On Tuesday morning, Mike Allen of Politico posted a story stating that “network executives” had confirmed to him their plans to name Mr. Gregory moderator of the show. “The executives provided elliptical information,” wrote Mr. Allen, “that did not either raise or preclude the possibility that a supporting cast could be named along with Gregory.”
On Monday and Tuesday, several sources inside and outside of NBC News speculated to The Observer that NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker would eventually name a couple of current NBC staffers (such as Andrea Mitchell) to a beefed-up group of semi-permanent panelists.
“It seems very likely that no matter who winds up in the moderator chair, the panel will probably be more prominent that it was in the past,” said a former TV news executive. “Because whoever fills the anchor chair, even if they are a very experienced interviewer, we’re in a more p.c. world now, and there are a lot of different demographic boxes that NBC needs to check off. Also, even though it never seems to work, that’s another way for them to try and keep their passed-over talent happy.”
And unhappy talent may not be affordable at NBC right now. Not long ago, a large number of NBC News staffers were offered buyout packages. In recent weeks, the deadline for the buyouts has come and gone. And the latest rumor is that if NBC doesn’t receive enough buyout applications, newly minted D.C. bureau chief Mark Whitaker would soon begin laying off a number of his D.C. staff.
And so, several sources said, the decision was less about what great talent the network could afford to attract—Katie Couric! Ted Koppel!—but whom, given the shallow backbench of name-brand personalities, the network could not afford to lose.
With all the other big NBC gigs tied up for the foreseeable future, the only plum left to give out is Meet the Press. And if the reports hold up, it would seem, that last plum had to be dropped in Mr. Gregory’s mouth.
“It’s a time for reflection and change,” said our source. “Everyone is doing it. NBC is just being forced to do it in a more public manner.”