Advice for Meet the Press

It’s time to bring back a Washington institution. Yesterday, Politico’s Mike Allen broke the news that Chuck Todd, NBC’s political director and chief White House correspondent, is the favorite to replace David Gregory and take over the helm at “Meet The Press.” An official announcement on the switch is expected to be made in the next few weeks according to Allen.

Of course, this news doesn’t really come as a surprise to anyone who’s been watching “Meet The Press” of late. Ever since the death of Tim Russert in 2008, “Meet the Press” has floundered, often finding itself at the bottom of the Sunday news show ratings.

In fact, the show has seen some of its worst ratings ever under David Gregory. As a change looms at “Meet the Press,” it’s worth taking a look at how this once great pillar of political news television has ended up at the bottom of the ratings barrel, and how it can be made great again. And to be fair, it’s not all David Gregory’s fault. Simply swapping him out for Chuck Todd won’t right the ship.

One of the major problems with “Meet The Press” of late is that the show assumes that its audience is not following the news, and has no clue about the week’s events. But, as Jason Linkins points out over at The Huffington Post, the majority of the people that tune into “Meet the Press” are “well-versed in the stories of the week,” and have, “already absorbed the talking points of the major players, availed themselves of a wealth of insight and expertise, and have even participated in their own discussions on current events.”

Basically, the show's producers appear to think its viewers are a lot dumber and a lot more uninformed than they actually are.

So, when people tune in on Sundays and hear the same old talking points from the same old pundits and politicos, they get bored and change the channel. As Linkins puts it, “One doesn't get the sense that the producers of "Meet The Press" have in any way accounted for the sophistication of the show's potential audience.” And, since the show underestimates its audience, it brings on guests who really can’t contribute much to serious debates.

Similarly, the show rarely brings on experts on individual issues. Instead, it relies on political pundits, strategists, and analysts who are just reciting either bumper stickers or conventional wisdom. That leads to a lot more “spin” on the issues, and fewer insightful discussions and debates. The result is that big-name guests are thrown softball questions, instead of the hard-hitting grillings that the show was known for back in its early days.

Believe it or not, there was a time on “Meet The Press” when lawmakers who went on the show weren’t given the red-carpet treatment. Instead, regardless of their political affiliations, they were barraged with questions, and often made to feel uncomfortable, all in the name of enlightening the American people. So, those are some of the major problems that have dragged “Meet the Press” down in recent years.

Luckily, the show can be salvaged, and once again be a leader in political news television. First, the show’s producers have to stop laying out the red-carpet for politicians who appear on the show. It's all about "access" to politicians - and because politicians have succeeded in intimidating the media, the producers are more concerned with maintaining relationships with politicians than they are with holding them accountable.

Going on “Meet the Press” shouldn’t be a walk in the park. Lawmakers and guests should be grilled, and if they feel uncomfortable, that’s a good thing. Guests should be challenged on their beliefs and stances, so that the American people can have a well-rounded view of what’s really going on.

Look at a show like BBC’s HARDtalk. Instead of asking guests fluff questions and worrying about maintaining relationships, HARDtalk brings on some of the biggest names in politics, and still manages to hold their feet to the fire.

And right here on The Big Picture, I love getting into serious debates with big names, which illustrate the political issues involved. I recently had Pat Buchanan on the show. Buchanan is still arguably one of the biggest names in Washington, and yet I made sure to ask him some tough questions and to hold him accountable for his beliefs. If I can do it, “Meet The Press” can do it.

Next, instead of asking the same old beltway regulars the same old questions, and relying on boring panels, “Meet The Press” should be talking to experts on the issues, even if it means abandoning their current format, and doing more longform interviews and debates.

Look at Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now for example, which dives deep into the issues that Americans really care about. Amy does longform interviews with expert guests and has serious discussions that cut through the “spin”, and that’s why Democracy Now has been so successful.

And right here on The Big Picture, we consistently engage in deep discussions on the issues that matter with experts on those issues. Just last night we talked to three of the brightest minds on the current crisis in Iraq.

“Meet The Press” has definitely declined over the years, and today it’s just a shell of what it used to be. But it can get back to being the Washington institution it once was. When it comes to Sunday news shows, and really any news shows for that matter, Americans want a thoughtful analysis from a broad diversity of sources.

