“Meet the Press” executive producer Betsy Fischer says she comes by her love of politics naturally: She’s a native of New Orleans, and in Louisiana, “Politics is a sport.”
Thinking she would be a lawyer, she headed for Washington, capital of American politics, where she eventually would learn she was not political.
“What I like about politics is politics.” she said. “I like the debate.”
Her road to her ideal job started when she was a junior at American University. Browsing through a list of student internships, she spotted the listing for “Meet the Press” at the NBC News bureau a couple of blocks away.
“I can sleep late and walk to work in the morning,” she thought.
Two internships later, she graduated in May 1992, was sent to the Democratic National Convention in New York that summer and by fall was a full-time researcher on “Meet the Press.” She also would earn a master’s in broadcast journalism at AU while working on the show.
Working her way up the ranks, Ms. Fischer was named executive producer of the longest-running program in the history of TV in 2002.
“She has an extraordinary knowledge of the program,” said Tim Russert, who took over as “Meet’s” moderator and managing editor in 1991, the year before Ms. Fischer became a permanent staffer.
Mr. Russert says he has “complete confidence in her editorial judgment and integrity.”
He said the rare occasions on which they may seem at cross-purposes inevitably arise from a situation such as when he wonders why they didn’t have a guest he saw on another Sunday newsmaker show and she replies: “Well, because I suggested them two weeks ago and you weren’t interested.”
“She holds her ground, and I respect her for it,” Mr. Russert said.
“One thing I learned from the get-go here is: Be prepared,” Ms. Fischer said. “Tim is the expert at it.”
Ms. Fischer, a petite and energetic woman with a 3,000-name contact file, has Mondays and Tuesdays off, so those are the days she does business lunches. She spends most of the week trying to anticipate what the hottest topics will be by Sunday and booking and preparing accordingly.
By Friday evening, the show is pretty much set, so Saturday is “a clean up and get ready day.”
On Sundays, she’s in the office by 5 or 5:30 a.m., reading the day’s newspapers and the coming week’s newsmagazines and making last-minute changes. There’s a rehearsal with Mr. Russert, who arrives at about 6:45, does affiliate teases (a handful customized, the rest generic) and a live exchange with “Sunday Today.” She greets the guests in the green room. All guests are told to arrive at 8:30 for the show, which starts at 9 but isn’t seen until later in most East Coast markets.
She’s almost always out soon after 10 a.m., in time to catch Ella Elizabeth, her 5-year-old daughter with tax attorney husband Gene Raineri, in Angel Choir at church.
“It’s a wonderful job. I love it every day,” Ms. Fischer said.
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