The Washington Post

Opinion: Chelsea Clinton panned for doing some good in new TV job

So Chelsea Clinton is being panned for her television reporting debut.

“Slightly underwhelming,” says Entertainment Weekly’s PopWatch.

“Didn’t electrify broadcast journalism,” says The Washington Post.

“Mixed reviews,” noted the New York Daily News.

Much of the criticism centers on the fact that she got the job because of her prominence as the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Ya think?

Here’s another surprise for you: She isn’t the first and won’t be the last to benefit from such connections.

There’s a tradition in television, especially at NBC, of hiring big names. Maria Shriver, a niece of the Kennedy triumvirate, worked for the network for years. Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of the last president, is a correspondent for the “Today” show. Meghan McCain, daughter of the 2008 GOP presidential candidate, is a contributor for MSNBC.

But what about Luke Russert, son of the late “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert, who landed on NBC right after graduating from Boston College in 2008? “FOX News Sunday” host Chris Wallace, son of the legendary “60 Minutes” reporter and stepson of a CBS News president, didn’t exactly start out in Wichita Falls or Des Moines or Boise, either.

Such hereditary favoritism extends far beyond television. Would Jenna’s dad George W. Bush ever have been Texas governor or president without his family connections?

There’s a bigger story here than nepotism, though, and it’s a story that Chelsea Clinton brought to light: the success of a bootstrapped program helping disadvantaged kids in Pine Bluff, Ark. Clinton’s piece on TOPPS Inc. — her first on television — may not have been the most polished broadcast work, but it’s having an impact for Annette Dove, who invested her life savings to mentor, feed and tutor low-income kids.

“The response has been phenomenal, for someone like Annette who’s been on a wing and a prayer for the last nine years,” said Amy Reinhold, a volunteer helping answer the phone Tuesday. “The phones literally started ringing before the first segment was over in the first time zone, and they have not stopped.”

Reinhold said more than 1,500 donations had come in through the organization’s online donation button on its Web site. What’s more, people from poor neighborhoods around the nation are calling to get Dove’s advice on starting similar programs.

“That was the greatest hope by Chelsea and Annette, that this could be duplicated in neighborhoods all over the country,” Reinhold said.

At a time when child poverty rates are on the rise, a solution such as Dove’s deserves far more attention than whether Chelsea Clinton is on TV because of her family connections.

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