply offers a contrasting view, they are taken aback, shake their heads, and say something like, "No that's not true and it's settled."

So he, like most of them, is a social creature of great skill in a very, very fancy fish bowl, appointed to host a once-important show -- the audience of which is irrelevant. Okay. Can't wait for them to go from 5 minute segments to 3 minute segments.

Wilbur said...

Freeman Hunt said:
"Last year, the network undertook an unusual assessment of the 43-year-old journalist, commissioning a psychological consultant to interview his friends and even his wife. The idea, according to a network spokeswoman, Meghan Pianta, was “to get perspective and insight from people who know him best.”

He agreed to that?!"

The OSS did it to Hitler without asking him.

Drago said...

What is NBC going to do?

Why don't they do what obama would do?

Simply change, on a whim, the very metrics utilized to measure performance.

And then do it again.

And again.

At the end of the day you can then simply claim "Victory!"

Steven said...

BigFire, "first rule of the hole" doesn't apply here - they aren't trying to do the same thing that hasn't been working. They have noticed that what they have been doing hasn't been working, and they have been coming up with new and different things that won't work.

And, yes, copying Russert would seem a better strategy than copying the Today show. But I don't think you can accuse them of not trying to change course.

Desiderius said...

"He agreed to that?!"

It was likely his idea. Everyone I know loves me, why can't viewers?

Um, because your show is about the people you have on and not you?

If only he could validate America, then maybe America would finally see what a GreatCatch he is and validate him back.

jeanne babin said...

There's one sure-fire way to get Gregory more animated and challenging to his guests: invite conservative guests!

You can bet your bottom dollar Gregory would have all kinds of challenges to conservative talking points. But neither he nor the network execs have the slightest interest in conservative policies.

Sonar said...

I miss Tim Russert. If you do, read, "Big Russ and Me".
His autobiography is a tribute to his father.

J Lee said...

Old slogan: "NBC -- Proud as a Peacock".

New Slogan: "NBC -- Crazy as a loon".

(Actually, Gregory by himself isn't the problem -- it's both the way he handles the show and NBC's idea that if they don't put their top names from their broadcast news division on MSNBC, people will differentiate what they get on their local NBC affiliate from what they get on MSNBC. Viewers aren't going to be that nuanced, especially when Rachel Maddow or Chris Matthews shows up on the Meet the Press panel. So even if Gregory's show tilts no more to the left than bob Schieffer on CBS or George Stephanopolus on ABC, those networks don't have a cable outlet generating bad will seven days a week with 50 percent of the viewing audience. So Gregory ends up at a goodwill disadvantage with conservatives even by comparison to those shows -- if either goes head-to-head with MTP in a local market, more and more people are choosing CBS or ABC over David's show.)

Sorun said...

Russert was a successful lawyer before going on TV. Gregory is a life-long TV news reader. There's a world of difference.

Jack Wayne said...

Ann, you're old enough to remember when MTP journalists made Russert look like a journolist.

Doug said...

What was 'folksy' about " ...Russert, the folksy inquisitor,...", may I ask? His threadbare and maudlin repeated invokings of Big Russ? Russert was a tough politico, direct to the point of being rude, urbane with an Ivy League degree, and hobnobbed with the DC powerbrokers. Has the NYT confused Russert with Andy Griffith?

TCR James said...

>>>Gregory says the new look "delivers on the core of what 'Meet the Press' is" but "widens the aperture..."

Maybe it's just me but I'm not overly fond of staring at DC's aperture.

St. George said...

Egad, what a pompous gasbag Russert was.

You have to go back to the Spivak era in the 1960s and 1970s to hear dignified exchanges without forced jollity, bombastic music and careening graphics.

Here's Spivak and his panel interviewing Martin Luther King and Roy Wilkins immediately before the 1963 March on Washington. At 16:00, you can hear King say that this is no time for moderation. "No social revolution can be neat and tidy at every point."

A tinkling of ice in water glasses is about as zany as the interviews get. These middle-aged white reporters are incredibly dignified. Not to mention the doubly incredible dignity of Wilkins and King.

Big Mike said...

No one will ever do "outside of Washington" vignettes as well as Charles Kuralt did. Adding a "Meeting America" segment is bound to suffer by comparison, and will only further demonstrate to the rest of the US how contemptuous the NBC execs are of them.

Number Six said...

David Gregory is Ron Burgundy without the humor.

He's paid a half million a year to read from a script to a camera. And that seems to be his only skill. He could be replaced by a robot.

So far as ABC.CBS.NBC.PBS.NPR . . . the audiences are just too stupid to appreciate the Emperor's clothes like the Elites do.

