Jake Tapper (Courtesy of ABC)
Jake Tapper is an ABC News correspondent based in Washington. Previously, he was the Washington correspondent for Salon, a columnist for Talk magazine, and a senior writer for the Washington City Paper. He is the author of two books: Down and Dirty: The Plot to Steal the Presidency, a look at the 2000 Florida recount, and Body Slam: The Jesse Ventura Story. He discussed the campaign with us as part of our ongoing series of interviews with reporters and commentators about the election.
Brian Montopoli: First off, do you think Kerry’s gotten a fair shake from the press? How has his treatment compared to the way Al Gore was treated in 2000?
Jake Tapper: Former Senator Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., once said to me, regarding Gore, “How on earth do you lose three debates with George Bush?”
Now ask yourself — is that statement unfair to Gore? Or is it unfair to Bush? Or both? Or neither?
The “fairness” of the media is so incredibly dependant upon the one making the judgment. The press has been aggressively pursuing information about Senator Kerry — sometimes that may not seem fair, and indeed sometimes in individual circumstances it hasn’t been. But I think the press has been just as aggressive when covering the Bush Administration, and there are moments I don’t think we’ve been fair there, either.
I generally think to speak of “the media” and “coverage” is just too vague. You can talk about individual stories or individual reporters but doing so in general creates sweeping inaccuracies.
BM: During the 2000 campaign, you were writing for Salon, often cranking out thousands of words per day. Now you’re on ABC, and you’ve got to do your reporting in brief segments that give you a lot less opportunity to explore issues in depth. What are the pros and cons of your new role as compared to your old? And are there specific issues you’d be exploring these days if you still had the freedom you had at Salon?