There are reports today that the CBC has secured a pre-visit interview from US President Barack Obama. Congratulations to the team at the public broadcaster, for any network that’s what they call an exclusive in the biz.
These sorts of of coups are usually a combination of networking, of credibility and of audience, but to be serious, it’s mostly like anything else in politics, media or business; it’s the strong interpersonal contacts that one builds up that open most doors.
This reminds me of when I found myself at the intersection of US politics and the media. Last year, during the election at which Obama would ultimately succeed, his GOP opponent John McCain took a history-making detour to Canada. Never before had a major-party candidate for President visited our country during an election.
Since the event was political, and in Ottawa, the political flacks of this town registered through their centralized guild that is the Parliamentary Press Gallery. Since the press conference would occur off of Parliament Hill and outside of the sphere of control of the Gallery, I called the press office of the McCain campaign. Could a blogger get credentials for a press conference with a presidential candidate? Yes.
During McCain’s speech at the Chateau Laurier a producer from CBC spotted me and was puzzled by my media credentials and asked how I got credentialed. I told them that I called the campaign and easily set it up. The producer then explained that it had been very difficult for them to get a one-on-one interview with the GOP nominee and asked if I could make a call to set up an interview for the CBC. Political capital is a real currency in both Washington and Ottawa. Though I have some friends over at the public broadcaster, I wasn’t about to spend any capital on the CBC that day.
At the press conference, I asked a simple question to get McCain on record for his first foreign trip if he should become President. I asked if it would be Canada, he cracked a joke but then mused seriously, “why not?”
This week President Obama will make that first foreign visit of the 44th Presidency. In the tradition of Presidents Reagan and Clinton, Canada will be his first international destination. And, as in most “gets” in news media, it does come down to who you can get on the phone.
My congratulations to the CBC for their good connections — already established and newly formed — into the Democratic Party, it will serve them well as they cover the Obama administration in Washington. However, nobody was shocked when Fox News scored exclusives with the 43rd man to serve as POTUS during his two terms.
I wouldn’t be surprised if CTV and Canwest are now looking into the rights to such CBC favourites as “Fahrenheit 9/11“, “The World According to Bush“, and “The Unauthorized biography of Dick Cheney: Ascent to Power“. It’s a pity that CBC’s invested capital in “The Arrow“, “Trudeau: The Man, The Myth, The Movie“, “Trudeau II: Maverick in the Making” and “The Fifth Estate: Mulroney” isn’t paying dividends in the domestic market.
FINALLY: Partisan bickering and CBC institutional teasing aside, the Obama interview is a great get and the people who set this up deserve a lot of credit.