"If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press."
For a generation of political junkies no truer words were ever spoken. Growing up in Oakland, California, I would even choose Tim Russert over the morning NFL games (both started at 10 a.m. PST).
But now, Meet just isn't appointment viewing anymore. What can be done to turn the show around?
1. Less is more
In its current form Meet the Press is a mile wide and an inch deep. Take the November 23rd show which tried to cover immigration, Benghazi, Afghanistan, Ferguson, Keystone, and Bill Cosby. To cover all these subjects, Meet used three NBC reporters (host Chuck Todd, John Yang, and Ron Allen), and had 11 guests. Even with an hour of show to fill, that does not leave a lot of time for each issue to get properly covered or for each guest to make their mark.
2. Drop the packages
Meet the Press is not 60 Minutes and shouldn't try to be. Sunday talk show viewers are tuning in to see newsmakers make news, not watch long investigated pieces on a myriad of topics. That is what 60 Minutes or Dateline is for.
3. Bring back the journalist panels
Years ago Meet the Press consisted of a panel of journalists who would question a single guest for the full (then half hour) show. Why not get back to that? Or at least have a panel questioning two guests separately? The more time newsmakers are given to talk, the more chance there is that they will make news.
4. Let partisans be partisans
One change that could improve the old panel model would be let the new panelists be overtly partisan. Instead of a panel of three supposedly neutral reporters, why not let Chuck Todd moderate a panel consisting of himself, a liberal journalist (like Jose Diaz-Balart or Rachel Maddow), and a conservative journalist (like National Review's Kevin Williamson or The Washington Examiner's Tim Carney)?
This might make it easier for Meet the Press to book more conservative guests, many of whom currently do not believe Todd will gave them a fair shake. At least with this set up conservatives will know they'll get a chance to get their message out.
5. Better guests
The panel discussions on the week's events do still have a place. But no more "Republican strategists" or Democratic political consultants. No more former-governors or former-House Majority Leaders who just got bounced from office because they are deaf to the populist movements in their party. And this might be ageist but the guests need to be younger too. Meet the Press is in desperate need of some fresh faces.
Surprisingly, NBC News President Deborah Turness seems to already be on board with many of these ideas. She recently told The New York Times, “The show needs more edge. It needs to be consequential. I think the show had become a talking shop that raked over the cold embers of what had gone on the previous week. The one-on-one conversation belongs to a decade ago.”
I couldn't agree more.