Chelsea Clinton's 'Rock Center' Debut: What the Critics Are Saying

12:49 PM PST 12/13/2011 by Erin Carlson
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Her first day on the job as an NBC news correspondent is drawing mixed reviews from media critics.

Hire Chelsea Clinton as on-air talent, and watch the pundits pounce.

The First Daughter-turned-journalist, 31, made her first cameo Monday night on Rock Center With Brian Williams, presenting a 'Making a Difference" segment about Annette Dove, who runs an after-school program for impoverished children in Arkansas. In a tepid yet diplomatic review, New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley observed: "Ms. Clinton is a little self-conscious on camera and doesn’t have the kind of richly modulated anchor voice most television reporters acquire, but that actually gave her piece a more natural feel -- like a video blog on Current TV."

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"She did just fine," said Vulture's Noreen Malone. "No flubs, no ill-advised tangents -- though when Clinton addressed Dove with 'Yes, ma'am,' it wasn't the most natural-seeming thing in the world, despite her Southern roots."

Meanwhile, other pundits were more brutal. Take, for example, this review by the Washington Post's Hank Stuever: "It’s no surprise whatsoever that Chelsea Clinton didn’t electrify broadcast journalism with her debut Monday night on NBC’s Rock Center With Brian Williams, because she has no experience in broadcast journalism. ... Rather, what was surprising to see on Monday night’s show is how someone can be on TV in such a prominent way and, in her big moment, display so very little charisma — none at all. Either we’re spoiled by TV’s unlimited population of giant personalities or this woman is one of the most boring people of her era."

In the opinion of Newsday's Verne Gay, Clinton "seems like a very nice young woman" who's "obviously bright." But "there was nothing else that necessarily dismissed charges (mostly by TV critics, although they were not alone) that she got this job because of that name," Gay wrote. "Her voice -- the first time most of us have even heard it -- was pleasing and plummy, but monochromatic; in the obligatory crosstalk with Williams following her report on Arkansas social worker Annette Dove, she exhibited the spontaneity of any TV rookie."

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Clinton, who gives off an air of professionalism and poise, might have to loosen up a bit in order to win over critics.

"Chelsea doesn't 'pop' off the screen, to use an industry term -- her demeanor is reserved, she doesn't project her voice like a broadcaster. Not that most viewers probably care," said Howard Kurtz of The Daily Beast. "Her best moments were in the subsquent conversation with Williams. Though slightly nervous, she seemed sincere, and her careful cadence, empathetic gaze, and beaming smile were instantly reminiscent of Hillary."

 

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