The new permanent moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press” is former White House correspondent David Gregory, succeeding the late Tim Russert. How will Gregory do? Media commentator Paul Janensch provides some background.
David Gregory is not a surprise choice to host “Meet the Press,” the longest running program on television. But as someone who is both affable and confrontational, he’s an interesting choice.
“Meet the Press” is the most watched of the Sunday morning public-affairs programs. None of the programs draws big ratings, but all are important to network prestige. Look for the competition to try to lure viewers away from NBC while Gregory is settling in. George Stephanopoulos, Bob Schieffer and Chris Wallace will continue to host the Sunday morning programs on ABC, CBS and Fox respectively. At CNN, chief national correspondent John King – famous for manipulating that electoral-vote touch screen during the presidential campaign -- will replace Wolf Blitzer as host of “Late Edition” so that Blitzer can focus on his weekday “Situation Room.”
Gregory, 38, grew up in Los Angeles. He’s married to a former federal prosecutor. They have three young children. While studying for a degree in international studies at American University, he worked as a Washington stringer for an ABC affiliate in Tucson. Most recently, he was the host of the MSNBC political talk show now called “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” His shock of prematurely gray hair makes him immediately recognizable.
Tim Russert was both affable and confrontational, but Gregory is even MORE affable and MORE confrontational. As a substitute host on the “Today” show, Gregory interviewed prominent newsmakers and still seemed comfortable doing the soft stuff. Once he even danced a mean boogie. On the “Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” he did a spot-on impression of President George W. Bush – who incidentally called the 6-foot-5 Gregory “Stretch.” He served as a back-up for a Karl Rove rap number at a correspondents’ dinner.
As for the confrontational side, Gregory scolded White House press secretaries Scott McClellan and Tony Snow at televised briefings for failing to respond to his questions. The Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly said this was an example of how NBC was biased against the Bush administration. So we can expect Gregory to be affable. And also confrontational. The big question is, Will he be successful?
Media commentator Paul Janensch is a former newspaper editor who teaches journalism at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.