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Monday, December 01, 2008

Nice try, Tina Brown, but it ain't gonna happen
Posted by Jill | 8:37 PM
Yeah, I want a deck and a kitchen and a basement remodel and a Mini Clubman too, but it ain't gonna happen. Neither is Tina Brown's (and my) dream of Rachel Maddow taking over Tim Russert's old seat on Press the Meat:
One of the problems for NBC that was showcased during Russert’s media version of a state funeral in June is the way the chair of Meet the Press has become above all a Washington social and status position and only secondarily a journalistic assignment. Russert himself was not a journalist. He came from politics. His interviews either promoted his subjects or subjected them to opposition research. He was the Wash

Russert’s key gotcha device was to produce those laborious read-along quotes chosen to expose the hypocrisy or flip-flopping of whoever was in the hot seat. But did these quotes ever elicit interesting answers? They were always so long the interviewees had time to compose whole paragraph-long rebuttals from their store of mental talking points. Brokaw hasn’t retired this device but the next incumbent should.

NBC seems to be paralyzed by the sense that whomever they chose has to be another Russert. Not so. Russert defined an era, but that era is over. It’s as if in the months since he died the hands of the clock have spun with accelerated speed, leaving us all with a desire for reinvention. There's been an Obama effect in every sphere of business from General Motors to network TV.

Meet the Press has to change not just the host but the show itself. It may be successful now, but the winds of change could suddenly engulf it as they have the giants of print.ington élite’s staff man, stoking their prejudices, whims, and attitudes. His regular-guy persona flattered the élite by making them imagine they were regular guys too.


Since NBC has not heeded my last suggestion to appoint either the unsung cable Rottweiler Greta Van Susteren or a reinvented, post-Palin Katie Couric, I say give Meet the Press to Rachel Maddow. She’s smart. She’s quick. She’s witty. She does her homework. And she listens to what the person she’s talking to is saying. She doesn't just go to the next question on her list.

If Obama is post-racial, Maddow is post-gender—divested of hair-frosted femininity in the anchor genre and more appealing because of it. Like him, she’s a calm, unflappable new era phenomenon. Sure, she’s a lefty, and in the past week she's been swinging away at Obama's cabinet choices, but I suspect she's ambitious enough to dial it back if she had to. (She also has that weird TV gene that’s so hungry for air time she’d probably insist on keeping her five-day job at MSNBC. Russert himself was on every show except Project Runway.)

Shorter Tina Brown: Tim Russert was the biggest tool in television news-o-tainment.

All this is true, of course, but it's preposterous to think that the General Electric network is going to give a gay leftist its marquee Sunday gasbag show. Of course I would be happy to have Rachel Maddow on 24 x 7, but that's not going to happen. Having someone moderate this show who isn't part of the Washington Village, who is going to have people on the panel other than Republican-leaning hacks who have never once in the last eight years been right about anything at all is change that the suits at NBC just aren't going to believe in.

So instead it looks like they are replacing one tool with another, and giving the Russert Seat at NBC to David Gregory. Yes, old "Stretch" himself, who thinks that asking George W. Bush a couple of tough questions over eight years somehow absolves him of this:

New boss, old boss, etc.

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