Published November 29, 2011
NBC News recently raised eyebrows when it announced a new addition to its reporting family – the daughter of a former U.S. President and the reigning Secretary of State.
Chelsea Clinton was hired and given the title “full-time correspondent” and is slated to work with “Rock Center with Brian Williams” and “NBC Nightly News” to spotlights stories within the network’s "Making a Difference" franchise, which acknowledges various individuals and organizations making a commendable difference in the United States and across the world.
The RUB? The Stanford University alumni, who graduated with a B.A in history and went on to work for an American investment firm, doesn’t technically have “journalist” among her list of qualifications.
In the recent edition of The Hollywood Reporter Magazine, media analyst Andrew Tyndall slammed the news organization for hiring an “imposter," suggesting that the high-profile human resources move was actually sending an implicit message to viewers that the quality of journalism NBC News delivers “is such a low standard that a rank amateur is qualified to stand in front of our cameras, just as long as she has a famous last name.”
NBC News President, Steve Capus, has since come forth to defend Clinton’s new position, which had some questioning the ethics of whether it was a vanity hire and/or plain and simple marketing move.
“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,” he told TV Guide’s “The Biz” last week, confirming that she would not be attached to political or breaking news. “I want to draw on her remarkable experience and have her tell stories that she feels strongly about.”
However, Clinton, 31, is not the first – and most likely will not be the last – political spawn to score a coveted journalism job in a major market. Jenna Bush Hagar was hired as a correspondent for “Today,” Senator John McCain’s daughter Meghan was also recently employed by NBC News as contributor on MSNBC, and Ronald Reagan, Jr., joined Air America to host his own nationally-syndicated talk radio show.
So what’s the appeal in hiring political kids? And is it fair for them to be taking jobs from what skeptics call “real journalists”?
"The children of high profile politicos are the quintessential media royalty. They are the triple threat for news networks because they offer a strong political background, recognizable name with an established fan base, and connections to the most powerful people in the world,” political publicist and media commentator Angie Meyer told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “But it does come across as bias for a news organization to choose someone like a Chelsea Clinton, or Megan McCain over a lesser known talent with more experience. It's all about ratings in the news world - recognizable political names sell advertising - it's just the way it is. Hiring the heirs of political royalty is basically a ratings gold mine."
Rachel Ehrenfeld, Ph.D, Director of the American Center for Democracy, said that growing up in and around the ranks of Capitol Hill doesn’t suddenly make one skilled in the field of journalism and apt in delivering news to American households.
“A good journalist was born with curiosity, writing talent and integrity. Unfortunately, the media today focuses on celebrities. As such, children of political, entrainment, business and social celebrities have the advantage of name recognition and easier access to news sources other celebrities,” she explained. “That however doesn't necessarily translate to good journalism.”
On the flipside, Ronn Torossian, CEO of New York-based communications firm 5WPR and author of the recently released public relations book “For Immediate Release,” noted that having children with political last names among the American journalism pool actually adds credibility and value to our national media.
“Kids of political candidates have an immediate insider's understanding of politics and are primarily well educated, well spoken people who understand what it means to be out front and center in the media. On top of the immediate PR value of hiring a Clinton or McCain, one also assumes they are bringing relationships with them day one to the job,” Torossian added. “Just as JFK launched George Magazine, Chris Cuomo is today a major ABC host, so too should there be no surprise that Chelsea Clinton has been hired. I'd expect to see it continue and is part of the American media and political systems continued intertwining."