Lost in the ongoing kerfuffle over whether Chelsea Clinton is qualified to report human interest segments for NBC News, and whether her hiring represents a conflict of interest for the network, seems to be a quality question: is the very private daughter of the man who was president more than a decade ago actually a draw for anyone? I kind of get the Meghan McCain thing as entertainment, if not as news — she’s got a well-cultivated personality, she’s built a following on social media; at the USA Network-The Moth storytelling event I went to earlier this fall, she comported herself with a winning degree of sophistication and self-deprecation. But I don’t know that anyone tunes in to MSNBC for her.
And it’s even more bewildering to think that people would tune in for Chelsea Clinton. One of the more admirable things the Clintons ever did as parents was to fight hard to protect Chelsea’s privacy, especially at a time when Bill’s behavior was inviting withering media scrutiny. As an adult, she kept to that pattern, working a series of bland private sector jobs and venturing out only to campaign for her mother in 2008. I looked at some of her wedding pictures (Hillary rocked a really awesome caftan in the days beforehand) in a cursory way. But the same preservation of her privacy and stringent avoidance of public life or public service that don’t make her a particularly qualified journalist don’t make her a particularly interesting person either. I have no idea what Chelsea Clinton’s unique lens on the world is, and nothing about the deal with NBC has made it seem like I should really care. I say this not to be callous, but to suggest it’s puzzling that the network would pursue a hire that invites disapproval without a clear upside.