Willys said...

Could you explain that in French? If, you know, it pleases you.

Hurling Dervish said...

BILL MOYERS: Critics point to September eight, 2002 and to your show in particular, as the classic case of how the press and the government became inseparable. Someone in the Administration plants a dramatic story in the NEW YORK TIMES And then the Vice President comes on your show and points to the NEW YORK TIMES. It's a circular, self-confirming leak.

TIM RUSSERT: I don't know how Judith Miller and Michael Gordon reported that story, who their sources were. It was a front-page story of the NEW YORK TIMES. When Secretary Rice and Vice President Cheney and others came up that Sunday morning on all the Sunday shows, they did exactly that.

My concern was, is that there were concerns expressed by other government officials. And to this day, I wish my phone had rung, or I had access to them.


BILL MOYERS: You said a moment ago when we started talking to people who knew about aluminum tubes. What people-who were you talking to?

BOB SIMON: We were talking to people - to scientists - to scientists and to researchers, and to people who had been investigating Iraq from the start.

BILL MOYERS: Would these people have been available to any reporter who called or were they exclusive sources for 60 MINUTES?

BOB SIMON: No, I think that many of them would have been available to any reporter who called.

BILL MOYERS: And you just picked up the phone?

BOB SIMON: Just picked up the phone.

lgv said...

Aren't they doing the analysis backwards? Survey people who used to watch the show, but no longer do so.

Interviewing the circle of friends won't yield anything worthwhile unless you truly don't have a clue why ANYONE would like the guy.

drunkdebunker said...

Russert did a good job pretending to be tough on both sides. He wasn't. One incident stands out in my memory...the shit-bag David Duke was on and the graphic "David Duke (R)" popped up about a dozen times on the bottom of the screen. Duke had been a life-long Dem. before he called himself a Republican for one race.

Russert was almost apologetic when asking "tough" questions of Democrats, and intense and aggressive with Republicans.

paminwi said...

"This expert came up with faster "pacing," "shorter interview segments," and mixing in some less news-oriented topics."

Do they understand the audience for Sunday Morning shows is someone who is looking for a more in depth analysis about the issues at hand rather than shorter interviews? Dear Lord, I get enough of the 2 minute segments during the week on "news" shows.

David Gregory is awful, will continue to be awful no matter what any psychologist has to say to him about how to make things "better".

AND NBC really doesn't want to hear how awful viewers think he is.

George S. is a liberal hack and Bob S. is the lesser of the evils on ABC, NBC or CBS.

Steve said...

The problem is that the major networks are trying to carve up the liberal population for their share of the pie. When less than 30% ID as left/Democrat, you have effectively ignored 70% of the country.
If they want to succeed, they need to be honest (which Gregory is not) and non-partisan in holding the powerful to account.

I'm really thinking I just need to subscribe to the DNC feed to get all the national news they are going to give out, since it is more concise than the "news service" offerings.

drunkdebunker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MadisonMan said...

Sitting around with like-minded people agreeing how awesome the Democrats are is not good Television. You want to have contrary views present (if they exist).

Until MTP honestly addresses their insular view of the Democrats' world, its ratings will deservedly suck.

the wolf said...

Gregory is just waiting for a job offer in the Obama administration so he can do his shilling from the inside

Michael K said...

"Can I get a psychological consultant to do some interviews to ascertain whether NBC is crazy? "

They fund MSNBC. Next question ?

Anonymous said...

Let's say Gregory's ratings are badly injured but instead of firing him they rush him back to NBC headquarters with barely a pulse.

They have a contract with G.E. to build a new-wave cyborg out of the remaining Gregory parts. Unlike Vox, this technocratic dream journalist has the hardware BUILT-IN.

All the experience of the human journalist with terrabytes of breaking news and opinion.


cokaygne said...

It is an old story is it not? Reporters are nothing without their sources. They want the sources to keep on giving so they coddle them. The result is that "reporting" becomes stenography.

Deserttrek said...

why is any of this a mystery? I don't watch any of the sunday news shows, gave them up years ago. as far as nbc, why do I want to be insulted and smeared by a group of people who can't find their way out of dc or new york? as far as the rest including fox, the same bunch of talking heads does not know squat about 99% of anything other than talking. I can read the same journals or articles as they do and figure 99% of it out without help.
cronkite was a lie and intelligent people don't need to be told what to think

dreams said...

My opinion of Tim Russert is the same as Scott Johnson of Powerline, I also share his bad opinion of David Gregory.

