Steve Capus is departing as president of NBC News. His successor will have his hands full. The network once personified by Huntley and Brinkley is now known for characters such as Al Sharpton and Chris Matthews. Their ravings have defined MSNBC and blemished the entire NBC news operation, now tied at the hip to the far-left evening talk show hosts, on whose shows a number of NBC news figures appear. The “Today” show has fallen from first place. “Meet the Press” is a shadow of its former self, with a host who is incapable of asking hard questions and whose most distinctive moment was a stupid, illegal gun stunt.
Then there are the scandals — editing the George Zimmerman tape, editing Mitt Romney’s words and firing Ann Curry in a classless maneuver that matched NPR’s dumping of Juan Williams in ham-handedness. It is not clear whether Capus was the problem, but in any event there are many challenges for NBC.
A number of fixes would improve NBC, cordon off MSNBC and revive the NBC brand. First, dump David Gregory as host of “Meet the Press.” Chuck Todd is infinitely superior as a questioner and has the same joy of data that the late Tim Russert had. Alternatively, NBC could steal Jan Crawford Greenburg from CBS, one of the best reporters and interviewers among the network broadcasts. Uniform toughness needs to be reestablished.
NBC’s round tables and election night coverage are dominated by hard-bitten liberals and stodgy authors. Get some capable conservatives (instead of a left, lefter and leftist panel) and New Media liberals to mix it up.
As for MSNBC, perhaps the evening lineup should be designated as entertainment programming and run by the same people who are in charge of sports, reality TV and other unserious fare. It’s not news, it’s not remotely fair (it is not advertised as such) and it’s not very interesting, unless all you want is the left-wing echo chamber. Once NBC gives up the ghost and declares it entertainment, the serious NBC journalists can go on (as they do on Jay Leno’s “Tonight” show, for example) without have their own news identity associated with the MSNBC left-wing scream-fest.
None of this seems all that complicated, if the goal is to make NBC a more serious, responsible journalistic outlet and to keep MSNBC from ruining the entire news franchise. On the other hand , NBC could continue just as it has — a glaring example of the devolution of “mainstream” journalism and the embodiment of screechy, insular leftism.