Ed Driscoll

Too Good to Check: NBC Hired 'Psychological Consultant' to Assess David Gregory


Dr. Freud’s bills would be astronomical if he put everyone from MSNBC alone on the couch, let alone their parent network. And according to Betsy Rothstein of the Daily Caller, NBC hired a “brand consultant” not a psychologist, to analyze the obvious — no one wants to watch David Gregory. But still:

After a slew of publications, including this one, ran with the psych assessment from Paul Farhi‘s Washington Post story — which claims that a “psychology consultant” was brought in last year to interview Gregory’s wife and friends to find out why the Sunday morning program is failing and in third place — NBC now says Farhi’s story mischaracterized what happened.

“Last year Meet the Press brought in a brand consultant—not, as reported, a psychological one—to better understand how its anchor connects,” an NBC spokesperson told The Daily Caller‘s Mirror blog. “This is certainly not unusual for any television program, especially one that’s driven so heavily by one person.”

The exact paragraph in question was this one with the discrepancy in bold: “Last year, the network undertook an unusual assessment of the 43-year-old journalist, commissioning a psychological consultant to interview his friends and even his wife. The idea, according to a network spokeswoman, Meghan Pianta, was ‘to get perspective and insight from people who know him best.’ But the research project struck some at NBC as odd, given that Gregory has been employed there for nearly 20 years.”

That part about the consultant interviewing Gregory’s wife and friends is accurate.

While it may not be unusual for NBC, has any other journalist you know had their friends and family interviewed to find out why he’s failing so miserably? According to one TV personality, “No. Not standard at all. It’s insane.”

Rothstein adds that Farhi stands by his story. And as Troy Senik asks at Ricochet, “Since When Has Insanity Been Disqualifying in the TV Business?” Particularly at NBC, given who the network has had on the payroll over the years, from John Belushi to Keith Olbermann, from OJ Simpson to Alec Baldwin, from Bryant Gumbel to Brian Williams:

I think we’ve all been there. Your workplace performance slips a little and, next thing you know, you come home to a shrink trying to get your wife to handicap the probability that you’ll hurl a live grenade into a Lady Foot Locker. It’s a story as old as humanity itself.

You don’t need a “consultant” (truly America’s most elastic job title) to unearth the problem here. Gregory is a smug, self-satisfied narcissist; the kind of person who’s more interested in hearing himself ask the question than bothering to listen to the answer. He’s Piers Morgan without the patina of credibility that comes with a British accent. Is that really someone you want in your home for Sunday breakfast?

The answer is, no it’s not. In the Washington Post, Farhi writes that “In the final quarter of last year, viewing among people ages 25 to 54, the preferred group for TV news advertisers, fell to its lowest level ever.”

“Ever. As in, since 1947,” Jim Treacher adds.

Ann Althouse notes that Gregory’s edition of Meet the Press has tried to run shorter, punchier segments, but ultimately, the problem is Gregory himself — along with the ideology he espouses, often in brutally clumsy style, as the infamous photo atop this post — and atop numerous other blog posts today commenting on the NBC story — attests:

Gregory says the new look “delivers on the core of what ‘Meet the Press’ is” but “widens the aperture . . . I’m dedicated to building something that says we’re not just thinking about politics. We’re thinking about who the real influencers are in this country.”

He has no idea how smarmy and patronizing that sounds. My advice, stay out of what you call “America” (i.e., not Washington). Have your Washington people on and grill them for us. That’s what Russert did.

We’re not interested in you as the host of a vicarious cocktail party to which We the People never get an invitation and to which — this may surprise you, David — most of us would send our regrets.

Another issue is the ancient template of the Sunday news show itself, as Senik writes at Ricochet:

Ricochet is home to an audience that’s highly politically literate. How many of you even watch one of the Sunday shows? Is there anything that could get you to tune in? What do you look for in someone tasked with conducting serious political interviews? Who do you think does it best?

How old is Meet the Press? So old that it originally began as a postwar extension of the American Mercury, a magazine founded in 1924 by H.L. Mencken. It, and the rest of the Sunday morning Beltway chat shows are part of the last holdovers from an era in which news consisted of three TV networks, and three wire services feeding a couple of newspapers per big metropolitan city. In the demassified era of 500-channel satellite TV and millions of blogs and Websites, they’re dinosaurs. Let them go peacefully into extinction.

Just make sure Gregory and his ilk continue to get plenty of medication, and are comfortably placed in areas where they can as little harm as possible to themselves and rest of us.

Update: Found in the comments at Ricochet to Senik’s post:

I remember watching his Gregory’s ad campaign on CNBC Europe. It went something like: “to keep pushing, to get real answers….”  And the b-roll is of him pitching batting practice to Hillary.

Ah, here it is. Guaranteed emetic.

[jwplayer config=”pjmedia_eddriscoll” mediaid=”72966″]

Yeah, there’s television’s answer to Mencken and Edward R. Murrow, smaller than life itself.

More: “WaPo removes brutal Brokaw quote from tough article on NBC’s David Gregory,” as spotted by the DC’s Brendan Bordelon:

Politico reports that the quote, available in the paper’s print addition, was excised from the online publication after Brokaw complained.

“David knew what he was in for when he took the job,” Brokaw reportedly claimed. “Media habits are changing and the competition is getting better. . . . I won’t get into whether David is the right guy. NBC has already said he’s got the job and that’s what counts. But he deserves a fair shot at evolving the program.”

Farhi said that although the quote is an accurate one, Brokaw contacted him after the article ran and ”said the setup may have left the impression he wasn’t fully behind Gregory (he is).”

“Rather than try to repair/re-write, I just dropped it altogether,” Farhi explained.

That’s the friendly service that the WaPo is known for — at least amongst its fellow members of the MSM, whom it often moves in lockstep with. But in any case, Mediaite’s Joe Concha posits that the damage is done. “Messy David Gregory ‘Branding’ Story Marks Beginning of End as MTP Host.” Concha posits that NBC is really going to go out a limb with its replacement:

Last year, after new NBC News President Deborah Turness came on board, talk of everyone from Chuck Todd taking over the program to Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski turning the show into Morning Joe…Weekend Style! ran the gauntlet. A Joe/Mika proposition is obviously a longshot, but a Chuck Todd scenario certainly is not. After all, with the midterms coming and the 2016 campaign season already starting next year, the timing of the Gregory “branding” story going public now could be the start of a transition from the current host to his heir apparent.

Fourth-quarter numbers in 2013 show the lowest total viewers the program has had in a final quarter since 1991, when Russert first started. In the key 25-54-year-old demo, it marked the lowest ratings in the show’s history.

And because nothing happens by accident…with NBC willing to allow information like this to go public…the proverbial writing is on the wall.

This is an unrecoverable situation for David Gregory.

Meet the Press will live on.

It has since 1947.

But likely with Chuck Todd as its host sooner rather than later…

Well, Todd will get his old boss, fellow Democrat Tom Harkin to tune in at least. But likely not many of those on the right-hand side of the aisle, whom NBC very conspicuously abandoned when it replaced Russert with Gregory. They’re an audience segment that the network apparently is in no hurry to placate,  as it moves from left-leaning pundit to another.

More: Perhaps Gregory really does need to be assessed by a “psychological consultant:” as Stacy McCain posits, “He’s So Crazy, He Thinks We’re Still Watching ‘Meet the Press.’”