"At least Tim Russert could fake it, as Bob Schieffer does now leading the pack on CBS."


Fandor said...

David Gregory needs to take a page out of Dave Garroway's play book. Partner with a monkey, like J. Fred Muggs, and pawn him off as a distance "six degrees of separation" "cousin" to help him interview the power elite of Washington. The beltway crowd will do back flips.

EDH said...

We're not interested in you as the host of a vicarious cocktail party to which We the People never get an invitation and to which — this may surprise you, David — most of us would send our regrets.

Didn't a magazine fairly recently invite opprobrium on itself by selling tickets to watch newsmakers mingle, at a distance, on a stage?

Eric said...

All of the Sunday talk shows can be characterized as "journalists and politicos in Washington talking with journalists and politicos in Washington about what journalists and politicos in Washington are talking about." The wonder is that the networks wonder why most people would never watch any of this.

Audacity17 said...

As a conservative, all I want from a media personality is to understand all the sides of the issue, and ask tough questions/followups of everyone. Russert did as good a job of that as anyone in recent memory.

NotClauswitz said...

Or what a 19th Century metaphor that is - is his reportage done looking through peep-holes? We don't "widen the aperture," instead we increase the film-speed and extend the dynamic range - it's digital, he may not get that.

glenn said...

David Gregory is doing just exactly what his NBC bosses want him to do. Carry water for the ProgLibs. They just don't like the results when he does. Lke a wise person said, "Go in the vault, look at Russert".

Achilles said...

All of the commenters here from the right side don't see what is and has been going on for the last 20ish years on the networks. They don't care about ratings or losing money. The people that own NBCABCCBSNYTWPost already have a lot of money. This is about the aristocracy maintaining its own place.

They will happily lose money on these media ventures if it keeps them in power and feeding from the trough. All those idiots complaining about the 1% vs. the 99% don't realize they are just tools for the .0001% the Democrats and the DC Media really represent.

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...

"We're not interested in you as the host of a vicarious cocktail party to which We the People never get an invitation, to which — this may surprise you, David — most of us would send our regrets."

This is a piss poor statement.

1) You do watch this triumph of the swill.

2) How can a person send their regrets when they aren't even invited.

3) Assuming such an invite, real or vicarious, was actually on the table, it would be very interesting to partake. Screw Sunday morning, give me the behind closed doors drunken stupor version of Washington punditry. I thought Althosue was into "interesting."

Riley's Mom said...

Tim Russert kept the MSM honest. His passing has affected the dialogue significantly. I'm not sure he would have been elected if Tim Russert had interviewed him.

Don M said...

MSNBC knows even with small share of the market, they can make a lot of money. By being nutty leftists, they get all the nutty leftists to watch (and some sane people to watch the train wreck) and can be trusted by their advertisers to market snake oil nostrums to their unique clientle.

Anonymous said...

NBC seems to have forgotten that the viewing audience for this type of show wants to be informed. That would involve grilling people to get them to flesh out fuzzy talking points, engaging in debate on the issues, holding people accountable to their prior statements, being a tougher interview than Jon Stewart...and offering pretty much the same style regardless of who is on the show.

If the basic design is to offer little more than a slanted platform favoring one party's talking points, the show loses its point. You can get the same information from a Youtube video or a website without the sham of the interviewer.

Hurling Dervish said...

Audacity17, as a liberal, I couldn't agree with you more. I want to see Chuck Schumer get grilled as much as I want to see Ted Cruz under fire. It's a critical part of our system - politicians should have to answer for their actions. It's become entirely absent from our culture.

RecChief said...

"If they want to succeed, they need to be honest (which Gregory is not) and non-partisan in holding the powerful to account."

That's a bridge too far for pretty much all the decisionmakers at NBC

The Peak said...

NBC will never fix this until they understand and admit the damage that MSNBC is doing to their brand.

In other words, they're never going to fix this.

Kirk Parker said...

Gregory should be doing his show from prison.

Bruce Hayden said...

Gregory should have been fired for bringing the illegal magazine on air in DC, and making clear to the public that there are two sets of laws in this country, one for the elite, including him, and one for the rest of us.

I have not watched him since then. It is bad enough that he is ardent gun grabber (for everyone except for the security at Sidwell Friends), but that he also brings his zealotry on air just makes clear how out of touch he is with the rest of the country. His kids have armed security, but you can't, because he is one of the important people, and you are not.

The management at NBC should have fired him on the spot, because he did something to piss off a majority of Americans, in such a way that he was clueless that he had done so, or at least so arrogant that he didn't care. They don't need someone on their network, whom so much of the public will consciously avoid watching.