Err: NBC hired a ‘psychological consultant’ to research David Gregory?

posted at 10:01 pm on April 21, 2014 by Mary Katharine Ham

Good Lord, can someone just give Tapper a Sunday show and be done with it? As “Meet the Press” flails into third place under the leadership of David Gregory, and the institution of the Sunday show rides the downward slope toward irrelevance, NBC sent a psychologist to Gregory’s friends and family on a hunt for Gregory’s charm in an odd attempt to right the ship.

But before we get to that, how bad is the Sunday scene? Schieffer’s winning overall and in the demo. The young people, they’re flocking to Bob over the 43-year-old Gregory:

These days, the leader is “Face the Nation,” hosted by Bob Schieffer, the grandfatherly 77-year-old newsman. Schieffer not only attracts the largest overall audience (a weekly average of 3.35 million during the first three months of 2014, 5 percent more than “This Week,” 8 percent more than “MTP” and 61 percent more than “Fox News Sunday”) but the largest audience among the coveted 25-to-54 set, too. (Schieffer’s competitors are quick to point out that comparisons aren’t quite fair since “FTN’s” ratings are based on its first half-hour, not the standard full hour; the program’s second half-hour isn’t broadcast by CBS stations in many cities).

So, what to do?

Thus, “MTP’s” meltdown has sounded alarm bells inside NBC News and attracted the attention of its new president, Deborah Turness, who arrived from Britain’s ITV News in August. Gregory’s job does not appear to be in any immediate jeopardy, but there are plenty of signs of concern.

Last year, the network undertook an unusual assessment of the 43-year-old journalist, commissioning a psychological consultant to interview his friends and even his wife. The idea, according to a network spokeswoman, Meghan Pianta, was “to get perspective and insight from people who know him best.” But the research project struck some at NBC as odd, given that Gregory has been employed there for nearly 20 years.

Around the same time, the network appointed a new executive producer at “MTP,” Rob Yarin, a veteran media consultant. Yarin, who had worked with Gregory on an MSNBC show, “Race for the White House,” during the 2008 campaign, succeeded Betsy Fischer Martin, who reigned over “MTP” for 11 years. Fischer Martin had helped Russert soar to glory, but had disagreed with Gregory over matters of style and substance (she was promoted to oversee all of NBC’s political coverage).


When Politico flagged this interesting tidbit, NBC suddenly objected to the terminology, preferring “brand consultant”:

UPDATE (11:17 a.m.): In an email, Pianta challenged Farhi’s reporting, saying that the network brought in a “brand consultant” not a psychological one as Farhi reported:

Last year Meet the Press brought in a brand consultant — not, as reported, a psychological one — to better understand how its anchor connects. This is certainly not unusual for any television program, especially one that’s driven so heavily by one person.

UPDATE (11:25 a.m.): Farhi said he checked with NBC twice on Sunday about the term “psychological” and that they had no objections at the time.

“I checked it twice with them yesterday. No objections then,” he wrote in an email.

UPDATE (1:05p.m.): The company that did the consulting for NBC was Elastic Strategy out of New York, Pianta said.

I sympathize a bit with what the Gregory team and “This Week’s” teams are trying to do, speeding up the shows, trying to modernize for the modern media scene. ABC has added a 30-year-old “Stephanopoulos protege” to run “This Week.” But doesn’t Schieffer’s supremacy show that this may be the only slot left on TV where people aren’t looking for something fast-paced and Twitter-ready? I’m as happy as anyone to watch these guys have to compete in a media world with a ton of competition, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the longer-form newsmaker interview Schieffer’s preserving that are keeping it atop. For now. It can’t last long.

This kind of silly D.C. myopia can’t help at “Meet the Press”:

The impossible burden for Gregory, of course, has been to follow the beloved Russert. As one NBC colleague describes it, Russert is a “ghost” who still haunts Gregory’s tenure at “MTP” six years into his run.

“I am fully aware that there are a lot of people who believe Tim Russert will never be replaced, and I’ve never tried to replace Tim Russert,” he says. “I have nothing but respect and admiration for Tim and his legacy. And I’m doing my own thing, just like Tim did.”

Russert was a nice man who did a pretty good job and died too soon. This reads like Gregory goes to down to Russert’s enshrined replicated MTP office at the Newseum—that’s a thing!—to sketch out the show every week.

The good news is many think Steph will get a promotion to do the nightly news—relics everywhere!—and Schieffer will soon retire, so the field will be open to Gregory’s mediocrity and whatever charisma his psychological consultant dug up.

