No Chelsea Mourning

Three years ago, when Chelsea Clinton was signed as a special correspondent for NBC News, I wrote in another blog:

“Chelsea Clinton, avoider-in-chief of all things media just made her debut as a ‘special correspondent’ for both NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and the prime time program, Rock Center.
“Chelsea, who when this appointment by NBC was announced, refused to comment to the media, is now on television and ‘delighted to be here.’
“Why does someone so smart not see the irony? How can she not see the difficulty of her audience trusting the message of one who so hates the medium?”

Ms. Clinton is now leaving NBC. Recently, she told People magazine, and later posted on her Facebook page, that she wants to focus on the Clinton Foundation and on her pregnancy. “While my role with NBC News may be coming to an end, I look forward to working with the NBC family well into the future,” she wrote.

Chelsea Clinton truly has many admirable qualities—understanding and the capacity for forgiveness most likely among them—and is, no doubt, adept and expert at many things. Broadcast journalism is not one of them.

Dylan Byers of Politico observed:

“Clinton’s departure brings an end to a lucrative three-year run during which she made a handful of feel-good packages for NBC’s ‘Making a Difference’ franchise. Clinton’s annual salary at the network was $600,000, translating to roughly $26,724 for each minute she appeared on air – a sore subject for the many hardworking journalists at NBC who made considerably less.”

As I also noted in 2011 about Chelsea Clinton who once considered a career in medicine:

“Television is not, as they say, brain surgery. But it is more difficult than it looks. Those who effortlessly communicate intelligently and effectively on television make it look easy and that makes just about anyone think, ‘I can do that.’ I hate to break it to about 85 percent of you, but you can’t.

“If you don’t know how to communicate with people, you cannot ‘do’ television. You can have the best writers, the coolest photographers, the craftiest editors, and the savviest producers, but if you don’t know how to follow your gut or get other people to spill theirs, or how to look into that camera and talk so people will listen, then you can’t ‘do’ television.”

Another First Daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, is also on the NBC News payroll, contributing stories to Today and NBC Nightly News. But Ms. Bush seems more engaged by the gig, garnering recent praise for her June interview with President Obama that, as the Washington Post proclaimed, “put her ahead of the political-kid TV class” that includes Abby Huntsman, Luke Russert, and Meghan McCain.

Dipping a toe into the waters of broadcast journalism is becoming more commonplace among children of boldfaced names, especially as entertainment encroaches more into how news is covered and presented.

ABC’s Good Morning America is practically an entertainment show now, and it learned its lessons from NBC’s Today which pioneered the celebrity interview/grieving parent/Al Roker’s latest diet/let’s dress up for Halloween amalgam that some networks think the (mostly) female viewers of morning television can’t live without.

David Muir succeeding Diane Sawyer as anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight could – as evidenced by what the New York Times calls Muir’s “anchor as buddy” style – herald a more breathless, less journalistically driven approach to the broadcast.

And Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN have trafficked for years in personality-driven formats that rely on the renowned host (Bill O’Reilly, for example) grilling the renowned guest (Chelsea Clinton’s mother, for example).

We like to think that change can be good. Chelsea Clinton leaving broadcast journalism – her nemesis since she was old enough to watch Saturday Night Live live – is one change that is.

 

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