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Notes from the June 20, 2010 broadcast of Meet The Press

June 20, 2010

This was a very interesting and innovative edition of Meet The Press. I give the producers kudos for experimenting with the format… even if I don’t think it worked out well in the end.

For recent decades, the first half of the show has centered on a discussion with one or more experts and/or political leaders. The second half has been a roundtable discussion featuring journalists, columnists, and other opinion-leaders. Today, the show went with a single panel for the full hour, mixing together the different types of guests, to discuss the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Governor Haley Barbour (R-MS) were reasonable choices to represent the political leadership involved with the BP disaster. They were very respectful of each other and tried to avoid politics to focus on solutions. Barbour even said the federal government has done more right than wrong in this crisis.

John Hofmeister, a former Shell Oil CEO, was also a very good guest giving good insight into what we should be expecting from BP and the rest of the industry going forward. But Ed Markey (D-MA) seemed like an odd choice for the panel. He threw off the show’s partisan balance and did not seem to bring anything new about the current crisis (although he was very compelling on long term energy solutions).

The most informative guest was Kenneth Feinberg, the head of the new compensation fund for victims of the BP disaster. He was impressive and straight-forward. He may be a little intense, but he is very clear about his job and the reason for his job.

I am still confused about why the BBC’s Katy Kay was included. She is very good and very well informed, but while the others were having a meaty discussion about long and short term solutions to the BP disaster, Kay’s interventions were almost always about the political optics of the situation. I am sure that is what she was asked to contribute. But it seemed to bring the other conversation to a screeching halt at a few key moments.

In the end, I think the situation with Kay underscores why the old format is preferable. Barbour, Landrieu, and Hofmeister could have started the show with a quite significant and informative conversation about the current crisis and response. Then David Gregory could have done the interview with Feinberg (who clearly did not want to be part of a larger group discussion).

The second half of the show could have been an equally informative roundtable with the journalists and opinion-leaders. Katy Kay would have been part of this. Also useful would have been Eugene Robinson. Gregory quoted at length from a Robinson column, so why not have him on? (And it would have given some much needed diversity to Meet The Press.)

NBC News Correspondent Anne Thompson opened the show with a live report from Venice, LA. Why not have her on the roundtable? For that matter, other NBC and Weather Channel correspondents from across the region (like Kerry Sanders) could have been brought in to share what they know about the economic impact, the mood of residents, and local reactions to the president’s speech.

All that said, Gregory was very much in control of today’s show and asked mostly very good questions. But the revised format was a net negative on the program’s ultimate impact.

Today’s transcript will be here.

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