Meh, not concerned:

“For political junkies and those who just want to catch up the Sunday shows still are relevant but they’re not the signature events they once were,” Tom Brokaw, the NBC News veteran who briefly moderated “Meet The Press” in 2008, said in an interview. “I first appeared on ‘Meet The Press’ during Watergate and it was a secular mass in Washington; the faithful never missed it.”

Political veterans, congressional aides, former administration officials and longtime journalists all attested to the Sunday shows’ decline. The programs are no longer the agenda-setting platforms of days past, they said. Instead, the broadcasts have become a venue for lawmakers to push familiar talking points and for talking heads to exchange conventional wisdom. Occasionally there is an interview or discussion that will make headlines — Vice President Joe Biden’s endorsement of gay marriage, which preceded President Barack Obama’s own announcement, comes to mind. But that has become the exception rather than the rule.

The only people who are: “Not surprisingly, the few who adamantly insist that the programs are relevant are the hosts and producers.”

The solution to all of this, by the way, is ALWAYS BE DANCING:

I’m actually serious. The dancing is my favorite thing he does. Love it every time.

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Nothing can be done…..

Electrongod on April 21, 2014 at 10:03 PM

Gee, I could have told them smarmy left-wing entitled douche bag democrat party operative — for free!

Rational Thought on April 21, 2014 at 10:04 PM

The entire crew at NBC/MSNBC needs to have their heads examined.

Resist We Much on April 21, 2014 at 10:07 PM

The shrink’s medical recommendation is that DNC shill David Gregory’s clown nose be attached surgically and permanently.

viking01 on April 21, 2014 at 10:10 PM

OMG

I had never seen the clip of Gregory dancing. LOL

Tim Russert did his homework and never let his own politics run the show. I can’t watch Gregory at all b/c that’s all he ever does…and he never seems prepared when I channel surf past it on Sunday..

CoffeeLover on April 21, 2014 at 10:11 PM

Err: NBC hired a ‘psychological consultant’ to research David Gregory

And they found an young older skull full of mush.

ToddPA on April 21, 2014 at 10:14 PM

David Gregory looks like Piltdown Man brought to life, and, intellectually, is just as much of a fraud.

M240H on April 21, 2014 at 10:14 PM

… NBC sent a psychologist to Gregory’s friends and family on a hunt for Gregory’s charm in an odd attempt to right the ship.

What’s a mystery is that he has any friends.

TXUS on April 21, 2014 at 10:16 PM

It’s probably been more than a decade since I’ve watched one of the Sunday shows. If by chance something important is said you’ll see it on Twitter and the blogs.

Mark1971 on April 21, 2014 at 10:19 PM

David Gregory’s dancing would put most of the contestants on Ru Paul’s Drag Race to shame - not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But that aside, why isn’t he in prison for WMD possession in the District of Colombia? I saw it on TV!

forest on April 21, 2014 at 10:20 PM

They actually hired a shrink. The reporter checked with them twice, on the name designation.

Today, with all the ridicule, they changed their mind to say “we hired a consultant”.

Look, the left keep shrinks and lawyers in business.

Work harder.

Schadenfreude on April 21, 2014 at 10:23 PM

The entire crew at NBC/MSNBC needs to have their heads examined.

Resist We Much on April 21, 2014 at 10:07 PM

They’re all empty.

Gratis

Schadenfreude on April 21, 2014 at 10:24 PM

Killary’s shrink suggests she would be perfect as the taxidermist Bates Motel manager for any remakes of Psycho.

viking01 on April 21, 2014 at 10:26 PM

David Gregory’s dancing would put most of the contestants on Ru Paul’s Drag Race to shame – not that there’s anything wrong with that.

forest on April 21, 2014 at 10:20 PM

His dancing looks a lot like someone else’s. Channeling his inner Obama, perhaps???

TXUS on April 21, 2014 at 10:26 PM

You know what they say about doing the same thing over and over again with the same sad results. They should probably analyse the executives who hired the nut cases now and in the past.

jainphx on April 21, 2014 at 10:27 PM

I’m all for the Sunday shows becoming irrelevant. Most of them anyway are echo chambers for the D.C. journalists and politicos to espouse gobbledegook that has zero connection with anyone in flyover country.

While Tim Russert was a Democrat, at least he gave some effort into his work. When he died, “Meet The Press” died with him… but no one wanted to admit it.

Myron Falwell on April 21, 2014 at 10:27 PM

Killary’s shrink suggests she would be perfect as the taxidermist Bates Motel manager for any remakes of Psycho.

viking01 on April 21, 2014 at 10:26 PM

“WHAT DIFFERENCE, AT THIS POINT, DOES IT MAKE?”

TXUS on April 21, 2014 at 10:28 PM

His dancing looks a lot like someone else’s. Channeling his inner Obama, perhaps???

