Why Not Gwen?

Today a public wake for Tim Russert will be held in Washington DC, yesterday his son Luke made an utterly remarkable appearance on the Today show, sharing memories of his dad along with Matt Lauer. I could NOT have been as thoughtful and together under the circumstances. I extend my deepest sympathies to the Russert family in their time of loss.

As a great man passes, the grief now turns into questions. How can NBC fill such enormous shoes, particularly at this significant time? In suggesting possible Meet the Press hosts, Gawker’s list includes such suggestions as Andrea Mitchell, Katie Couric, Chris Matthews, Joe Scarborough, and Keith Olbermann. The person who takes that seat every Sunday morning needs to be a calm, collected, experienced interviewer, a journalist who is unafraid to steer a conversation into uncomfortable territory. And I think they also need to hire someone who isn’t blatantly partisan, which eliminates some of the aforementioned. Tom Brokaw will likely take the helm for a while, and I think Brian Williams makes a likely, excellent choice… but what about Gwen Ifill? I’m a longtime admirer of hers, particularly as the host of PBS’s Washington Week.

Ifill’s first love was print journalism, but Russert helped her transition into the world of television, as she recalls in this touching tribute, “Farewell to a Standup Brother,” featured on The Root (love that site, BTW).

There is quite a line of people who, at various times, have taken credit for my career. I usually let them do it, even if I remember events quite differently. But Tim deserves the credit. He not only talked me into switching to TV against my first instincts, but — five years later — he engineered a way for me to leave NBC when I was offered the chance to become the first African American to host a weekly public affairs program, Washington Week, over on PBS. He not only talked NBC executives into getting me out of my contract, but he also looked me in the eye and told me this was something I absolutely, positively had to do.

Gwen also remembered her experiences with Russert on NPR with Farai Chideya and Michele Norris yesterday, in an interview that illuminated Russert’s role in mentoring several black journalists of note. In that vein, I think appointing Gwen Ifill as a moderator of Meet the Press would not only be a historic and significant decision by NBC, but I think it would make Russert tremendously pleased. At the end of that interview, Chideya invites the two esteemed journalists to consider how the election will be covered now, in light of Russert’s passing. Ifill expresses concern for the future of journalism — the industry truly is in terrifying times. There were significant layoffs at the daily in my own city just yesterday, so it’s hitting me all quite close to home.

I think that it’s possible that Tim – I don’t think he’ll be replaced — but somebody will step in and we will ask the right questions. This campaign is too consequential, there are too many important issues to get to, for the questions not to be asked. They will be asked, but not quite in the same way.

Too true. As someone who enjoys Ifill’s interview style — like Salon describes, she truly does exhibit “an external sense of cool and serenity, while underneath lie serious smarts, smooth execution and a healthy dose of skepticism” — I think she’d be a great choice. At any rate, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of Gwen Ifill on NBC in the days to come, because as she said, this election is too significant. She can certainly be relied upon to ask the right questions, to bring a fresh perspective to this history in the making.

For this past Sunday’s Meet the Press, Gwen Ifill sat in a semicircle before that familiar table, alongside many Meet the Press regulars — Mike Barnicle, Maria Shriver, Doris Kearns Goodwin, James Carville and Mary Matalin (for some truly touching photos from the episode, click here. That one of Carville and Matalin made me weep too).

What are your thoughts, bellas? Is there any particular journalist who you’d like to see as the next host of the longest-running television show in worldwide broadcasting history?

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Comments

  1. Gwen would be really good in the chair. The Salon description of her style is totally on point. I think she could maintain the MTP tradition, without turning it into a self-promotion vehicle like some of the other candidates.

  2. I think Gwen would be great in the position. Of the short list that’s floating around, I’d have to say that Chris Matthews stands out to me as the best possible choice.

