Why Did NBC Fire ‘Meet The Press’ Host David Gregory?

You’ll be excused if you haven’t been following the rumor mill over in the NBC news department. The job of David Gregory — who hosts Meet the Press, the longest running television show in history (it dates back to 1947) — has been in danger for months. The question of David Gregory being fired wasn’t a matter of if, but when, and it’s been kind of a slow, excruciating trainwreck for the last few weeks as that has become apparent to the entire world. And yet Gregory marched on, like the manager of a last place baseball team who everybody knows is going to be fired at the end of the season. Yesterday, they finally gave him his walking papers and made Chuck Todd the new host of Meet the Press.

Why did NBC finally fire David Gregory? Part of it was Gregory’s fault, and part of it was the fact that Gregory was in a terrible position to begin with, as both the successor to an incredibly popular host and as the host in this particular television landscape. Ratings for the venerable Sunday morning news show have been on the decline since Gregory took over, and what was once the most dominant Sunday news show on television is now in third place (77-year-old Bob Schieffer now leads the way over on CBS, while George Stephanopoulos’ ABC show comes in second).

There’s a tough mix of reasons that the ratings for Meet the Press have fallen so hard, but chief among them is that David Gregory is not Tim Russert, the respected, beloved, and warm former host of the show, who passed away in 2008. Gregory is neither warm nor beloved, and he’s not particularly respected by his colleagues at NBC, either, who have never had much love for the prickly, ambitious Gregory.

There’s also the matter of the changing times. Sunday morning news shows are down across the board, as their relevancy has decreased, and NBC has sought to reboot Meet the Press by taking away what made it stand-out under Russert. Russert would typically spend an entire show with one guest (or a couple of guest), and he would get incredibly depth with that guest. When he had a good guest on, there was little better. But as Gregory’s ratings began to dwindle, they began to shake it up with shorter segments and less in-depth analysis. Basically, Meet the Press became like every other news chat show. It sucked.

White House correspondent and NBC News’ political director, Chuck Todd, who probably should’ve been given the job back in 2008, will appropriately succeed Gregory, who will be leaving NBC after 20 years with the network. Todd is warm (although, he’s not quite as charismatic as Tim Russert), and he is a true political junkie. He fits better within a landscape that appreciates the geekery of a guy like Nate Silver, and he should fit in just fine on Meet the Press. Expect the news program’s ratings to bounce, but don’t expect miracles. The Sunday morning news show format is dying, and while Chuck Todd can probably prop up Meet the Press for a few more years, it’s golden age is well behind us.

Background: Washpo, Washpo, THR