Make Keith Olbermann the new ‘Meet the Press’ host
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Fri, 06/20/2008 – 8:45am
MORE UPDATES: This link from the anti-Olbermann Web site “Olbermann Watch” is rather hilarious, only in that it refers to this article and claims that I wrote the article while on drugs. I’m honored that my work touched them so much.
UPDATED: Keith Olbermann has vehemently denied rumors from the New York Post (owned by Rupert Murdoch) that he threatened to quit if he isn’t given Tim Russert’s job as host of “Meet the Press.” Olbermann also said, “But I don’t even consider myself qualified for it.”
It is fair to say that Olbermann hasn’t gunned for the position, and has gone out of his way not to do so. But when the appropriate time comes to name a permanent successor, he would be qualified for the job.
Then again, Jon Friedman of MarketWatch beat me to the punch, within three hours of the announcement of Russert’s death, Friedman recommended David Gregory for the pick.
You could definitely make an argument for Gregory. But the image of him dancing with Karl Rove would give me great pause in naming him to the permanent selection, since relationships such as that is what is wrong with Washington journalism. And given the direction Russert took the program, a Gregory appointment feels like a step back.
It is fair to say that regardless of what you might think of Russert, he did save “Meet the Press” (MTP). “Meet the Press” struggled after Bill Monroe left in 1984. Roger Mudd and Marvin Kalb served as co-moderators (1984-1985), and Kalb did it solo (1985-1987). The other short-term hosts were Chris Wallace (1987-1988) and Garrick Utley (1989-1991).
The next host will have to establish his or her own legacy to the program. Given our times, and the overall timidity of the Washington press corps toward Bush and Republicans, the program deserves someone who can stand up to government, regardless of who is in charge. And that person is Keith Olbermann.
Olbermann has stood up to Republicans and Democrats. He is one of the best writers in any form on television today, and could add a special comment at the end of “Meet the Press.” And he is the only one currently at NBC News who has the reputation of asking the tough questions of all sides, a true tradition of “Meet the Press.”
If you think that Olbermann wouldn’t be seen as being worthy of the big network stage, NBC has run Sunday night editions of “Countdown” on the broadcast network, and the New Yorker notes that Olbermann was considered not once but twice as the anchor of the “CBS Evening News,” a job that later went to Katie Couric.
If Olbermann got the MTP position, he would more than likely have to relinquish his sports duties – Olbermann has helped out on NBC’s Sunday night football coverage. He might also have to give up the anchoring he had done during the primaries, taking more of a sideline reporter position, along the lines of what Russert did on those primary coverage evenings.
The big question is whether Olbermann would still do “Countdown.” Olbermann should still be able to do both shows, but perhaps be given more time off for “Countdown,” giving Rachel Maddow more of the screen time she deserves on MSNBC.
Olbermann and Gregory will be on the short list, since the network will likely fill from within the ranks of NBC News, an understandable move. But who else would be on the list?
Friedman and I agree on one thing: Chris Matthews should not be considered. Among many reasons, his style isn’t conducive to the Sunday morning tradition. Chuck Todd is an outside pick, but his name will likely come up.
One name from the outside but who does have experience at NBC News is Gwen Ifill. Ifill, host of “Washington Week in Review” and contributor to the “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” has worked at NBC News, and would be a great pick if someone from outside the network is chosen. If Olbermann isn’t picked, she would be my second choice.
There is a serious possibility than NBC will make a short-term appointment later this week, since we are in the middle of perhaps the most exciting presidential race in 40 years. The USA Today is reporting that an interim host is expected to be named sometime after Russert’s funeral. So the network could turn to a temporary caretaker, such as Tom Brokaw, who hosted the tribute yesterday to Russert in the MTP timeslot, or Andrea Mitchell.
NBC has a really tough choice. But as Russert has taught us, the selection impacts all of us, the 2008 race, and on some level, democracy itself. The network may make two decisions: short-term and long-term. In the long run, Keith Olbermann is just the right candidate who appreciates the past of television reporting and who understands the future of television reporting needs to be straightforward, blunt honesty. On some level, Russert would completely understand that transition.
Is there someone else you think would do a better job than Olbermann? Or perhaps you want to keep Olbermann right where he is. Or maybe you like the sugesstion of either Olbermann or Ifill. Either way, let us know who you want to see as the next host.