Chuck Todd never saw it coming.
NBC’s fast-rising political director — named today as chief White House correspondent — was “shocked” when he was offered the plum late last week.
“It came out of left field,” says Todd, 36, who joined NBC in March 2007. “It’s not a job I aspired to, and I don’t mean it negatively. There were 500 different ways I thought they could go.
“I never viewed myself as a correspondent. I didn’t even view myself as a TV guy.”
He does now. With President-elect Obama about to move in, the White House is arguably the best beat in journalism. Still, Todd says he spent last weekend “trying to talk myself out of it.”
His primary concern was the travel. The father of two young children, Todd “had heard the horror stories” about its effect on families.
He consulted with his White House predecessor, David Gregory, moderator of “Meet the Press,” and with anchor Brian Williams, another ex-White House correspondent. Both are dedicated dads.
“They both said the job can consume you,” Todd says. “You draw your lines.”
Under his new four-year deal, he will retain his title as political director. He will appear frequently on “MTP,” where he was named a contributing editor.
For Todd, a 15-year veteran of the National Journal’s highly-respected “Hotline,” the closer was that NBC “assured me that my mission wouldn’t change. My strength is making people understand why something matters.”
Translation: Providing context is equally important as breaking news. Todd did both for NBC’s election coverage, becoming its No. 1 political analyst following the sudden death of Tim Russert in June.
Todd says he was tickled by media mentions of him as a possible successor to Russert on “MTP.”
“It was fun to see my name speculated about…It’s a pretty big, amazing job, but I only had eyes for one job – political director at NBC.”
Now, Todd accepts that he’s a real TV guy…”as long as they don’t make me shave the beard. I’m truly going to have a no-cut contract.”
Without his whiskers, “I’d just be another pasty white guy,” he says. “I’m very thankful that my friend Mr. Capus [NBC News chief Steve Capus] enjoys facial hair on his own chin.”