TXUS on April 21, 2014 at 10:26 PM

It could explain all the grunting noises from the Oval Office during late hours recently.

viking01 on April 21, 2014 at 10:28 PM

Jimmy What and and Seth Whatever are now hosting the 2 NBC Tonight shows. Why not get another dork from SNL and have him (or her) host MTP? Its a win win I say.

steveracer on April 21, 2014 at 10:29 PM

“WHAT DIFFERENCE, AT THIS POINT, DOES IT MAKE?”

TXUS on April 21, 2014 at 10:28 PM

Until showers are banned by the EPA…. a lot!

viking01 on April 21, 2014 at 10:30 PM

The entire crew at NBC/MSNBC needs to have their heads examined.

Resist We Much on April 21, 2014 at 10:07 PM

You couldn’t pay the best psychotherapists in the world all the money in all the world to examine those nuts.

Heck, Dr. Otto Scratchansniff would balk at the offer.

Myron Falwell on April 21, 2014 at 10:30 PM

Low-rent comic Tina Fey could host “Late Night with al-Jazeera.

viking01 on April 21, 2014 at 10:31 PM

Err, isn’t this the same thing that Ed already posted at 9:21 this morning?

HughJass on April 21, 2014 at 10:32 PM

The company that did the consulting for NBC was Elastic Strategy

Their website took about 20-30 seconds to load. It’s one of those old web 1.0 sites where some teenager just learned how to use Flash. Good luck with those guys.

faraway on April 21, 2014 at 10:32 PM

We are missing a vital piece of information on this story. I suggest there’s something wrong with Gregory that we don’t know, perhaps he is clinically depressed, perhaps in some kind of drug rehab program. Until we find out the missing angle, the story of course will not make sense.

slickwillie2001 on April 21, 2014 at 10:34 PM

BTW, brand consultants use corporate psychologists. So, both can be true.

faraway on April 21, 2014 at 10:34 PM

Jimmy What and and Seth Whatever are now hosting the 2 NBC Tonight shows. Why not get another dork from SNL and have him (or her) host MTP? Its a win win I say.

steveracer on April 21, 2014 at 10:29 PM

There you go; maybe that fat black guy that called Condi Rice ugly. He’d be a twofer btw.

slickwillie2001 on April 21, 2014 at 10:36 PM

I really don’t understand this. If the guy is not working out, you fire him and get someone else. Who the hell ever heard of a company hiring shrinks to evaluate an employee in order to help you keep him on the job?

The only plausible answer I can come up with is that you do it so that he keeps his mouth shut about what he knows about the news division.

Dusty on April 21, 2014 at 10:38 PM

LinkedIn

Audrey Francis’s Overview

Current

President at Elastic Strategy

Past

Strategist at Razorfish
Partner, Senior Planner at J Walter Thompson

Education

Dartmouth College

faraway on April 21, 2014 at 10:38 PM

We are missing a vital piece of information on this story. I suggest there’s something wrong with Gregory that we don’t know, perhaps he is clinically depressed, perhaps in some kind of drug rehab program. Until we find out the missing angle, the story of course will not make sense.

slickwillie2001 on April 21, 2014 at 10:34 PM

You could say that about everyone who works at PMSNBC.

Even Joe Scarborough… why else would that Socialist Democrat be considering a POTUS run?

Myron Falwell on April 21, 2014 at 10:39 PM

Fox News should ask themselves why they haven’t been able to make significant inroads into this soft market since Russert’s departure.

I find Chris Wallace and Fox News Sunday to be professional but boring. Too much recap of topics already covered and Wallace projects an air that none of it matters very much, it’s just Washington, DC.

pilsener on April 21, 2014 at 10:39 PM

Shrinkage!

Flange on April 21, 2014 at 10:45 PM

His dancing looks a lot like someone else’s. Channeling his inner Obama, perhaps???

TXUS on April 21, 2014 at 10:26 PM

They both dance like women. Look, if you want a consultant to teach you how to not look foolish dancing on TV, hire a man who knows how to dance like a man. I’d bet my bottom dollar both of them practiced with women telling them what to do.

forest on April 21, 2014 at 10:45 PM

These days, the leader is “Face the Nation,” hosted by Bob Schieffer, the grandfatherly 77-year-old newsman.

If one can visualize a grizzled, senile, Obama-worshiping grandfather perhaps Grandpa Simpson.

D’oh!

viking01 on April 21, 2014 at 10:46 PM

I wonder how Mr. Gregory feels about this information being out there for public consumption?

Cindy Munford on April 21, 2014 at 10:52 PM

I don’t care how liberal he is. In fact, the more, the better.

