NBC Tried 'Unusual' Psychological Assessment to Figure Out David Gregory and His Flagging 'Meet The Press' Ratings

Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi wrote a big Style section front-pager for Monday on how NBC's Meet the Press, "Sunday's most venerable news show has stumbled in the ratings."

The shocking paragraph that will get discussed around Washington today is that NBC commissioned a psychological consultant to figure how who MTP host David Gregory is, and what makes him tick. Or maybe, why people just don't like him very much:

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." But the research project struck some at NBC as odd, given that Gregory has been employed there for nearly 20 years.


Farhi did not explore that one big difference between Gregory and his predecessor Tim Russert is that Russert could ask some tough questions of Democrats, while Gregory seems to save the hardballs for Republicans. His idea of a recent question on Benghazi for Susan Rice was "Any regrets?" Even the program's interviews with other NBC staff (Andrea Mitchell discussing the personal "magic" with Jimmy Carter, Harry Smith with Bill Maher) are fawning rather than challenging.

"Meet the Press" used to be a show where politicians would prove whether they were leadership material. Now it only shows David Gregory isn't leadership material. Did that require a psychological consultant?

The other nugget in Farhi's piece that's buzzworthy is Tom Brokaw's not-really-a-fan comments for Gregory:

“David knew what he was in for when he took the job,” says Brokaw. “Media habits are changing and the competition is getting better...I won’t get into whether David is the right guy. NBC already said he’s got the job and that’s what counts. But he deserves a fair shot at evolving the program.”

Farhi calls this a "limited endorsement." I think it sounds like Brokaw wanted to keep that job -- given to him temporarily after Russert's sudden passing.

Here's the weird part: the Brokaw quote is in my Monday paper, but not it's not in the online version. As if there's not enough room for it on the Internet? Did someone at NBC put the kibosh on that statement?  

Farhi's Post article ended with Jeffrey Goldberg insisting Gregory will host this show forever (for which he will get another pile of appearances, if Gregory lasts). Stephanopoulos is bored, and Bob Schieffer is 77:

“Time is on David’s side,” says Bloomberg View columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, a semi-regular “MTP” panelist. “It’s semi-inevitable. He just has to keep doing what he’s doing, and continue to break new ground on the big stories of the week. In five to 10 years, we’ll be talking about him as the grand old man of Sunday morning.”

Or he'll be out by June.  What kind of weasel word is "semi-inevitable"?

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis