Press speculation about possible leadership shakeups are tough for any organization to handle. Few industries handle such issues worse than the media themselves.
The latest illustration comes from NBC News. This morning Politico blared this headline:
EXCLUSIVE: “MEET THE PRESS” plans to announce new moderator soon: CHUCK TODD is the favorite
Not exactly stunning news — since there has been much speculation in recent weeks about current host David Gregory being in jeopardy as a result of the venerable Sunday’s show’s fall from its traditional place as #1 in the ratings — to a lowly #3.
Politico covered itself by adding: “The sources caution that nothing is definite or decided.”
The media love “who’s up – who’s down?” stories — so many other outlets tried to follow Politico’s scooplet.
A few hours later the New York Daily News responded with this:
NBC sources dismiss Politico report that Todd will take over from Gregory to beef up Sunday political show’s ‘passion and insider cred’ as speculation.
The tabloid reported that “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.” (italics ours)
It seems to us that “no official comment” equals confirmation. You cannot decline to comment on a story like this and then try to dismiss it on background. If it isn’t true — why not deny it on the record?
It is pretty clear that, at a minimum, a change is being seriously contemplated. NBC probably doesn’t want their spokespeople or senior execs to be on the record denying something that may soon turn out to be true.
But there are better ways to handle this kind of a story. They could have either declined to comment on the record and on background or have said something on-the-record like: “We remain enormous fans of David Gregory. All of us at NBC News are working hard to restore Meet the Press to its traditional places as #1. We have no plans to make major changes at this time, however.”
Just yesterday Chris Wallace appeared on Fox News Channel’s MediaBuzz criticized the way NBC has handled the Gregory situation. “This twisting in the wind is unseemly,” he said. “The outta say either ‘He’s our guy and we’re sticking with im’ or they should get rid of him.” See the video below at the 4:45 mark.