There are numerous complaints about the Sunday political talk shows and much gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands about just how often viewers must be treated to the opinions of failed GOP candidates, members of Congress most likely to love cameras, etc. However, little of the frustration is ever directed at those who actually produce the shows, and who are in an excellent position to make improvements in their broadcast product.
For example, how many people know that the executive producer of NBC’s Meet The Press is Washington, D.C. Junior League member Betsy Fischer? Her connections extend to being included in Washington Life’s Power 100 and GQ’s Powerful People in Washington. Fischer brings an impressive academic resume to the job, and has been working for NBC since a college internship. That said, let’s assume for a moment at least that this is not the sort of social (or perhaps even political) networking that would cause a person to think first of having Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on her program. Or, perhaps, to have The Center for Tax Justice, the EPI, the IAFF, or the CBPP at the top of her Rolodex.
Fischer responded to earlier criticism of bookings by saying that under her tenure 36 Democrats and 33 Republicans were invited, the issue as MMFA points out is : “The problem with that explanation is this year Democrats control the White House and appear as often as Republicans do on Meet the Press. Yet the last time there was a Republican in the White House, Meet the Press pretty much flooded the airwaves with Republican guests.” During the Bush Administration MTP, for which Fischer had worked at the time, Republicans held a 24% invitation advantage.
What Fischer did not address was what impact all that “Twittering” about the imbalance of view might have had on the choices made by the program.
Mary Hager has been recently chosen as the executive producer of CBS’s Face the Nation. The University of Virginia graduate has an extensive background in political reporting. The announcement about her promotion included: “Hager began her career at CBS News in 1991 as a researcher in the CBS News Political Unit and from there moved to Capitol Hill to work with Schieffer as Senate producer in 1993.In 1999, she moved to the Atlanta Bureau, working with CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts covering the southeast and 2000 campaign, including the presidential recount in Tallahassee.In 2001, Mary returned to Washington as a producer on Evening News, where she spent eight years covering Congress, politics, the 2004 Kerry Campaign and the George W. Bush White House.”
During the 2010 Fact-Checking Flap, Schieffer agreed with NBC’s David Gregory that the public should do it’s own critique of the program content. Schieffer pointed out that by the time they’d fact checked, the public would have already accomplished the task. The response is cogent, but fails to indicate why producers and hosts would be so unprepared as to allow demonstrably false talking points to be unchallenged in the first place.
Rick Kaplan is another recently elevated executive producer for ABC’s This Week Sunday morning program. ABC’s President remarked: “As many of you know, ABC News is home base for Rick. He spent some 20 years here as executive producer of Good Morning America, Nightline, PrimeTime Live, and World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. Over the course of 40 years in news, Rick has worked at four major networks and served as president of two cable news operations. Most recently, he served as executive producer of The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. “
This Week has a problematic relationship with political and policy issues. For example Liz Cheney was given a platform to declare that waterboarding worked, Franklin Graham used his time to promote Birtherism, and in December 2010 the host declared (all polling to the contrary) that the national debt was the most important issue to the American people. [MMFA] Indeed, it does seem that This Week and the other two major broadcast media Sunday morning shows have a penchant for including the more strident voices, and individuals most likely to have been members of the previous administration.
Experience is a wonderful thing, and the connections which emanate from it are nearly always invaluable. However, what we appear to have in this regard are three individuals producing the Sunday morning pundit shows who are all insiders. Inside the beltway and inside the news division cultures.
Further, it’s hard to imagine that much of a “fresh perspective” can be obtained in the latter two instances of recent changes in who is ultimately in charge of the productions at ABC and CBS if the corporation has simply promoted from within its own bubble.
If it takes more Tweeting to get better information from the Sunday morning shows so be it. There’s likely no formula for the critical mass necessary for a Sunday Morning show producer to insist upon more content and fewer talking points. It does behoove those who want better productions to offer constructive commentary.
Not pleased that there were few people invited to present the public employees’ side of the arguments over legislation in Wisconsin, Florida, and Ohio? Send the producer contact information of who might be available and willing.
Irritated at the practice of having one reporter (and anchor) interviewing another reporter while the two speculate about the merit, or the import, or the consequences of a policy? Send the producer contact information from Think Tanks who have specialists in those subjects — and then they don’t all have to come from the Heritage Foundation or the AEI.
Tired of seeing a parade of former Administration officials on Sunday morning, say so. Then, indicate others whom you might like to see on the programs. Be specific. If you want to hear from EPA Director Lisa Jackson, say so. If you want more information from the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, suggest it. In short, make your intent that the Bubble in which beltway news producers travel has to navigate some thorns. Every “non-Beltway” contact suggestion pricks the Bubble, every program content suggestion pricks the Balloon, and the more specific the puncture — no matter how slight — should produce some improvement.
Contact ABC’s This Week here.
Contact CBS’s Face The Nation here.
Contact NBC’s Meet The Press here.