Like so many others in this nation, I was stunned and deeply sadden to hear about the sudden death of Meet the Press moderator and NBC News Washington Bureau chief Tim Russert whose passing offered us an opportunity to reflect on our own mortality and the value of others in our lives.
At the risk of sounding callous, that was then and this is now. Sooner, rather than later, the seemingly endless tributes will come to an end to which I say, “Thank God!” We got it: the guy was a saint. Never got angry. Never yelled at his underlings. Loved God, his family and country. We should all be so perfect. Oh, wait a minute, in death we are perfect — more perfect than we ever were in life.
Russert, who although important to his colleagues, the media and political elite, was just another talking head who had relative little real influence on national or world affairs. Now if Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke goes to be with Jesus before his term is up, you better watch out because all hell will break loose.
So in the coming days, it will be back to business, if not as usual, but definitely as necessary. MSNBC/NBC News must take advantage of the election cycle boost in ratings and translate it into long-term post-inaugural success. They also must plan, if they haven’t been doing so already, for a world that is increasingly looking to other sources for its news and information.
Before, his death, Meet the Press (MTP), which Russert moderated for over 16 years, was the number one show of its kind on Sunday mornings. NBC can’t afford to lose ground to its competitors no matter how terrible they feel about his loss.
Quickly and strategically, they have to find a suitable replacement for Russert — a challenge at best. As I had mentioned in a previous post, NBC News has a very shallow talent pool, due in part, to their seeming unwillingness to move beyond the bad hair, beer bellied newsman archetype. All businesses should have a succession plan, especially mainstream news organizations, which often rely aging (and not always physically healthy) talent. In the coming days, we will see if NBC News had such a plan in place.
For all it’s worth, here are some my thoughts on possible suitors for the crown:
File this under: “Swimming in the Shallow End of the Pool”
David Gregory – If only the man-who-thinks-he-can-dance, could put some of that excitement into his MSNBC show, Race for the White House, then, if selected, he might have better than a snowball’s chance in hell of maintaining the audience that Russert attracted. Final Vote: No way. Spare us the misery. I’d rather watch dust accumulate.
Chuck Todd – The NBC News Political Director (The title sounds a bit too contrived. Hey, I think I will give myself a promotion. I am now the VP of Me.) is very new to the world in front of the camera. He’s a wonky numbers cruncher with little appeal and no known interviewing experience. Final Vote: NEXT!! (for MTP but maybe he’d be right for Washington Bureau Chief)
Joe Scarborough – The former Republican Congressman and host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, doesn’t know how to shut the hell up and listen to long enough to be an effective interviewer. With his rather abrasive, snarky, and sometimes inappropriate demeanor (Yes, it takes one to know one.), I doubt if he is well liked by his “peers” at NBC News. (And this may be the case despite Scarborough’s obvious attempts at brownnosing. During his show, the sound of lips on ass is deafening.). In order to be a true rising star in such a corporate environment, “fitting in” is paramount to success. And, at the risk of sounding cliché, Joe sticks out like a sore thumb. Final Vote: Oh, hell to naw!
Chris Matthews –The host of Hardball with Chris Matthews looked so pathetic during the Russert tributes. It was obvious that he and dude had a difficult relationship. It has been reported that Matthews desperately sought the man’s approval and Russert wasn’t forthcoming. Like Scarborough, Matthews is an outsider in an insiders’ game. And, although he can be a tough interviewer, he can run off the rails at times. Final Vote: No way! Can’t contain the crazy well enough to make it work.
Keith Olbermann – At first, I found the host of MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann’s, approach to delivering the news a refreshing change from the usual offerings. But now, I find the other Big O (if only in his own mind) way too full of his own self importance (much like the original Big O), so much so that he believes that his prognostications take on god-like qualities. Enough already with naming Bill O’Reilly the “Worst Person in the World” for the zillionth time. We get it. You hate the mofo. You really do. The two need to take their beef to a steel cage and get the damn thing over with. It would be billed as “The Ultimate Bitch Slap Fighting Championship”. The first one who scratches his opponent’s eyes out, wins. Final Vote: Pimp hand is too weak and partisanship too strong to take the MTP chair.
Andrea Mitchell – NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent and wife of former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (Jesus be a bottle of Windex so I can wipe the image of those two having sex from my mind’s eye.), Mitchell seems like the obvious choice for both positions – moderator and bureau chief. I enjoy her measured approach to reporting the news. I have yet to check out her MSNBC show (Weekdays at 1 p.m.) but I am certain — judging by her work as a sub on Morning Joe— she is doing a fine job. Final Vote: Let the sister have her shine and give her both positions.
File this Under: “Call the nearest mental hospital, they’ve just lost their damn minds.”
Mika Brzezinski- (co-host, Morning Joe) – If they elevate this giggly, vapid broad to anything other than “Queen of All MILFs”, I will…I will…Damn…I guess I will do what I always do: curse at the set as if that trick can hear me and change the channel.
And finally, file this under: “They don’t have the good sense to make such a decision.”
Harold Ford, Jr. – The former Tennessee Congressman and MSNBC political analyst has all the ingredients to become a star. Like CNN’s Anderson Cooper, he has both the gravitas and the sexay. Cover of GQ material for sure. Although, like Todd, he doesn’t have any known interviewing experience, unlike Todd, he has charisma – which could be enough to keep people tuned in and turned on while he hones his skills.
Lester Holt (co-host of Weekend Today and classic utility outfielder.) – This well-liked company man – the hardest working guy in news—would be an easy fit for the program. He has the looks, relative youth, audience recognition, gravitas and interviewing experience. Sounds perfect? Of course it does, that’s why NBC News won’t go with him.
My Last Word…Words
A word of advice to whomever ascends to the throne: Don’t put your work above your health and well-being. Russert died on the job while recording a voiceovers for Meet the Press. At the risk of sounding insensitive, if he had taken more time to exercise and maintain a healthy diet, his death could have been avoided. Remember, if you happen to meet an untimely end, you too, will be replaced. It’s far better to walk away from a job than be carried out on a stretcher.