  3. That is an excellent idea. I’ve always admired her. While Chris Matthews can be enjoyable at times, he doesn’t have that Russert quality. Matthews, Olbermann and others are best left on MSNBC to entertain. Ifill is a SERIOUS journalist and that is what we need for that position. THAT is the special thing about Meet the Press, no bullshit.

    Can we mobilize other bellas to lobby NBC? Perhaps you can contact What About Our Daughters???

  4. Here’s the thing about that, I don’t know that America is ready for Gwen. We might be ready but I dont know that Brokaw, Carville, Matalin, Shriver or the Beck’s of the world are ready for Gwen. The thing about Tim was that for whatever reason, he was someone you felt you could relate to. I know it wasn’t just meand at first glance I am the total opposite of Tim. For the past few days they have been showing the throngs of people who say over and over that they felt like Tim was “one of us” and it’s coming from the both the left AND the right. I dont know that Gwen is going to be able to draw from the whole spectrum. I dont doubt at all that she has the ability to ask all teh tough questions from the left and the right though. It’s sad because yes, it would be a monumental move to put her in the chair. I don’t know how NBC is going to find someone who is not blatently partisan because of the industry’s newfound penchant to hire opinion people rather than news people. I think that they will put Brokaw in the chair because of his icon status, not sure that I will watch though, theres no “it” with him. I like Brian williams, but he doesn’t have “it” either. Clearly, Tim’s “it” was one of a kind. I cried watching his son on Monday morning. I wish they could find a fresh new face to put out there but its an election year and people are going to wan’t comfort and where do we find comfort, in the familiar.

    If I still lived in DC (shout to HU) I think I would have gone to the wake today. Such a sad situation.

    We need to take care of ourselves people!

  5. naturalmel- i hear what you are saying, but do think that Gwen may have “it”. America is never ready until it’s already happened. If we don’t support intelligent sisters that fit the bill, who will?

    Waiting for America to be ready is never the answer. Just ask Senator Barack Obama…

  6. Ive always liked Gwen and have been watching her on PBS, off and on, for over 10 years (I believe. Im old, cut me some slack, lol). I remember running into her at the P Street Whole Foods (in DC). It was Gwen, an older Black gentleman, and myself. For the majority of the ride, the fellow was telling a joke, but halfway through I recognized Gwen. I waited til the man was finished with his joke, and then I let Gwen know how much I enjoyed watching her over the years. The gentleman didnt know who she was though.

    As for Gwen being right for “Meet the Press”, Id have to say I dont know. I do think shes a great journalist, and I have enjoyed watching her, I just dont know if the rest of America is ready for her on regular old network tv. But, perhaps it is as Ada above says…”Waiting for America to be ready is never the answer…” It should be interesting to see what develops!

    L

  7. Ada and Lola — Yes, waiting is never the answer, you are both definitely right about that!

  8. Sign me up to help with lobbying for Gwen.

  9. auragirl says:

    I think you’ve been reading my mind Bella! I’ve been thinking about this very issue for the last few says. While no one will EVER be able to replace Russert, someone has to host “Meet The Press”. If NBC wants to keep in in the family, I think they should ask Tom Brokaw to do it. He’s a serious journalist who has the respect and gravitas to do the job. Since he is technically in retirement, he may not want the job. If Tom doesn’t want it, I think Chuck Todd should fill the post. Todd was hired by Tim, is a fantastic political analyst and would be able to carry on the Russert spirit very well. If NBC is willing to go outside of their network, then I too like Gwen. She has appeared on “Meet the Press” a number of times. She is also a serious journalist who has the gravitas for such a prestigious program. I really like Brian Williams, but he’s cool where he is. He should stay with “Nightly”. Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough are more on the commentator side…they don’t have the serious journalistic chops to host the show. I like them where they are now. David Gregory and Andrea Mitchell would be okay choices, but I personally just don’t want them to host the show. lol

  10. auragirl says:

    ARGH @ the people saying “America is not ready!”

    Do you think America was ready for the Civil Rights Act when it was implemented?

