David Gregory by Virginia Sherwood/NBC
There's been a lot of David Gregory on
lately. When he's not reporting from the White House, he's filling in for Matt Lauer on
or Tim Russert on
Meet the Press
. Not enough for you? This week he starts anchoring his own nightly show on cable news channel MSNBC,
Race for the White House with David Gregory
(6 pm/ET), designed to feed the growing number of political junkies following the amazing 2008 presidential campaign. The Biz talked to Gregory about his new program, the recent rise of MSNBC and whether there's any chance he'll have a new network address in the future.
TVGuide.com: You're hours away from the first show. What are we going to see?
We're going to have a terrific panel. They'll be some swapping out, but not different faces every night. We want it to be a smart, fast-paced take on the race, day in and day out, by people who follow it closely and have different points of view. We'll start with Joe Scarborough [host of MSNBC's
] and NBC News political director Chuck Todd. We'll have [MSNBC contributors] Eugene Robinson and Rachel Maddow. There are some others in the works as well. I also want to look at some smart takes that have been written during the day and "Here's what you should be paying attention to."
TVGuide.com: Network news divisions have to cover politics in an election year, but this cycle has been a real driver in terms of viewers and excitement. Why is it making such great television?
You've got a campaign that keeps driving; keeps sustaining the coverage and keeps driving the conversation in different directions. It's not just about the raw politics. It's not just about the "inside the war room" machinations. That's part of what we'll talk about on the show because I think we're appealing to people who are following this really closely. But it's a national conversation about who we are. It's about race. It's about gender. It's about personality. It's about this vague notion of preparedness for a crisis. There's a lot to it. It keeps moving.
TVGuide.com: When there's a change in the administration, network news divisions usually use that as a time to make a change on the White House beat. Do we anticipate that happening for you in 2009?
I don't know. It's something that we're all thinking about in terms of what comes next with the new president. Especially with me, since I've been at the White House longer than anyone else in network TV. We don't have the answers for it yet.
TVGuide.com: You were doing the morning show on MSNBC after Don Imus was fired, but it didn't seem like you were really totally comfortable with the format. I'm sure you could have kept that job if you wanted it.
In the end it wasn't for me at this time. It's a very challenging thing to do, and Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski [of
] are doing a very good job of it. But it wasn't the right fit for me at this time. It would have required me pushing the envelope in terms of my opinions in a way I wasn't comfortable with. It demands more of the host's take on the world. I think it would have changed who I was. I wasn't prepared to make that shift.
TVGuide.com: I feel like we've seen this picture before on MSNBC in an election year. The ratings are up. Big-name talent from NBC News is brought in to do shows. But after the election is over it seems like the stars of the network go away and the channel goes back to being an also-ran. Is there any sense that's going to change this time around?
I'm not going to speak for myself beyond this program through the election. But I've been around here for a while, and there is something different going on. There is a real commitment, a cultural melding that's gone on at NBC, which in part coincided with MSNBC [moving from the studios in Secaucus, New Jersey] coming into [the NBC studios at Rockefeller Center]. I think physical separation fed the idea of cultural separation. But at the highest levels at NBC, there is a commitment in practice, not just in theory, that we are one and the cultures really do mix. You see that in our election-night coverage. You see that in a show like
Race for the White House
. Internally, there is recognition of the excitement about what MSNBC is doing. That sense that it's a stepchild of the network has gone away. There's too much momentum built up right now to take a turn away from it.
TVGuide.com: With chief Washington correspondent and Face the Nation moderator Bob Schieffer retiring from CBS News next year, that network will be looking for a replacement in Washington. Do you have a long-term commitment to NBC News?
I'm very committed to NBC. This is my home. There will be a time to talk about my future and we are approaching that time. We'll talk about it at that time. But what I would say is that this is my home and I love being here, and I'm very committed to NBC.
POLL: Are you watching election coverage religiously?
POLL: Do feel that the nation is more engaged in this presidential election than in the past two?