The strategy behind Obama's local interviews
At first glance, the president's decision to schedule the interviews might seem odd. Instead of sitting down for one interview with a national reporter with a nationwide audience, he's choosing to take more time out of his schedule to sit down with a string of local reporters who reach a much smaller segment of the population. In doing so, he is taking up more of his busy schedule than he otherwise would - and reaching fewer people in the process.
So what's the thinking behind the decision to go local?
For starters, affiliate interviews will often be featured in their entirety on a local newscast, allowing a candidate perhaps four minutes to push his message.
"When the president talks to some of these folks, he doesn't get the average sound bite on the national news, which is...what, eight seconds?" says Democratic political strategist and media consultant Peter Fenn. In a local interview, he says, "you get more than the eight seconds. And you're not just a small part of a larger story, you're a big part of that newscast."
"The look of local news is different than the look of national news to people," adds Republican campaign consultant Roy Fletcher. "It makes people feel a bit included, and it gives [the campaigns] a chance to target a message."
Candidates do not choose the local stations randomly, of course. Most of today's interviews are with reporters in swing states, including those with the three CBS stations on the schedule. Not just that, but they're in media markets that reach the swing voters that will help decide a close race. (That includes conservative Colorado Springs, whose market covers more liberal Pueblo.) Sitting down for a local interview is a way for a candidate to show voters in these areas that he cares about their concerns - and isn't just lumping them in with the rest of the nation.
Local reporters are also seen as less likely to press candidates than national reporters, and more willing to let a candidate push his message without interruption. But local interviews are far from risk free: As Fletcher notes, "There have been some instances where a local reporter got all fired up and created a dilemma for a national candidate."
Last year, Mr. Obama seemed to grow frustrated with a Texas reporter who pressed him during a contentious interview, at one point saying, "Let me finish my answers next time we do an interview, all right?" Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney grew testy when asked about gay marriage and the marijuana by a Colorado reporter in May, asking, "Aren't there issues of significance you would like to talk about?"
The outcome of a local interview, Fletcher says, "just depends on the attitude of the reporter and what that station wants to do - do they want to make local news, or do they want to make trouble."
Fenn notes that the Obama campaign has long been engaged in a "very intense outreach" to local reporters in key areas as part of an effort to get a targeted message disseminated in a local market. He also notes that a relationship between a local news outlet and a national campaign can be mutually beneficial - giving the campaign a chance to push its message, and a local reporter a chance to shine.
"One of the things that happens in this business is that local, hardworking reporters who are out in the hustings find it hard to break through the screen that is the Washington beltway," he says. "You might even call it a fence."
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