    There would probably still be slavery today if they waited until America was ready. I don’t understand what that means…how will you know when America’s ready? When something is right, it will happen!

  11. There is no such thing as “not ready for”…change happens, regardless of whether you are ready for it or not…

    No disrespect meant at all…I think Gwen would be a great fill for Mr. Russert’s seat. What she doesn’t know, she will learn, as she did when he brought her on at first.

  12. No one will be able to fill Tim’s shoes. Keith Olbermann would be a horrible idea, what a joker. Hope they make a good choice. Not crazy about any of the names mentioned.

  13. Yes I second your choice. Does she have Caribbean roots?

  14. Char-Char says:

    Funny you should mention Gwen Ifill… That’s who I hope NBC will pick for Meet the Press. Her skills are awesome and she seems unbiased. I pray she will be selected…

  15. Mrs.Mckinzie says:

    I agree bella.

  16. I love Gwen Ifill! I’ve met her a couple of times in Boston, and she is one of the nicest and smartest person I’ve met. She reminds me a lot of Tim Russert. I think she would be a great moderator on Meet the Press.

  17. ok y’all I stand corrected, who cares if America is ready.

    If she’s ready and willing (which I’s sure she is) then she should be put into the ring to fight it out withthe rest of the hopefuls. It would be monumental.

  18. Yes Gwen’s family is from the Caribbean.

    I am a fan of hers and think she would be great. I’m just having a hard time picturing anyone in Tim’s seat right now. I know it has to be filled but Tim was MTP to me.

  19. Beware, slightly long opinion ahead…
    As someone who watches Gwen regularly on PBS’s NewsHour I just don’t think it’s worth it for her to return to network tv. Sure she would gain a wider audience, but she would lose out the the scope of what she’d cover day to day. Meet the Press and other similar shows cover what’s relevant on the American political scene. NewsHour covers important happenings in the world–US or not, politically-centered or not and that’s what keeps it interesting to viewers and journalists covering the stories.
    Besides, as others have been saying concerning the “it factor” there is a cult of personality in hosting network shows. People want to see the host and secondarily listen to the discussion. Fondness for the show is linked more to the host and the style of the show, than to the substance of the program from week to week. That mentality (which isn’t necessary a bad one), probably works against Gwen since she’s not a loudmouth or overtly agressive. Also would be able to she get the sort of ratings a network would expect their host to achieve and sustain in order to be worth their money (Think Katie Couric, who’s still struggling at CBS and the massive amount they spent to get her).
    I think it’s best to go to (or stay in) a place where you have the best opportunity at variety and where your particular approach is respected and valued. I don’t think it’s simply a question of America’s readiness to see certain faces in certain venues. It might not even be something Gwen Ifill cares to do at this point in her career. Afterall she has her own weekly show, and I assume she’s on the short list (crossing my fingers on that one) to take over the NewsHour once Lehrer retires w/in the next couple of years.

    Speaking of range, Bella, I love that you post about a whole range of topics. I’ve been reading this blog for almost two years and I still find it refreshing!!

  20. I love Gwen myself, but I’m torn. I’m with novie on the “it factor” thing. Gwen could definitely get the job done, but she just doesn’t strike me as having the personality. On the other hand, I heard rumors that NBC might entertain the thought of bringing Katie Couric back–to me she has too much personality. And, I don’t see her as being able to be neutral *all the time*.

    The thing I liked about Tim is that you never knew what his politics were. We need that kind of person if Meet the Press needs to continue Tim’s legacy. I see Gwen Ifill as being able to be thorough and neutral. Chris Matthews could possibly do that too–there are times when I thought I had him pegged as being one thing only for him to rip into the other side and knock ‘em down.

    KO? I love him but Lordie no.

    This is going to be really interesting to watch…

    Oh, and the other thing about Gwen though with regards to the rest of America being ready–that might just be a little too much black for people right now (with the Obamas being so in everybody’s face). You know we have to break folks in slowly so they don’t think we have any evil plots to try to take over the world (Pinky & The Brain theme cues up…).

