NBC Stuck in the 1950s
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In selecting David Gregory as the next moderator of “Meet the Press,” as has been reported, NBC missed an opportunity to keep up with a changing America and respond to calls for greater diversity. It is important for television viewers to be exposed to a broad range of perspectives and not exclusively those of white males.
Yet, if you turn on the TV on Sunday morning, it looks like the 1950s. All five of the moderators of the Sunday morning public affairs programs are white and male. The guests on the Sunday shows are also overwhelmingly white and male. “Meet the Press” has the least diversity of them all, according to Media Matters for America. Three out of four guests on “Meet the Press” are white males.
As the Women’s Media Center documented in "Sexism Sells, But We're Not Buying It," NBC/MSNBC was one of the networks that allowed sexist language and behavior during the 2008 campaign. Picking a qualified woman and/or person of color to host "Meet the Press" would have helped repair some of the damage to the network's brand. There was no shortage of talented individuals who could have done the job, including PBS’ Gwen Ifill, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, and CBS’ Katie Couric -- to mention only those looked at for the post, according to reports.
The men who were considered for the position certainly had their advocates. For example, a member of the Moderate Blog Network organized a campaign to support NBC’s Chuck Todd for the job. He dismissed the more experienced Andrea Mitchell as a “fantastic reporter … but her voice is a bit grating at times.” The only way that male viewers will ever get used to women’s voices is to hear them more, not less.
NBC may have been fearful about the effect that a woman and/or person of color would have on “Meet the Press” ratings. But again, the old assumptions are being proven wrong. Since its launch less than three months ago, MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show” has doubled the ratings of Dan Abrams, the previous holder of the time slot. She has even beaten CNN’s Larry King in the ratings on many occasions. Maddow, an out lesbian, hardly fits the outdated stereotypes about what women should look like or act like on TV.
I believe, and hundreds of thousands of television viewers believe, that the next moderator of “Meet the Press” should have been a qualified woman and/or person of color. “Meet the Press” is the number one Sunday morning public affairs program. The show influences the outcome of elections, advances public policy, and enhances the prestige of invited guests. In 2008, it is no longer acceptable to lock women and people of color out of the corridors of power.
Margot Friedman is the president of Dupont Circle Communications, which serves progressive non-profit organizations and Democratic PACs.