Demon with a Glass Jaw
"NBC News President Slams Media Coverage of David Gregory as 'Vindictive,' 'Untrue,'" Randy Hall writes at Newsbusters:
Meet the Press host David Gregory has been the focus of turmoil since the Sunday morning NBC program suffered its lowest ratings since 1992 during the past year and was the subject of a meeting with network news president Deborah Turness in March. After that gathering, NBC “doubled down” on Gregory as host of the series, along with giving him additional duties on the network's news website.
However, an article written by Paul Farhi in Sunday's edition of the Washington Post stated that during the first three months of 2012, the NBC program finished a distant third, far behind CBS's Face the Nation and This Week With George Stephanopoulos on ABC. Just four days later, Turness sent a memo to the show's staff declaring that coverage of Gregory's troubles has been “vindictive, personal and above all -- untrue.”
The document began with this assertion: “There has been a great deal written about Meet the Press in the past few days, much of it quite ludicrous. I wanted to reach out to reiterate my support for the show and for David, now and into the future, as we work together to evolve the format.”
While it's possible Farhi's article got some details wrong (the Washington Post getting a story wrong? Hand me the smelling salts!) a TV network whose venerable Sunday talk show is generating its lowest ratings in 65 years really would need its own psychological consultant if it didn't want to do something about it.
Turness' response sounds very much like the dreaded "vote of confidence" a team owner gives his losing football coach deep in the season, when it's obvious he and the rest of his exhausted team are playing out the string until the end of December, when replacements will quickly be in order. Or perhaps, it's analogous to how ABC began the process of pushing a venerable institution of its own out the door, as Roger Friedman wrote a year ago at Showbiz 411:
ABC may have decided that the only way to make [Barbara] Walters retire was to announce it and see what happened. It’s too convenient that the two stories were published within a half hour of each other. I’m no particular fan of Walters, but this seemed pretty blatant today. I called a close friend of hers who said, “Barbara has been talking to them about retiring from the news side, but not entertainment.” Indeed, the Walters everyone knows would never, ever completely retire from television. It’s her life.
These stories today were also well timed by someone at ABC who knew that Walters’ personal publicist, Cindi Berger, was out of the country, traveling, and on business elsewhere. Berger’s office was surprised by the afternoon ambush. But this is the Machiavellian way networks conduct themselves these days.
But what I really love is the complaint by Turness that "some of the chatter has been vindictive, personal and above all – untrue." It's hard to tell from the memo quoted by Mediaite if Turness is referring to internal chatter from his own NBC employees, or as is more likely, he's using "chatter" to describe the response on the Internet to Paul Farhi's article in the Washington Post.
If it's the latter, then it's awfully rich for NBC to be complaining about news and opinion stories being "vindictive, personal and above all – untrue," when that's been the near day-to-day playbook of NBC since, oh, January 20th, 2009, to pick a date at random.