We’ve seen lots of speculation about the status of David Gregory, who has hosted the network’s heretofore unassailable Sunday talk show Meet the Press since the death of Tim Russert in 2008. At least since April, when a report emerged that the network had conducted psychological assessments of Gregory in order to find out why the show was slipping, it had become apparent that the man who’d been with NBC for more than 20 years was skating on thin ice. A month later, the longtime producer of MTP fled the coop to join the competition at ABC’s This Week. It seems like just a matter of time before NBC gives Gregory the heave-ho; in fact, that speculation has been ongoing for over two years now.

Today, Politico sent out a “siren” with the “exclusive” that Gregory was on his way out:

politico-gregory

That’s a bold report, with both an “exclusive” and a “siren” to accompany it. Chuck Todd would be the safe pick to replace Gregory once Gregory leaves, for the reasons Mike Allen lists. While Todd gets his share of complaints about bias at NBC, he generally treats subjects with more personal distance than others (especially at MSNBC), plus engages his audience much more than many of his colleagues inside or outside of NBC. I’ve interviewed Todd a few times while guest-hosting the Hugh Hewitt show and regularly engage him on Twitter, and believe Todd treats most subjects fairly and refrains from the perceived activism that Gregory projects on occasion. Todd is their top political reporter; the only other potential insider choice would be Andrea Mitchell, so it’s not exactly a surprise that Todd would be short-listed as Gregory’s replacement when the time comes.

But, er … has the time come? Three paragraphs into the exclusive, readers discover that the decision, or possibly decisions, have yet to be made:

The sources caution that nothing is definite or decided.

What does this disclaimer mean? Is it that Todd isn’t definitely in the MTP anchor seat? That wouldn’t make much sense, since the lead didn’t claim that decision hadn’t been made anyway; it just said he was the “likely successor,” which was always the presumption for an internal hire. Does it mean that the decision on Gregory isn’t definite? “Nothing is definite or decided” implies that neither has yet been finalized, which makes the siren and the “exclusive” claim look a little foolish. This looks like something between a rumor and a trial balloon, which isn’t much different than The Daily’s July 2012 report that NBC was looking for the exits on Gregory’s contract.

NBC offered a quick denial to the claim:

NBC moved Monday to brush aside a report on the website Politico that the network may try to reboot the ratings for its venerable “Meet the Press” by replacing moderator David Gregory with Chuck Todd.

An NBC representative said the network has no official comment. At the same time, sources at the network dismissed the Politico report as a spinoff from speculation among reporters who are covering President Obama’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. …

In recent years the show, once dominant in the Sunday morning talk show ratings, has slipped into third place behind ABC’s faster-paced and glitzier “This Week” and CBS’s “Face the Nation” with Bob Schieffer.

That’s hardly surprising or definitive, either, especially since everyone knows MTP is in trouble. Only two things are really definitive: NBC has spent the last couple of years letting Gregory twist in the wind, and Gregory had better freshen up the resumé at some point. The bottom line here is that this kind of inside dope is worth reporting, but with a bit more subtlety rather than with the “exclusive” and “siren” treatment.