I quit watching “Meet the Press” because the CONSERVATIVE “Republican” OPPOSITION to liberal Gregory in the “roundtable” is often presented as Mike Murphy, David Brooks or Nicole Wallace. Who’s going to sit for that?

Marcus on April 21, 2014 at 10:54 PM

He should brandish an illegal weapon for ratings or something.

SouthernGent on April 21, 2014 at 11:02 PM

ROFL ROFL

Gregory doing the White Man’s Overbite, what a feminine beta clown.

Bishop on April 21, 2014 at 11:31 PM

It’s an institution, after 60 years, and they’re fanatical about preserving it. Personally, I’d rather visit HotAir or Breitbart than watch those network liberals with their pretense of respectability, in commitment to propaganda on behalf of government.

rickv404 on April 21, 2014 at 11:35 PM

The entire crew at NBC/MSNBC needs to have their heads examined.

Resist We Much on April 21, 2014 at 10:07 PM

You couldn’t pay the best psychotherapists in the world all the money in all the world to examine those nuts.

Heck, Dr. Otto Scratchansniff would balk at the offer.

Myron Falwell on April 21, 2014 at 10:30 PM

Not to mention the number of proctologists that would first have to be employed removing the heads from the rectums.

soundingboard on April 21, 2014 at 11:36 PM

It isn’t so much that Russert wasn’t a biased liberal, he clearly was. He just made an effort to ask tough questions of both sides. When he first took over MTP, that was the standard in news, even TV news.

Russert didn’t change to become some great, legendary interviewer. He stayed the same. The only thing special about him was his devotion to research: he was very prepared for whoever was coming on the show, down to the details.

╗╚╔╝

But the news business changed. With the Clinton scandals, and the Democratic tack of just lying their way through everything and attacking their accusers relentlessly, the media decided they could get away with the same, and never looked back.

FoxNews’ success was in large part timing. They hit the ground with “fair and balanced” about the same time the rest of media completely abandoned even pretending to be.

As for Gregory, he was always just a leftist flack. There was never anything special about him at all, and no number of consultants, psychologists, or makeovers is going to change that in the slightest.

Adjoran on April 21, 2014 at 11:55 PM

Aw, come on guys…this one was already written for you. Hats off to Michael Savage:

Liberalism is a mental disorder.

Jaibones on April 22, 2014 at 12:27 AM

So, now, how much longer can Gregory stay at MTP..? Once they think you are crazy, it’s pretty much over. He could always go over to MSNBC…

d1carter on April 22, 2014 at 1:35 AM

Is it just me or does David Gregory look like a villain from the original 1960′s Johnny Quest cartoon?

Wallythedog on April 22, 2014 at 1:59 AM

His brain scan was diagnosed “Lack of evidence.”

viking01 on April 22, 2014 at 2:20 AM

They can always replace him with somebody who is not so constipated

Brock Robamney on April 22, 2014 at 5:52 AM

Why is he not in JAIL for illegially possessing and waving around one of those EVEEEEEEL 30 round m-16 magazines. While broadcasting from DC.

He broke a local gun law, which clearly states JAIL if you have one of those Eveeeeeel 30 round hi capacity magazines as we all know those magazines do drive by, by themselves.

oh wait, he is a LIBERAL, and laws are different for LIBERALS>
Expecially those carrying the water for obama.

sniffles1999 on April 22, 2014 at 7:15 AM

His dancing looks a lot like someone else’s. Channeling his inner Obama, perhaps???

TXUS on April 21, 2014 at 10:26 PM

It could explain all the grunting noises from the Oval Office during late hours recently.

viking01 on April 21, 2014 at 10:28 PM

If Obama has a younger white brother, he looks like David Gregory!

22044 on April 22, 2014 at 8:08 AM

He’s 43. Been with NBC for 20 years, basically his entire adult life and they don’t know what’s ticking inside him. And you do not interview the spouse when you’re doing a “branding.” Gregory isn’t the problem (so much), it’s the executives.

rbj on April 22, 2014 at 8:26 AM

Tell me that his meeting with the doc, Gregory read from a teleprompter…

right2bright on April 22, 2014 at 8:47 AM

Just sack Gregory and bring in John Stewart.

airupthere on April 22, 2014 at 9:00 AM

If he’s adjudicated insane, will DC charge him for possession of a magazine?

blammm on April 22, 2014 at 9:04 AM

The consulting shrink concluded that Gregory is devolving into a simian. Nature is equipping Gregory to communicate more effectively with a dumbed down America.

wraithby on April 22, 2014 at 11:09 AM

What does it say about our society that no one can name a suitable nonpartisan reporter to take up one of these spots? Anderson Cooper maybe? We are at a pretty pathetic place with journalism these days.

eski502 on April 22, 2014 at 6:39 PM