For political junkies, it was like seeing white smoke at the Vatican: Everyone from the New York Times to the Huffington Post reported this week that NBC finally has found a new journalist to replace Tim Russert as host of its venerated Sunday political show, Meet the Press — chief White House correspondent David Gregory. Interim host Tom Brokaw is expected to announce Gregory's ascension after his hourlong interview of President-elect Obama at 10 a.m. Sunday on WFLA-Ch. 8. If it happens, this ornery TV critic has a few recommendations for the G-man on how to make it all go smoother.
1 Get more diverse. Now. As Obama develops one of the most diverse White House administrations in history, Gregory, 38, is inescapably another middle-aged white guy leading the discussion. So at least broaden the voices at the table beyond the few anointed women and people of color Russert allowed to join his discussions. The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson, NPR's Michele Norris and PBS' Gwen Ifill are cool — I even suggested Ifill as host months ago — but what about the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates, or the New Yorker's Kelefa Sanneh or NPR's Farai Chideya, slightly younger voices and people of color with smart, sharp takes on the world?
2 Challenge the Washington establishment more. This should be easy for Gregory — a guy who made his bones tearing former White House spokesman Scott McClellan a new one during televised press briefings. But if Russert had a flaw, it was his penchant for reducing Washington journalism to What the Big Shots Say. Resisting that impulse might help avoid embarrassments such as the lack of pushback during the run up to the war in Iraq, when officials such as Vice President Dick Cheney went on Meet the Press to push questionable intelligence and ultimately flawed ideas about Iraq and terrorism.
3 Loosen up and reveal yourself. A few things audiences learned about Gregory from his numerous stints guest-hosting the Today show: He's got a great sense of humor, taste for pop culture and even a few quality dance moves. Nobody's suggesting he turn Meet the Press into Solid Gold, but I think Brokaw let the show get a little musty and boring during his tenure.
Here's hoping Gregory will make the show more relatable and compelling while maintaining its credibility and seriousness of purpose. Russert always found time to shout out to his beloved Buffalo Bills and dad Big Russ; surely Gregory can add a little of his own spice to Meet the Press' august political mix.