Shafer: Get A Gimmick, Gregory (And No More Noonan)

Advice for David Gregory on how to approach his new job, from Jack Shafer at Slate:

Get rid of the Russert regulars. Who hasn’t heard enough from James Carville and Mary Matalin by now? Hasn’t plagiarist Doris Kearns Goodwin run out of gas? Doesn’t William Safire phone it in? Can’t NBC do the right thing and give Andrea Mitchell her own show? And why does the mere sight of David Broder, Bob Shrum, E.J. Dionne, or Peggy Noonan on television make me want to kill myself?

Me, too! Me, too. More Shafer:

Blacklisting these usual guests from the Meet the Press round table and recruiting a younger band of participants would mark the passing of an era and acknowledge the arrival of a young president. It’s not even a very radical step…

Shafer’s suggestions: Jeff Zeleny and Helene Cooper of the New York Times; Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times; Thomas Frank, Wall Street Journal columnist; New York Times contributor and George Mason University economic professor Tyler Cowen; Washington Post editorial writer and columnist Ruth A. Marcus; and Terence Samuel, deputy editor of The Root. (Mix in a few of Tina Brown’s panel picks and it’s starting to sound compelling.)

Also, Shafer says Gregory should get a “gimmick,” (because Russert had several, from “the flip-flop graphic,” to “Buffalo” to “his blue collar”) and proposes the “That’s three and you’re out” rule: when a guest evades a question, Gregory should respond with three follow-up questions and, when the guest inevitably evades those as well, Gregory should say, “That’s three and you’re out” in hopes that it might become “the most feared phrase in political reporting” and, just maybe, encourage candor.

Call me a pessimist, but I can’t see a guest getting candid for fear of a catchphrase. So I’d still vote for going over their heads with the gimmick I proposed back in June: Pop Up Video, Meet The Press (the “hard work of ‘challenging’ [a guest] would be outsourced to the fun graphical bubbles floating above the heads of MTP guests as they are talking, rather than the moderator having to actually directly challenge his or her guests, personally alienate them, and possibly deprive him/herself of a future booking).

And just who would be behind the curtain creating those fact-check-ish bubbles, on the fly (in most cases, live), as the MTP guest is speaking/evading? Who’s knowledgeable and tech-savvy enough to do that? Maybe that other NBC News name that kept coming up in all the MeetThePressStakes chatter: Chuck Todd. And Todd could enlist the help of each week’s panelists; might as well give them something to do during the “newsmaker” segment of the show…

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.