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NBC close to announcing David Gregory as the next moderator of 'Meet the Press"

December 2, 2008 | 11:24 am

Davidgregory NBC executives appear to have settled on David Gregory to be the permanent successor to the late Tim Russert on the Sunday morning powerhouse “Meet the Press,” according to a source familiar with internal discussions.

During a period of intense deliberations in the last few weeks, the network considered various internal and external candidates, and even contemplated bringing in multiple anchors to moderate the 61-year-old program.

But in recent days, executives indicated that they are going with Gregory, according to the source, who declined to be named because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

The chief White House correspondent has long been considered one of the top candidates for the post. It's unclear whether NBC will also name a permanent panel for the show that would include others who were on the short list, such as political director Chuck Todd, chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell or PBS anchor Gwen Ifill.

NBC officials declined to confirm Gregory’s selection, first reported Monday by the Huffington Post.

“We have nothing to announce,” said spokeswoman Allison Gollust.

But official word could come by Sunday, when interim moderator Tom Brokaw is expected to end his run on the program.

The decision about how to replace Russert, an outsized presence at the network, fell to NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker and NBC News President Steve Capus. One of the factors that apparently influenced their decision was the concern that with few other plum jobs to offer Gregory, he could end up leaving the network. The 38-year-old, seen as one of NBC’s strongest talents, has frequently substituted for co-host Matt Lauer on “Today” and would be a desirable catch for the other morning shows.

The choice of Gregory effectively hands off “Meet the Press” to a new generation, a move that could ensure the program’s stability for years to come. But tapping the young political correspondent to follow veterans like Russert and Brokaw could also up-end the Sunday morning show competition, which has been dominated by the NBC program for the last decade.

It remains to be seen whether viewers will embrace Gregory, known for engaging in often contentious debates with White House officials. The lanky reporter, with his trademark shock of prematurely grey hair, drew both praise and criticism for his coverage of the Bush administration. While some viewers applauded his tough questioning, others complained he was peacocking for the cameras.

Gregory has racked up substantial experience in his 13 years with NBC News. He covered the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns and traveled around the world with President Bush. He also reported on the O.J. Simpson trials, the impeachment of President Clinton and the death of Pope John Paul II.

A Los Angeles native, he will inherit the moderator seat at a time when “Meet the Press” has been riding high. During the recently concluded November sweeps period, the show averaged 4.49 million viewers, its best performance in four years, far outstripping ABC’s “This Week,” CBS’ “Face the Nation” and “Fox News Sunday.” With Brokaw at the helm, the program claimed major exclusives during this year’s presidential campaign, including a high-profile interview with former Secretary of State Colin Powell in which he endorsed Barack Obama. The president-elect himself is set to appear on the program this Sunday.

-- Matea Gold

(Photo courtesy NBC)

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