So, “Meet The Press,” give us a program that’s worth watching and we'll watch it!


Vegasman56 8 years 43 weeks ago

I really enjoyed your show today with Joe Madison, great conversation thank you.

Gator Girl 8 years 43 weeks ago

Putting Church Todd in that position is going from bad to bad. Why not someone such as Martin Bashir or someone with some gumption and a mind from which to pull intelligent questions and answers. And, NBC wonders why their ratings are so low - because they are idiots!!!

leighmf's picture
leighmf 8 years 43 weeks ago

They don't want us to know.

stopgap's picture
stopgap 8 years 43 weeks ago

It's not about the producers thinking the viewers are uniformed. It's about the producers wanting the viewers to be misinformed.

Frosty46's picture
Frosty46 8 years 43 weeks ago

I care little who hosts Meet the Rightwing Stooge and sincerly hope it dies a fast and complete death. Otherwise a fine video journal propaganda tool. After all isn't another Rightwing slanted news outlet just what the doctor ordered?

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 43 weeks ago

Do not read. Just to get rid of the new

This edit after posting is an interesting new feature.

donderby's picture
donderby 8 years 43 weeks ago

Chuck Todd is just another right winger, being reinforced by NBC . I don't watch any of their newstainment any longer, I feel sorry that Rachel Maddow Ed Schultz Chris Hayes Melissa Harris Perry have to march to Fox Noise tunes playing subliminally through their earpieces piped in directly from management at MSNBC , its disgusting to see the slow agonizing take over of NBC by right wing Hippocrates, guess when you lose your soul you'll do anything for ratings and more money, now I understand the saying " ignorance is bliss" , so glad there are still people like Thom Hartmann, keep up the good work.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 8 years 43 weeks ago

It's not just Meet the Right Wing Press, it's also all Corspe Media that has sold out on Representative Democracy for the ,"God Almighty Dollar." These bastards have totally destroyed Liberty as our founders intended it. I hold the media more responsible than the god damn Kochs. The media moguls aren't fnnn insane like the Kochs , they're just greedy, and that greed has cost us our freedom and will soon cost us our country as well. Any country that consistently legislates in favor of a a third world middle class is on the way's gonna get real ugly soon. Thanks Gregory and all for throwing us under the bus, enjoy your god damn wealth if you can.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 43 weeks ago

Frosty46, donderby, and 2950-10K ~ Well said and I agree with every word. I gave up major network news, CNN, and MSNBC for several years now. I get all my news from Free Speech TV. Public TV, RT Network, Yahoo News, The Huffington Post, and a wide variety of other internet sources. I remember the last time I watched NBC News at any length. I was sitting in the waiting room before my last Colonoscopy. I found myself longing for the procedure to begin. It seemed as though the Colonoscopy took less time than sitting in the waiting room watching NBC; and, was more tolerable, enjoyable, and informative.

WaltB31's picture
WaltB31 8 years 43 weeks ago

MSNBC and CNN's parent companies belong to ALEC. There is no such thing as liberal, or even balanced Mainstream Media.

Grandma Jackie's picture
Grandma Jackie 8 years 43 weeks ago

Would love to see Martin Bashir! Since David Gregory took over I have not been able to make it through a complete program. He never challenges the Republicans! He never demands facts and backing up the outrageous statements they make. It has become too much like Fox News sitting around on a couch talking.

Grandma Jackie's picture
Grandma Jackie 8 years 43 weeks ago

Trying to find Hardtalk on BBC. Apparently Direct TV doesn't have it. Also, Bill Mahler said there is a chance that Rupert Murdock will buy HBO and he will be out of a job. I like to watch Free Speech, I donate to Free Speech, but I am not happy with the change in your hours, Thom. I haven't been able to fit the new time into my schedule very often. Love The Thom Hartmann Program.

