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5 reasons Chelsea Clinton is bombing at NBC News
Hillary and Bill Clinton are at the top of their game. Their daughter, Chelsea, not so much. Why is the "dork diva" of TV news floundering?
 
Chelsea Clinton with Brian Williams on her NBC debut in December: The former First Daughter hasn't clicked in her on-air role as a special commentator on feel-good "news."
Chelsea Clinton with Brian Williams on her NBC debut in December: The former First Daughter hasn't clicked in her on-air role as a special commentator on feel-good "news."
Peter Kramer/NBC

We're in something of a "Clinton renaissance" right now, says Michael Hastings at BuzzFeed. Hillary is a widely respected Secretary of State and "officially Internet famous," and Bill is a "universally beloved" philanthropist and elder statesman. "Then there’s Chelsea Clinton," who finally stepped into the spotlight in December as a special NBC correspondent. Critics call her occasional on-air "Making a Difference" segments boring and anonymous NBC staffers and executives tell Hastings that Clinton is "terrible" on camera, entitled, and short on journalistic chops. Why is TV "dork diva" Chelsea not sharing in the Clinton glow? Here, five theories:

1. Clinton has no TV or journalism experience
NBC News just renewed Chelsea's three-month contract, despite her inexperience and apparent lack of interest in even trying to be a reporter, says Joe Coscarelli at New York. So why would NBC executives who hired her for her "celebrity potential" — "knowing full well she's not particularly charismatic" — be surprised she's not hitting it out of the park? Honestly, "it's just hard to feel bad for anyone involved."

2. Nobody wants to hear about do-gooders
Chelsea's problem is easy to diagnose: According to Hastings' sources, says Hamilton Nolan at Gawker, Team Chelsea set the terms of her hiring — she will cover "only good news, no politics." So, instead of "news," she just "covers boring, vapid stuff," and does so boringly. Come on, she's a Clinton; her only value is in passing on "good gossip" and stories about being a Clinton.

3. But she refuses to get personal
"Almost everyone I spoke to for this story — from within NBC and at other networks as well — agree that that problem is that she won’t talk about the one thing that makes her undeniably compelling," says BuzzFeed's Hastings: What was it like being Chelsea during her father's impeachment and sex scandal? If she doesn't "finally open her soul to public view, paying the required tribute to the media gods," then she's just another smart, well-dressed woman. Seriously? says Rebecca Schoenkopf in Wonkette. NBC staffers don't love Chelsea "because she won't comment on super-relevant and timely Monica Lewinsky"? Then how come that's the part of Hastings' "weird, creepy, prurient" story with no quotes?

4. Nepotism is a bad hiring practice
NBC has a history of employing famous progeny, and in some cases it works out — the late Tim Russert's son, Luke, "has evolved into a superb reporter and an excellent anchor," says Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice. But Chelsea is one of the cases where "nepotism goes wrong," says New York's Coscarelli. The fact that she was hired in the first place is "a grotesque symbol of how nepotistic and celebrity-worshiping the ostensibly populist U.S. 'journalism' establishment has become," says Gawker's Nolan.

5. Forget the sniping, Chelsea's doing fine
Hastings waits until near the end of his hit piece to point out the obvious: Clinton has only been doing this for a few months, and she "deserves a break," says Katie J.M. Baker at Jezebel. He finally quotes a sympathetic NBC executive praising Chelsea as "hardworking" and "taking it very seriously," and calling on everyone to "get a grip." That's good advice. NBC's getting exactly what it hired: A wealthy, well-connected celebrity who does fluff pieces. Let's give her a chance to fulfill the brief, such as it is.

 

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