  21. I know that this is off topic but maybe not.
    I hope that you write a post about what Whoopi Goldberg said during the time that Mrs. Michelle Obama was a guest host on today’s The VIew. Whoopi thought that she was complimenting the exquisite Mrs. Obama when she said how proud she was of her for basically being an upstanding, intelligent African-American woman.
    Then Whoopi dropped the bomb and left me and the rest of the women sitting near her a little stunned when she said “you know, when you usually see Black women on t.v. they don’t have any teeth, or if they do have teeth, they are made of gold through out their mouths, they aren’t articulate” and it goes on and on.
    I sat there stunned. She really thought that she was paying Mrs. Obama, who may very well be our next First Lady, a compliment! I do not know if this was aired earlier as I have returned to this country just a couple of weeks ago, but I’m so stunned and embarrased for Whoopi, who IS a Black woman on television as well as the big screen.

    What does this say about how she views Black women as well as herself? I don’t know what t.v. shows she has been watching but she needs to stop watching them and actually look around at the great Black women of media as well as in her family.

    Any thoughts?

    Felicia
    This Time in Seoul

  22. Ok, this is what Whoop said on The View:

    “I’m really glad to see you because …any time you see black folks on the news, particularly women, they have no teeth, and the teeth that they have have gold around them and they can’t put a sentence together and perhaps now, we can, this is, you are helping to change a perception. I know it sounds funny and silly but If you are a black women and you are tuning in and everytime you see someone who is supposed to represent black women and women not very very fair skin women, I am talking about dark black women, I just want to say thanks.”

    I think her comment was uncalled for. She could’ve said that in private and by the looks of every one of her colleagues at the table, including Mrs. Obama, they too wished that she would’ve said it in private.

  23. I agree with you, Gwen would certainly be someone to strongly consider. She is one of those rare people that excels at both print and broadcast journalism. I had the pleasure of meeting her in Vegas last year at the NABJ conference and she was sweet as pie. Gwen is a trailblazer that far too many sleep on.

    Great post!

  24. AfricanViolet says:

    OMG! THANK YOU GIVING VOICE TO THIS POSSIBLE PICK MEET THE PRESS SISTER!
    I know Gwen would rip it on Meet The Press…to whom should we write to push this ideal further along?
    Great Idea!

  25. You know the other day when i was writing up a mini post about this, I pondered to myself, why not Gewn???

    I do like her & I know she would turn it out but like someone mentioned above, she does not have an loud personality but I’m not sure if it is really needed.

    Brian Williams looks like a hot mess by the eyes & Tom Brokaw could put a dead man to sleep. I am not sure if I can handle watching MTP with Tom’s lack of personality.

    Thx,
    Tafari

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Trackbacks

  1. [...] Afrobella – Why Not Gwen? Ifill’s first love was print journalism, but Russert helped her transition into the world of television, as she recalls in this touching tribute, “Farewell to a Standup Brother,” featured on The Root (love that site, BTW). “There is quite a line of people who, at various times, have taken credit for my career. I usually let them do it, even if I remember events quite differently. But Tim deserves the credit. He not only talked me into switching to TV against my first instincts, but — five years later — he engineered a way for me to leave NBC when I was offered the chance to become the first African American to host a weekly public affairs program, Washington Week, over on PBS. He not only talked NBC executives into getting me out of my contract, but he also looked me in the eye and told me this was something I absolutely, positively had to do.” [...]

  2. [...] facts about the Gwen Ifill story that Drudge got wrong. So allow me to speak my piece. Because I sincerely respect and admire Gwen Ifill like [...]

  3. [...] Ifill would be moderating the much-anticipated Veep debate. Though my fellow black woman blogger Afrobella agreed with me, I’m pretty sure I was in the minority when I thought Gwen Ifill should have [...]

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