Verne Gay, who has covered TV for Newsday for 16 years, has a piece on Newsday’s website on why President Obama appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, rather than using the more staid vehicle of Sunday morning’s Meet the Press.
BOTTOM LINE “Meet the Press” is now the de facto safe show on Sunday morning – “safe,” that is, for those being interviewed.
As Gay points out, it also likely had much to do with Leno’s audience size vs. MTP’s, but the points he makes against David Gregory are honest and ring true. As an avid MTP watcher I have to agree with this assessment by Gay:
Gregory is terrifically polished, well-informed, a good listener and has the talking points of both sides down cold. But he also seems more intent on covering the waterfront than digging for news, or in pushing the talking heads off their talking points.
Gay notes the importance of MTP to journalism as a whole. Under Tim Russert’s (rest his soul) leadership MTP became THE Sunday morning must see TV, now I often skip through the interview segments at the beginning (thanks PVR) because I can’t stand listening to straight talking points one after another. Gregory seems quite pleased with himself watching the dueling sound-bites when he has opposing sides of an issue on together. He lacks Russert’s knack for genially giving folks enough rope to hang themselves. When guests wander off message, Gregory almost always pulls them back with a lob question that relates directly back to a talking point, rather than taking the opportunity to push the guest into an uncomfortable area.
Russert had a gleam in his eyes that you only get when you’re doing something you were born to do. Gregory does not have that, and likely never will. He is new, and no one will ever be Tim Russert, but pulling in the big names to appear on the show is only one step, not knowing what to do with them once they’re there is the bigger task. Russert was a master, let’s hope Gregory will find his feet soon.