David Zurawik: NBC Hiring Chelsea Clinton a 'Journalistically Bankrupt Decision'

December 18th, 2011 4:19 PM

Baltimore Sun television critic David Zurawik on Sunday called NBC hiring Chelsea Clinton a "journalistically-bankrupt decision."

Talking to CNN's Howard Kurtz about Clinton's debut, Zurawik said if she's been preparing for this all her life "it's been a largely wasted life" (video follows with transcript and commentary):

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: Let me turn to Chelsea Clinton who made her debut this week on NBC's "Rock Center." Let's take a brief look at how that went.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chelsea, We're so glad to have you.

CHELSEA CLINTON, NBC NEWS: So glad to be here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to ask Miss Chelsea if she will do the first demonstration for us.

CLINTON: Oh, dear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You really don't cook, Chelsea, do you?

CLINTON: Not a lot. I'm working on it.

She recently had been to cajoling me and challenging me to do more with my life, to live more of a purposely public life, that being Chelsea Clinton had happened to me and that I had a responsibility to do something with that as an opportunity.


KURTZ: Chelsea talking about her late grandmother, Dorothy Rodham. And earlier she had profiled this woman in Arkansas who works with underprivileged kids. So Marisa, you're - you have a license to review television. How did Chelsea do?

MARISA GUTHRIE, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Like an amateurish - I mean, look, the cognitive dissonance on that particular edition of "Rock Center" was interesting, because here, you had Ted Koppel, career that spans, what, half a century - towering figure in broadcast journalism in Iraq.

And here, the very next segment, was this very earnest Chelsea Clinton talking to a lovely woman in Arkansas. But it felt like, you know, a college - something you would see on a college television station.

DAVID ZURAWIK, BALTIMORE SUN: Steve Capus, president of NBC News, in his shameless hype for this journalistically-bankrupt decision, said it's as if Chelsea has been preparing all her life for this thing.

Based on the first show we saw, if that's true, it's been a largely wasted life. And as mean as that might sound, I don't take it back. Really, this was it. It wasn't just the style that Marisa talked about -

KURTZ: She wasn't that bad, and network television does a lot of these tough pieces.

ZURAWIK: No, no. This story - this story took a woman - and I know nothing about her, but I looked some of it up. Chelsea said she has given every dollar to this charity, and that's why she's bankrupt.

Well, nobody checked that out, for goodness sake. Who gives every dollar to the charity, number one? Number two, she said, oh, she quit a big educational job to dedicate herself to this.

I did a little surfing on the Web to try to find out - she was the youth leader at her church. It wasn't like she was the school superintendent of Little Rock.

KURTZ: OK. Got to wrap this up.

ZURAWIK: Howie, this is a journalistic piece that was really shameless by NBC trying to do this.


ZURAWIK: This is the difference between "60 Minutes" and the and Brian Williams' show. "60 Minutes" would not do this kind of stuff.

GUTHRIE: It would be interesting to see the CBS - the old school newsies at CBS News would eat her alive. It would be some blonde hair on the sidewalk -

KURTZ: I've got to -

ZURAWIK: We're warming up, Howie.

KURTZ: I've got to pull the plug on you, guys. Marisa Guthrie, David Zurawik - look, maybe she'll get better. It was only her first story.

Seems like Howie was rather uncomfortable with the criticism of Chelsea.

Hard to blame him. He does work for the Clinton News Network, you know.