May 2, 2010

I’ve been an avid viewer and supporter over the years of Sunday morning’s MEET THE PRESS. Its 9:00AM schedule dictates when I get up (so I have the Sunday paper read and digested before the show) and which church I attend – my favorite downtown, or a neighborhood church that allows me to leave for services AFTER the show is over.

Today they unveiled a new set which is modern, updated and gorgeous. But I’m afraid it won’t help. I have tried hard since the passing of Tim Russert to switch my loyalty to the current commentator but I can’t put away a nagging thought in the back of mind.

Has the mission of the show changed as well as the look, the feel, and the commentator?

I admit, every week I struggle with separating out the personality of Dick Gregory which I read as impolite, cocky, condescending, and intent on divisiveness rather than guaranteeing a honest, informed discussion of issues in our nation. Discussions always have more than one point of view, and more than one “right” answer. And certainly, despite highly political and controversial guests, in the past, moderators chose to present an overview as non-partisan as possible under the circumstances. I have always looked to MEET THE PRESS, along with the PBS NEWS HOUR for unbiased facts and thoughts which I could weigh to draw my own conclusions on an issue.

I’m certain that my own prejudices are impacting how I received the message of the show; but, as an example, I cite the discussion this morning about the tragedy of the BP oil rig and the fast-moving oil leak that threatens so much of our southern shores, their environment and their economy. No matter how hard I tried, I felt like the main goal of Gregory was to get someone to point a finger of blame – at BP or at the US Government – for a slow response- in order to create a sensational breaking headline. I read the information drill-down as a hunt for whose fault is this terrible tragedy. I felt like I was witnessing yet another media-manufactured divisive issue to support ratings against the entertainment-focused cable news channels. I was encouraged that all parties interrogated ignored the bait.

There is a difference, folks, between good issues discussions and ratings. It’s becoming harder and harder for me to stay tuned to the issues and what the guests are revealing of their positions in response to tough questions, when I continue to be distracted by impolite interruptions, the frequently raised voice of the moderator, and a performance broadcasting “smug, swaggering and self-satisfied “. The new set will not help me with that.

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