ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
NBC's David Gregory announced today that he will no longer host the Sunday political talk show "Meet The Press." It's something he's been doing for about five and a half years. He'll be replaced by NBC News political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd. Gregory was seen as a rising star at the network for many years, but as NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik tells us, his departure says a lot about the state of the Sunday shows. And David joins us from our studio in New York City. Hi-ya.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Hey, Robert.
SIEGEL: "Meet The Press" is the longest-running show still on television. The Sunday morning program started as an effort by the networks to prove to federal regulators that they could be trusted to take the public goods seriously. What is the role of these shows now?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, I think that's a really good question right now. You've had a proliferation of shows devoted to nothing else but chewing over not only the political developments and policy developments of the week, but of the day and of the hour and the minute. And these things stand out a lot less than they used to, even if they provide, perhaps, a slightly more civil space for these things to be talked about.
SIEGEL: So what, if anything, went wrong with David Gregory's tenure at "Meet The Press?"
FOLKENFLIK: Well, David Gregory, you know, was seen as a real star there. He was pegged for greater things. But it always seemed as though he was looking beyond this assignment.
In 2008, you may recall we talked at the time of the death of Tim Russert, who talked about politics and policy with great gusto and brio - kind of a guy's guy in many ways and really conveyed a love of the game. And David Gregory had reported on politics, the Bush campaign in 2000 and the White House, and had done so with some appreciation from both sides. But he sat in that host's chair, and you weren't quite sure why he was doing it or what his concept of the show was at times. That was a common critique, I think one widely shared. And in addition, you know, his ratings significantly declined over the years against those of ABC at "This Week" and of CBS surprisingly with the genial Bob Schieffer. I think that really crept up on NBC over at "Face The Nation." So the combination of the criticism, but really the ratings decline, sent NBC scrambling.
SIEGEL: Now this Chuck Todd, what does he bring to the host chair of "Meet The Press?"
FOLKENFLIK: Well, you might say it was kind of "The Rise Of The Quants." You think of Ezra Klein at Vox and Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight. Chuck Todd really loves the minutia of politics. He conveys that. He's the chief White House correspondent, he'll give that up. He's been an anchor on MSNBC, he'll give that up. But he'll retain his role as political director. The political class of Washington kind of loves it because he too loves the minutia of politics, but not like Gregory - quite designed for television in the same way.
SIEGEL: And how is he likely to fare in the crowded landscape of newsmaker shows?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, you know, you look at the naming of Chuck Todd and you say, all right, there's a guy who's going to bring great energy and real political enthusiasm. And at the same time, you wonder with not just the proliferation of cable shows but of podcasts so routinely available - all kinds of voices being brought in - and these shows essentially not being reconstructed or redesigned for the modern age. They still - for all the reinvention, for all the pizzazz of new sets and new graphics - feel a lot like shows of old. It seems to me that this is a moment where Chuck Todd, who's got a conventional passion for politics, is going to show that he can bring perhaps an unconventional way of relaying that and of connecting with viewers at a time that networks are desperate to hold on to every single person they can.
SIEGEL: David, any idea what David Gregory does next?
FOLKENFLIK: You know, he's been seen entering and exiting the CNN building, but I'm told by folks there, nothing to announce yet or necessarily at all. I think that's TBA as we say in the business.
SIEGEL: OK, thank you, David.
FOLKENFLIK: You bet.
SIEGEL: That's NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.