Nice “get,” as they say in the news biz, for Jenna Bush Hager.
The former first daughter-turned “Today” correspondent scored a sit-down with President Obama, an interview on Thursday timed to coincide with the White House’s focus on its fatherhood initiative ahead of Father’s Day.
Of course, Hager is a good pick to handle the topic. Who better for Obama to “open up” to (per the NBC preview) about his experiences raising two daughters in the White House than a woman who herself spent her formative years as a presidential daughter at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.?
But it’s not Bush Hager’s first Obama interview. She’s also gotten face time with the first lady — and whispers at 30 Rock are that Bush Hager is developing broadcasting chops that have nothing to do with her famous name.
This kind of notch on her journalist’s belt might just put her at the head of the pack of political kids who’ve gone into the teevee biz, a burgeoning class that includes NBC special correspondent Chelsea Clinton; Abby Huntsman, the daughter of 2012 GOP hopeful Jon Huntsman, who’s a co-host of MSNBC’s “The Cycle”; and Meghan McCain, who rode her role supporting her senator father’s 2008 presidential bid to her current gig as the host of a talk show on the cable channel Pivot.
What gives with the trend?
It’s not necessarily all about access. Sure, Hager Bush also recently did an interview with her own father about his first art exhibit and has sat down on-air with former President George H.W. Bush (who just happens to be her grandfather). But NBC’s hiring of Chelsea Clinton didn’t translate into another big get for the network: Chelsea’s mom, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton granted her first big interview tied to her new memoir to ABC’s Diane Sawyer.
Andrew Tyndall, the longtime TV news analyst and author of the Tyndall Report, says it’s more that political kids have the aura of political insiders without the taint of being direct political combatants themselves. Hiring these one-step-removed offspring “establishes your news division as operating in the same power circles as the establishment,” he says.
One thing is clear: It’s not about talent; it’s about names. Some TV journalists who started off in the business riding the coattails of political families (see Shriver, Maria) make a long career of it. And others — like Ron Reagan, who was given a spot on ABC’s “Good Morning America” while his father was in office -don’t.
Tyndall expects Chelsea Clinton, whose on-air reporting has left many critics cold, to fall into the latter category. “It’s clear that’s a placeholder,” he says, “a way to stay in the public eye without being directly involved with politics.”
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