BMetcalfe's picture
BMetcalfe 8 years 43 weeks ago

Perhaps MTP has been giving so much background information because they are desperately endeavoring to reach the FOX News crowd, some of whom might possibly tune-in to this... when they won't watch anything else where they can get some real political education. It's sad that so many people want to only listen to the choir singing their beloved lies.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 43 weeks ago

Throw the damn boob tube out the window, folks! It's just a big waste of your precious time... unless you think the corporate spin is worth hearing. From the gist of these posts, it seems you don't. So let's send their ratings down the commode! Let'em crash and burn!! - AIW

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 43 weeks ago

AIW: If I threw my boob tube out of the window, I wouldn't be able to watch Russia Today, Free Speech TV, Link TV, or a few other programs I like to watch. I could watch them on my PC boob tube, I suppose. Since I never watch Fox or any of the right wing boobs, I think I'm safe enough.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 43 weeks ago

Grandma Jackie: I try to watch every Bill Maher show I can. And on the last one, before the August break, Bill Maher did joke around about possibly losing his show should HBO get bought out by Rupert Murdock. I sure hope that doesn't happen! Something like that happened before when Bill Maher wasn't patriotic enough to believe the lies of the Bush administration right after 9/11. He was canned from his Politically Incorrect show. I suspect that if he gets canned from HBO, that he will just move on to the internet like others have done. At least I hope so.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 43 weeks ago

Congratulations, Palin, for having de-boobed your media environment!!

Your brain is not a trash can, so why fill it with garbage?

richinfolsom 8 years 43 weeks ago

Meet the Press is but another political soap to sell soap and laxatives. Chuck Todd has never struck me as having a commanding presence outside of a TelePrompTer. How Mike Papantonio? Unless NBC News as a whole decides to take on the cause of the issues, Meet the Press will be another 60 minutes of bullet points and sound bytes.

Lets recruit William McAvoy from the HBO Newsnight and sort through the hype and smoke screens.... Now we are talking ....

PS. --- I will miss you Robin.

Shawno Buzzello's picture
Shawno Buzzello 8 years 43 weeks ago

MSM (news) is for the birds. Plus, Chuck has the worst fu man chu ever!

growin's picture
growin 8 years 43 weeks ago

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had information about the racial disparity in stops/arrests by the Ferguson Police. Note that not only is the stop rate higher for blacks, but also the arrest rate. This is interesting in light of the fact that the rate of finding contraband is higher for whites.

Elioflight's picture
Elioflight 8 years 43 weeks ago

Thank goodness Gregory is out the door. Meet the Press used to be part of my Sunday morning news ritual. I stopped watching when Gregory took over--his constant guests were John McCain and Lindsey Graham--should have been called Meet the Republicans. What about Tim Russert's son taking over--he's in the business--or one of the very competent newswomen out there?

PS I like the new feature that lets me sign in on the page I want to comment on without rerouting me somewhere else first and then it takes ages to get back.

J-Ville Sentinel 8 years 43 weeks ago

I don't believe NBC is all that interested in improving the quality of Meet The Press. Comcast, its parent company, doesn't exactly have a good reputation for listening to its consumers.

UNC Tarheels's picture
UNC Tarheels 8 years 43 weeks ago

I would like to be the new host. I would like to find out who is behind the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition. They are influencing a US Senate election in Kentucky. All I know is they whoever they are like Mitch McConnell. I was under the impression that any 527 groups could not run ads calling for a defeat of a candidate. But I guess this reason 9,228 why Scalia, Thomas and Alito should be impeached and Citizens United overturned.

"If these people are so proud of what they are doing, why don't they tell us who they are?"-Bill Clinton

Ken Duerksen's picture
Ken Duerksen 8 years 43 weeks ago

I'm not sure why Tim Russert get's the hagiographic, auld lang syne treatment by those who respect the 4th estate. The only follow-up questions I ever heard from him were "so you're really really NOT running for President in the fall?" and "who do you like in the Super Bowl?" That show has never been worth a squat.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 43 weeks ago

The LA Times, among many others, has a headline saying that Murdock has given up on buying Time-Warner. I think that means that Bill Maher is safe.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 43 weeks ago

chuckle8: That is good news!!! YAY!!!!

ginico55's picture
ginico55 8 years 43 weeks ago

One only needs to read the comments on FB after the show to prove that you are right on. I think all of us have been ready to throw a brick at the TV when Gregory thinks that he is asking tough questions, that have already been answered and are now moot. I hardly watch it anymore.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 43 weeks ago

After twenty-plus years of wanting to throw a brick through the TV, "ginico", I shit-canned cable. That was seven years ago. I've suffered no pangs of withdrawal and am rather proud to have kicked the habit. Everytime I catch a glimpse of TV in someone else's home, I can see I haven't missed a thing. Same old airbrushed pundits giving us the same old corporate fucking crap. Same old stupid, mindless game shows. Same old commercials advertising the same old toxic medications and processed "food", along with a menagerie of useless products. Hey, not on MY nickle! So "ginico", if you hardly watch it anymore, why not do likewise? Just fire the bastards. Look at all the money you'll save, not paying for the "privilege" of being lied to and annoyed on a daily basis!!

