Some critics have called NBC the Nepotism Broadcasting Company after the news division announced that Chelsea Clinton will serve as a special correspondent for its "Making a Difference" segments. The daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton joins a roster that includes former President George W. Bush's daughter Jenna Bush Hager, a correspondent for Today, and Sen. John McCain's daughter Meghan, a contributor to MSNBC.
NBC News president Steve Capus makes no apologies for the high profile hires. Here, he tells The Biz why.
TV Guide Magazine: What makes the children from political families so appealing to NBC News?
Steve Capus: Meghan McCain has been a regular on MSNBC for a couple of years now, and we decided to formalize that relationship. She happens to be from a prominent political family but that's where the similarity begins and ends.
Chelsea and Jenna are not on the air doing political commentary. It's an important distinction. In terms of the experience, Chelsea Clinton traveled the world at a young age on Air Force One. She's grown up watching her parents dedicate themselves to public service. In 2008 she was by her mother's side as she ran for the presidency. She listened to people tell their stories all across this country and she was moved by them. She's told me that the individual stories she heard along the campaign trail are the things that stuck with her. She wants to know what they're doing and how things have resolved for them.
In many ways when you have that kind of an upbringing, it's a remarkable seat for a worldview for inspiring stories. She wants to take that experience and tell those stories on the air, pure and simple. I don't think she had a burning desire to be on television or to become a correspondent for NBC News. She simply wanted to put a spotlight on stories that she found inspiring. When Jenna Bush Hager first came in here she was still a teacher in Maryland. She came up here and had a very similar thought of what she might be able to do. I think you've seen it on Today.
TV Guide Magazine: You think their viewpoints have an added value because they've been along for the ride on their parents' journeys?
Capus: Correct. If it just began and ended there I'd say, 'That's fine, a lot of people have unique upbringings.' But in both cases they've said, 'What can I do with that foundation and where can I take that knowledge to tell those kind of stories?' And they've come here.
TV Guide Magazine: What about the critics who've complained that they've taken slots away from real journalists?
Capus: How in the world can people ignore the 200 people we hired for Rock Center? It's not like we're in a cutback mode. We're growing. We have just hired the best of the best in every aspect of broadcasting. Huge names like Ted Koppel, Harry Smith and Meredith Vieira and a hall-of-fame senior staff of producers. The phones have been ringing off the hook with calls from other networks and the cable networks. People want to come here right now. This notion that the hiring of Chelsea or Jenna at the expense of people who have been professional journalists all their lives is silly... If I were looking for someone to report the lead story for NBC Nightly News, I'm not going to turn to Chelsea Clinton. That's not why she was hired. I want to draw on her remarkable experience and have her tell stories that she feels strongly about, and we have the right vehicle with the "Making a Difference" franchise.
TV Guide Magazine: But there is a mystique about Chelsea Clinton that will attract viewers. There is not a lot of videotape of her. She's never done a live TV interview.
Capus: Chelsea Clinton is someone who is known by everybody in our audience. That's a running start. There is a curiosity about her. The Clintons kept her out of the spotlight. Many people haven't heard her speak. We recognize that. It's an intriguing idea.
TV Guide Magazine: So what is she like?
Capus: I think she's captivating. You sit down and you talk with her and her intellect, her poise, and curiosity all come through. She's built on this base of knowledge and draws on it in her storytelling and anecdotes. I believe it's going to work out well. We don't know for sure. But she has all the right instincts. We have a platform that can be a great vehicle for her and that's why we've decided to do this. We're going to let the work speak for itself.
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