Covering the Candidates
The Iowa caucuses will be here soon ... so you could imagine
the traffic of presidential hopefuls we've seen come through
in the last six months. Being from the Washington D.C. area...naturally
I'm a political junkie... but when it comes to candidates...I
found out knowing politics is simply not enough.
You've got to know how to get what you need by working them...otherwise
they'll work you!
Before covering any candidate there is one thing to remember.
They HAVE to answer your questions.
My encounters so far have been mostly with those running
for President- Howard Dean, John Kerry, John Edwards, Dennis
Rule # 1:Don't ever let a campaign aid tell you their candidate
doesn't have enough time to talk.
These are all people that want your vote...all people that
must answer the questions on issues that matter. Questions
that will vary depending where you live.
There's a bigger picture here....they're not questions they
need to answer for YOU, they are questions for the people...the
viewer...it is our duty as journalists to ask what Earl and
Betty in the nursing home couldn't and want to know.
And if an aide tells you ..they just don't have time...you
tell them that's unacceptable.
If they refuse...make sure you have your photographer rolling....then
you have a whole 'nother story. If they won't talk...then
that's what you report. Especially if it's at a staged event...i.e.
Senator X reading to third graders in the schools library.
We're not here to give them a free ad.
At KMEG I've interviewed nearly all the democratic presidential
hopefuls...some on numerous occasions. It never fails that
upon my arrival an aide hands me a release with what so and
so is doing...and why. That's great...but then it's my turn
to look over it and ask the hard questions. Sometimes they're
tough...and sometimes my interviewee doesn't like them...but
if there's anything for certain...all questions asked are
For example: On the issue of healthcare one politician advertises
all Americans should get the same healthcare Congress gives
itself. When I saw him I asked...what kind of healthcare do
you have...do you pay for your meds...what's your monthly
premiums...and by the way....what's the fiscal note on this
plan to guarantee every American the same healthcare you get
and how do you plan to afford it as President.
So many a time, I'll be with reporters that ask questions
like "What's it gonna take to win Iowa?"..."Can
you afford to lose Iowa"....well of course you know the
answer to that. 99% of the time I guarantee ALL candidates
would say ...that doesn't matter because "I'm gonna win"...or
my favorite: "I'll see you on victory night". These
questions give the viewer nothing new...nothing useful. They're
tuning in to find out how this person will benefit them and
just remember...they expect YOU to find it out!