NBC News 'Doubles Down' on 'Meet the Press' Host David Gregory Despite Poor Ratings

Ever since longtime host Tim Russert died in 2008, his shadow has loomed over Meet the Press. His successor, liberal David Gregory, has seen the Sunday morning program hit historic ratings lows that led to a meeting on March 13 regarding the futures of both Gregory and “the longest-running television program in the world.”

According to an article on Thursday, NBC News senior vice president Alex Wallace declared:
"We're doubling down on David Gregory right now" since he will continue to host the TV series but with new responsibilities as the weekly program becomes an online “7-days-a-week source for politics and beltway buzz.”

"I cannot be more declarative about David -- is our guy, is going to be our guy, and we are really happy with him," Wallace said in an interview with Michael Calderone of the Huffington Post website. "I know there continues to be lots of hubbub, but I'm in every single meeting: There is no internal hubbub."

Regarding Gregory's move to more online programming, Wallace noted: “This whole digital brand is being built around his strengths” since he has done web-only interviews ("Press Pass") for the "Meet the Press 24/7" page and has been conducting interviews over Twitter ("Tweet the Press") during the past few months.

Also on Thursday, NBC News launched “Meet the Press Express,” a mid-week digital video series hosted by Gregory that features a rotating group of journalists from the network's Washington bureau.

The change comes at a good time for the ratings of Meet the Press, which had a stronger-than-usual February while beating both This Week from ABC News and Face the Nation from CBS News.

Calderone stated that the increased online presence “is an acknowledgement of how the media environment has changed and that Meet the Press must change with it. The show, Gregory knows, has to adapt to a digital landscape where potential viewers aren't tuning in only on Sunday morning.”

"We want to be able to reach the audience in different ways," Gregory told Calderone. "I know there's a lot of younger people watching the program or watching clips of the program. I want to reach them in different ways."

Wallace called Gregory “an incredible interviewer,” but Calderone wondered if his strengths “will be useful in shepherding the program into a digital age with a wider audience -- to 'expand the conversation beyond Sunday,'" as Wallace puts it.

“For political junkies, the conversation already runs seven days a week on Twitter, a platform with which Gregory, 43, has been reluctant to engage, as compared with several other TV hosts of roughly his age and stature,” Calderone noted.

During the interview with Calderone, “Gregory took issue with the characterization that he doesn't participate in the running political conversation online and in social media.”

"I have engaged, from time to time, with people who want to have a dialogue," he said before declaring: “There are haters out there. I'm not going to engage those people because they're not looking to have a dialogue with me over Twitter."

“It's one thing to ignore Twitter trolls, whose obvious motivation is to annoy or antagonize,” Calderone asserted. “But by ignoring all criticism, including legitimate questions about what's discussed on air, Gregory essentially cuts himself out of the ongoing conversation about the show that continues after he leaves the set.”

Wallace, who also oversees the NBC Nightly News, said that anchor Brian Williams has never tweeted, and asserted: "Not every person is going to feel in 140 characters that they can make a point they want to make."

"I think it's about knowing the value of Twitter, knowing the value of a conversation on there," Wallace continued. "But you also need to be who you are. We're trying to look at who David is."

During the past few months, she has approached the show with the mantra of "evolution, not revolution."

"Within reason, I think we should stretch what you can see on a Sunday morning in a thoughtful, smart hour-long program," Wallace said, adding that "it's important that we're not completely predictable."

“Gregory also emphasized that Meet the Press will maintain what it considers its core responsibilities,” Calderone added, “like holding political leaders accountable and questioning newsmakers.”

"More than anything, this is a place where people come to make news," Gregory said. "That's the richest part of the tradition we want to keep alive."

Unfortunately for Gregory, he has often managed to generate news on his own, including fretting over U.S. hypocrisy in standing up to Russia, fawning over liberal “comedian” Bill Maher despite his many disgusting jokes, and pushing Cardinal Dolan to push the Catholic church into accepting “changes” on gay marriage.

Regardless of how spreading a "Sunday morning conversation" throughout the rest of the week turns out, it looks like the liberal NBC News host is going to be a lot busier after adding more online responsibilities to his weekly news program host duties. It will be interesting to see how long that lasts.

Randy Hall
Randy Hall