By the way, TV used to be free. I hate paying for anything that used to be free!

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 43 weeks ago

Just think, AIW, depending upon what options beyond basic you were paying for you saved a heck of a lot of money. I've been paying about $80/month for my Dish Network (with some extra movie channels) and I could have saved almost $7,000. I was visiting someone just this evening who had on some really stupid show on where they alternated between the interactions of customers in a pawn shop owned by a couple of Neanderthal Goobers that had the goofiest "duh" looks on their faces most of the time with something totally different (so dumb I can't even remember what it was). I probably get the same show but just always skipped over that kind of nonsense. I guess some people just eat it up. Yup, nothing more exciting than watching a couple of goobs, jaws wide open mouth-breathers and their elephantine witches of Eastwick employees haggling with some rabid escapees from some insane asylum. Many "customers" had to be picked up by this Giant "security guard" and thrown out of the store....they were so demanding and abusive. Instead of those so-called reality shows I prefer watching leftist news shows that challenge the current fascist regime.

The NAZIs used to just shoot people in the streets if they got flack from anyone..or they'd send them to the gas-chambers...we are part way there for sure.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 43 weeks ago

ginico55: But, actually Congress, both Dems (with a few exceptions) and Republicans, when they question people like the head of the NSA, they do so about as effectively as talking heads and reporters. Abby Martin had on her Russia Today, repeated again today from a previous show on June 4, 2014, two previous NSA whistleblowers, William Binney and Kirk Weibe. One of them, I believe it was William Binney, made the comment that when these people (like the head of the NSA) are questioned in Congress...they word their questions such that it gives the questionee the ability to evade actually answering the question. The questionee will say something like: "No, we do not spy on the American people in such and such program". The Congress person doesn't pin the questionee down with more specifics...they just let it slide. They could ask "Well, do you have any programs where you spy on the American people?" And then continue hammering them until they perjure themselves. Not that it would matter anyway because they have already shown that these people can outright lie and get away with it without punishment. So, what we see on the talking head shows we also see in Congress. It's all meant to put on a big show to make it look like these blowhards are doing something but what they are doing is evading the truth. And I think a lot of people just don't want to know the truth.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 42 weeks ago

Seenoevilhearnoevilspeaknoevil... lah lah lah. - AIW

mrbrannon68's picture
mrbrannon68 8 years 42 weeks ago

I am always entertained by your post on the blog. Once again, you make it clear and concise what you feel and believe. I stopped watching any network or cable news programs, including PBS, who has sold its soul to oligarchs in the name of survival. I used to contribute to PBS, but have stopped the monthly payments when they continually ignored my emails and calls asking why their News Hour program had evolved into another right wing spin machine. I get all my news from Progressive programs; such as Thom Hartman and the internet. I am 70 years old and a History/Political Science major who has continued to inform myself by constant reading of these subjects. Keep up your involvement by telling it like it is!!

mrbrannon68's picture
mrbrannon68 8 years 42 weeks ago

I had a question for Thom on todays show, (8/18) but was unable to get it on the air. I will try again tomorrow. What is happening in Ferguson, Mi takes me back to the 1960's and the Vietnam War Protest and the Civil Rights Movement. It has bothered me for all these years that we have not had a law suits on the ever increasing control over a fundimental Constitutional right contained within the First amendment; " the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grieveances". Isn't the control of peaceable assembly by law enforcements, that restrict where and how people may gather to petition their governments Constitutional? What do you think?

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 42 weeks ago

mrbrannon68 -- I think it is unconstitutional. I think what SCOTUS thinks is unconstitutional is whatever they see when they're on LSD. They have a 200 ft buffer zone around their building, but do not think they should have a buffer zone of 85 ft around female care center in MA.

You should visit the chat room while Thom is on the air. Thom seems to actually interface with the people in the chat room (even more so than the callers into his show).

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