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Wolf Blitzer Shows How You Press Powerful People in Interview With Nancy Pelosi

Tuesday’s interview is a guide for young journalists in how to comport themselves in an interview with a powerful politician.

Evan Donovan

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This week, Wolf Blitzer put on a clinic on holding powerful people accountable and pushing them for answers when you’re not getting them.

Blitzer interviewed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) on Tuesday about a counteroffer from the White House for a second coronavirus relief package. President Donald Trump seemingly changed his position again — after tweeeting last week that he had “instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election,” he then tweeted the opposite only hours later, urging the House and Senate to “IMMEDIATELY Approve 25 Billion Dollars for Airline Payroll Support, & 135 Billion Dollars for Paycheck Protection Program for Small Business.”

This week, the president was reportedly backing a revised stimulus package.

Blitzer presssed Speaker Pelosi about Americans who are struggling, asking whether she can “look them in the eye Madam Speaker and explain why you don’t want to accept the president’s latest stimulus offer.”

Pelosi retorted that “when you say to me why don’t you accept theirs, why don’t they accept ours?”

The interview quickly went off the rails from there.

Pelosi got very defensive when Blitzer read her a tweet from Ro Khanna, a California congressman, saying that people can’t wait until February — calling Blitzer an “apologist” for the Republican position.

Despite Pelosi’s continuing pushback, Blitzer maintained total calm, displaying complete professionalism throughout the interview. Blitzer kept hounding the point, asking Pelosi “why not work out a deal with [Trump], and not let the perfect, as they say in Washington, be the enemy of the good?”

Blitzer is an accomplished journalist, a former senior White House correspondent for CNN whose career spans six decades. He is no stranger to tough interviews, and has repeatedly proven unflappable in the face of criticism and attacks from both the right and the left.

Tuesday’s interview is a guide for young journalists in how to comport themselves in an interview with a powerful politician.

It also serves as a counter to the continuing attacks on CNN and the “mainstream media” as being deferential to Democratic politicians.

Blitzer proved that he plays no favorites when speaking to Washington’s elite, and his doggedness shows that he is a consummate professional and a television journalist from whom young, aspiring reporters can look up to.

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BNM Writers

Viewership Not as Strong For Biden-Trump II

Douglas Pucci

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The second and final U.S. presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden took place on Thursday, Oct. 22 and across 15 outlets, it drew 62.95 million viewers. While the first Biden-Trump debate from Sep. 29 (73.13 million) ranked as the second most-watched debate in TV history, Biden-Trump II failed to crack the top 15 most-watched debates (placing 17th).

Once more, Fox News Channel — expected to top cable in total viewers for the week ending Oct. 25 — was the top outlet for a debate; Biden-Trump II drew 15.41 million viewers. CNN drew less than half of FNC’s audience figures with 7.51 million viewers but still ranked as runner-up on cable; MSNBC (6.93 million) close behind. 

ABC led the broadcast networks in debate coverage with 11.23 million viewers. The debate’s moderator was NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker which may have led NBC to be the lone network to increase its viewership from the first debate; it drew 10.63 million, up 9 percent from Sep. 29. CBS attracted an audience of 5.72 million.

Here were the half-hour total viewer breakdowns of Biden-Trump II on the broadcast networks:

9:00-9:30 p.m. ET

ABC — 10.881 million

CBS — 5.319 million

NBC — 10.249 million

Univision — 1.288 million

Telemundo— 1.397 million

9:30-10:00 p.m. ET

ABC — 11.648 million

CBS — 6.000 million

NBC — 11.017 million

Univision — 1.506 million

Telemundo— 1.479 million

10:00-10:30 p.m. ET

ABC — 11.248 million

CBS — 5.858 million

NBC — 10.683 million

Univision — 1.501 million

Telemundo— 1.489 million

Unlike Biden-Trump from Sep. 29 and Harris-Pence from Oct. 7, Univision (1.43 million) was Biden-Trump II’s top Spanish-language outlet. Telemundo delivered 1.27 million viewers.

The debate affected the crowd for Fox and NFL Network’s “Thursday Night Football”. Giants-Eagles drew 10.61 million viewers, the smallest audience for TNF in two years.

For the week ending Oct. 18, 2020 in total day data (from 6 a.m. to 5:59 a.m. each day), Fox News Channel led the cable news networks in both viewers (2.38 million) and adults 25-54 (418,000). MSNBC (1.32 million) bested CNN (1.16 million) in total viewers while it was vice versa in the key demo (CNN’s 287,000 adults 25-54 vs. MSNBC’s 207,000 adults 25-54).

