Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Curse of Celebrity

Does anyone really think that Jenna Bush Hager would be getting a job as correspondent for NBC's Today show if she weren't the daughter of a former US President?

Anyone? Anyone at all?

Yeah, didn't think so.

And actually, that could well be a horribly unfair judgment. Having done a little work on both sides of this particular aisle, I know there are lots of young newshounds out there that are quite skilled and capable. Many have little experience because this is a tough business to get work in... competition is perennially fierce in journalism...but are nonetheless have inborn talent. Talent that can refined nicely with a little seasoning.

That said, I don't buy for one second that Jenna has that talent. The reason why is that Jenna is essentially starting out at the top...the Today show...but is given a lousy monthly gig so that even when (not if) she sucks the air out of the room, she's only doing it once per month.

And she will suck, count on that. Everyone does, no matter how talented, when they get started. Even journalists experienced in other media almost always suck big-time for the first several rounds when they start on radio or TV. The good ones get better after a half-dozen tries, and then gradually get better and better until they hit the limit of their talent - whatever that is.

A prime example is Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report. Despite his long experience with TV, and several years essentially playing the same character on The Daily Show, the first month or two of TCR was riddled with screwups and flat takes. But pretty soon Colbert found a rhythm and, you know, started winning Emmys and Peabody Awards.

If Bush Hager were really talented (not to mention serious about TV journalism) they'd started her on a smaller scale where she could be more free to screw up and learn from it. If she had the talent, I'm sure within a year she'd be ready enough for a monthly segment, certainly.

But the fact that she's getting the brass ring from day one says she's a political appointment meant to suck up to some funder or politico somewhere. And Today viewers are the ones paying for it.

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