How Good Was Caldwell's 'Get'?
Rob hobnobs: Rob Caldwell, co-host of WCSH-TV’s and WLBZ-TV’s magazine show “207,” scored a “get” (industry talk for an interview with a sought-after figure) on Sept. 10, when he hooked up via satellite with Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
Caldwell was obviously well prepared for the occasion, asking pointed questions about national security, vice-residential pick Sarah Palin’s qualifications and the passing over of Maine senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins for the veep slot. Even though he failed to follow up on a couple of topics, he elicited a number of revealing answers and even caught McCain in an inconsistency or two. Solid work.
Big-time bloggers took note, although the Huffington Post, in chiding McCain for some minor errors, managed to get the name of Caldwell’s station wrong.
A couple of people have contacted me gushing about the story and suggesting I single Caldwell out for praise. “Rob was much tougher on McCain than any national TV reporter I've seen,” one of his fans wrote to my editor. “The guy has some chops.”
I can understand this adoration, even if I don’t agree with it. It’s so rare to see a competent local TV interview that when one comes along there’s a tendency among viewers to crank the praise dial all the way up to superlative.
Take a deep breath, folks. This is the way all interviews are supposed to be conducted. Your threshold for excellence has been tamped down because so many TV reporters attempt to interrogate people without doing any homework. They often don’t appear to have a clue about a story’s background, a subject’s role in it, or the difference between breaking new ground and rehashing what’s already been reported elsewhere. As long as they have video of the accident scene and a couple of taking heads saying almost anything, they figure they’ve done their jobs.
Caldwell approached the McCain interview with a measure of professionalism that ought to be the industry standard, rather than a rarity. He didn’t raise the bar, but maybe he’ll inspire others to stop banging their well-coifed heads on it every time they stick a microphone in somebody’s face.
Wack’s back: Kevin Wack, the former Portland Press Herald political reporter, has a new – although temporary – gig. Wack took a voluntary buyout offer during the Press Herald’s June round of layoffs and has moved on to the blogosphere.
Those of us who recall Wack’s anemic efforts at blogging on the Press Herald’s Web site might be less than excited, but, if the early postings on the new blog are any indication, we’ll have to reassess. Wack’s latest work is sharp and informed, offering original insights (did you know that in all of Maine’s history, no 1st Congressional District representative – the position Allen currently holds – has ever won a Senate seat? I didn’t) and frequent updates. It’s a welcome addition to this year’s otherwise-thin political coverage.
Better enjoy it while you can, though. After the election, Wack is scheduled to start a nine-month fellowship program for journalists on Capitol Hill. After that, he said, “I'll be looking for work, and I don't know whether I'll be back in Maine.”
Press compressed: The Maine Press Association, the industry group that represents the state’s paid-circulation dailies and weeklies, is attempting to interest its members in news sharing. While some papers are already swapping stories on a limited basis (the Bangor Daily News and the Lewiston Sun Journal, for instance), the MPA envisions a more elaborate system that might help pick up the slack for publications that can no longer afford to cover as much as they once did.
Ben Marrison, editor of the Columbus Dispatch, will discuss how news outlets in his state set up the Ohio News Organization (which goes by the unfortunate acronym OHNO) to share stories.
One other note on the MPA event: The keynote speaker will be Lou Ureneck, chairman of Boston University’s Department of Journalism.
Ureneck is also a former editor of the Portland Press Herald, which should give him an interesting perspective on the current turmoil at his old stomping ground.
Mess assessed: Speaking of the Press Herald, the latest spasm in the ongoing battle between the paper’s owner and its largest union came on Sept. 10, when the two sides agreed to speed up the arbitration process.
The dispute centers around whether the Newspaper Guild’s contract with the paper remains in effect if the paper is sold. Blethen Maine Newspapers, the Press Herald’s owner, claims that forcing a potential buyer to accept the deal, which runs through 2011, would make it impossible to sell the Press Herald. Blethen sued the Guild in June in federal court seeking to have a judge declare that the contract didn’t apply to any new owners or to force the union to expedited arbitration to settle the issue.
The two sides are scheduled to report back to the court early next year, but Blethen has said it must settle the issue before then, because it’s continuing to lose money.
According to publisher Charles Cochrane, “The resolution of this matter will help bring certainty that will hopefully allow us to advance the sale exploration process.”
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.