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top MSNBC and CNN programs with associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 10/14/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 5.854 million viewers

2. Hannity (FOXNC, Thu. 10/15/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 5.843 million viewers

3. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 10/14/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 5.427 million viewers

4. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 10/13/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 5.326 million viewers

5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 10/13/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 5.159 million viewers

6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 10/12/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 5.129 million viewers

7. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 10/14/2020 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 5.035 million viewers

8. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Thu. 10/15/2020 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.994 million viewers

9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 10/16/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.956 million viewers

10. Hannity (FOXNC, Fri. 10/16/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.710 million viewers

23. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Fri. 10/16/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.872 million viewers

66. CNN Tonight (CNN, Thu. 10/15/2020 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.905 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top MSNBC program with associated rank) among adults 25-54:

1. Hannity (FOXNC, Thu. 10/15/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.158 million adults 25-54

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 10/14/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.076 million adults 25-54

3. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Thu. 10/15/2020 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.051 million adults 25-54

4. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 10/14/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.999 million adults 25-54

5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 10/13/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.988 million adults 25-54

6. CNN Tonight (CNN, Thu. 10/15/2020 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.916 million adults 25-54

7. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 10/13/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.890 million adults 25-54

8. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 10/12/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.883 million adults 25-54

9. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Wed. 10/14/2020 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.853 million adults 25-54

10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 10/16/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.843 million adults 25-54

22. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Thu. 10/15/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.674 million adults 25-54

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BNM Writers

DEBATE PREVIEW: It’s a Thankless Job, and Unfortunately She Has to Do It

The stakes are even more complicated now that the Commission on Presidential Debates has changed the rules.

Evan Donovan

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NBC News White House correspondent Kristin Welker has the job nobody wants tonight.

Welker will try to reign in President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday night in the second and final debate of the 2020 election.

The president attacked Welker on Twitter and in rallies this week, calling her terrible and unfair, setting up a debate showdown with both his opponent and the moderator.

It’s a thankless job for Welker, who will have to corral a president who needs to do well in the debate to shore up what appears to be a several-point disadvantage with less than two weeks of voting left in the election.

Several colleagues and other news personalities came to Welker’s defense this week, but the true grit will come on Thursday night when she will have to tightrope between keeping personalities in check and not becoming part of the story of the night. 

The stakes are even more complicated now that the Commission on Presidential Debates has changed the rules.

Just as in the first debate, the debate will be 90-minutes long divided into six 15-minute segments. Each candidate will deliver uninterrupted remarks in response to a question from the moderator at the beginning of each segment. Then the debate will move to an ‘open discussion’ period for the remainder of the 15 minutes.

What’s different this time is that the mics will be muted during the 2-minute answer period for each candidate. They will not be muted during open discussion.

This is where things will get tricky for Welker.

The president, anxious to make his points and make up ground on Biden, will likely be even more aggressive during the open discussion. Their personalities are starkly different without the pressure of playing catch-up. 

How will Welker react if Trump simply talks over Biden and dominates his time during the open discussion? 

Interruptions will “count toward their time,” but again, that puts the pressure back on Welker. She becomes the center of the evening at a time when public trust of the media is at or near all-time lows, and one candidate is actively undermining trust in the media at-large and this moderator specifically.

It’s a job nobody would want, but Welker is a seasoned professional. 

Here’s wishing her luck.

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BNM Writers

Capitalizing on Debate Season

Your station carrying not only the presidential debate, but also carrying debates in statewide races, can grow and keep your audience tuned in.

Pete Mundo

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The election season always brings opportunities for news talk stations to shine. The audience knows they can go to you for the latest information, news and events. I’d imagine there won’t be a news talk station (that isn’t fully syndicated) that won’t carry this week’s second and final Presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. 

It’s relatively easy to do, it’s great for branding and it hopefully draws you some cume during a time of day when your station might not typically get it. 

But what about carrying debates from some of your local races? 

It seems like debates at the state level are happening less and less each election cycle. Political consultants are convincing campaigns that it’s only the blunders that get remembered and the campaigns flush with cash are better off letting their TV and radio ads do the storytelling for them. Whether you are Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, that’s a disservice to the voter. But it’s the way things are trending, unfortunately. Incumbent favorites usually find every reason to not debate their opponents. 

So when a debate does occur, how can your radio station capitalize on it? And should you carry it? 

Here in Kansas City on KCMO Talk Radio, we will be airing a congressional debate on Thursday, October 22nd, between incumbent Democrat Sharice Davids and Republican challenger Amanda Adkins. The seat that was Republican for nearly a decade until 2018, when the House of Representative’s “Blue Wave” hit Kansas’ third district. As a news talk station, our conservative audience would love nothing more than to flip the seat back into Republican hands. 

Also, the seat covers essentially the entire side of the KC Metro in Kansas. Unlike in Top 5 or Top 10 markets, where congressional districts, for example in the Dallas-Fort Worth market can include up to, or more than, 10 congressional seats, the Third District of Kansas is the bulk of the Kansas side of the KC Metro and is a relevant race to a huge part of the listening audience.

With that being said, we elected to carry the Third District debate this week which is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. There was some hesitancy as it is in the middle of Ben Shapiro’s afternoon drive show, and Ben is performing well on the station, but considering the percentage of the audience that lives in this district, combined with the fact that it’s the only debate between the two candidates, we decided to move forward.

Also, it gives us a great branding opportunity as Thursday being “Debate Day” and a “Two-Fer”, as listeners will get our local, Third District debate at 5:30 p.m. and then later that evening the Presidential Debate at 8:00 p.m. We’ve used that branding on our website and social media.   

The lead up to the event will be just as important, if not arguably more important, than the debate itself. All week long, we’ve been able to push on the station via promos, liners, imaging, etc. our ability to cover the local and national races better than any station in the Metro, while branding ourselves as the station, politically, where “if it’s happening in KCMO, it’s on KCMO”. Thursday’s debate will be another example of coming through on that promise in a way no other station in the market will be.

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