New website pleads to NBC News: Hire a woman or minority to lead Meet the Press
A good while back, I made the case that PBS host Gwen Ifill would be one of the best picks for replacing the late Tim Russert on NBC's flagship political show, Meet the Press.
It was a no brainer of an argument: At a time when our political class is more diverse than ever and we may be days away from electing our first black president, the host chairs on TV's Sunday political shows are all filled by middle aged and older white guys. In Ifill, NBC has a chance to bring back to their air a journalists who has moderated two vice presidential debates, covered politics for PBS and the New York Times and combines a sense of fairness with her unique perswpective as woman and person of color.
Turns out, there's another web site out there that sorta agrees with me. Developed by public relations professional Margot Friedman, it urges viewers to "demand diversity from NBC" while noting that CNN's Campbell Brown, NBC's Andrea Mitchell and Ifill could all be creditably considered for the gig (though Brown, having just started at CNN after leaving NBC, probably isn't in a position contract-wise to move back).
The site also notes an interesting irony: the 60-year-old show hasn't had a female moderator since its first, journalist Martha Rountree, who created the program.
There will be lots of folks who reject this idea as some kind of tokenism. But I've always found that adding diversity requires overt action -- jobs don't often just suddenly get filled by people of color when they haven't been before. Someone has to decide somewhere that it is time to look beyond the usual suspects. And they have to do so without lowering the performance criteria in other aspects of the job.
I suspect Katie Couric's trouble in snaring the older audiences who watch hard news may affect NBC's thinking here. So a public campaign to encourage outside-the-box candidates might not be a bad idea.
After all, it would be a shame to have such a singular moment for America's diversity covered by a press corps which doesn't reflect that ideal.