Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, said broadcast news viewers understand “the basics” of the stories being covered, adding that the news business often underestimates the intelligence of its audience.
“I actually think the news business in general doesn’t realize how smart its viewers are sometimes because in this day and age, if you’ve got someone watching a news program, they want to, they’re there, they’ve got so many places to go and don’t give me this, ‘oh, older people don’t change the channel’ – that is hogwash. My gosh,” Todd said during a Kalb Report broadcast at the National Press Club.
“My grandfather was the first guy to get a remote that was actually a clicker, he couldn’t wait to click so I’ve always thought that was a little bit of a made-up thing from some network exec years ago. People are choosing to come, which means they know the basics of the story, which means you have the opportunity to go two inches deeper than you could have gone,” he added.
Todd told moderator Marvin Kalb, a former Meet the Press host, “You guys couldn’t do certain things then because you had too big of an audience and everybody had to understand it, and we still have that mindset and I think it’s wrong.”
When asked how to attract a younger audience, Todd explained why he refuses to change his entire show.
“We want more young people watching but I’m not going to try to make my program only designed – alienate the 70 percent to get 30 percent. Instead, I want to make a program that the 30 percent wants to watch then and gets a piece of it somewhere, and then eventually they will age into it,” he said. “You don’t want to sit here and micro-target it to death, so we aren’t doing that.”
John Dickerson, host of Face the Nation, said he would only be renting new viewers by doing “something fancy” just to expand the audience.
“You are going to rent their allegiance, not buy it,” he said.
Todd also commented on press access in the Obama administration. He said National Security Advisor Susan Rice has not granted any interviews for a long time.
“The national security advisor won’t come on,” he said.
Alluding to the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, moderator Marvin Kalb asked, “Because of what happened with Susan Rice?”
“Because of what happened, because the national security advisor is Susan Rice right now,” Todd replied. “So notice she has not done any shows and there is a lot going on in the national security world.”
Dickerson said he tries to explain to White House officials why it’s important to be part of the conversation.
“If you are not, you have a show where people say the White House was asleep on ISIS in Syria and the Russians have stepped in and the president is losing control of his foreign policy as a result – you might want to have somebody there who can provide context,” he said.