LCB: I noticed a paragraph you wrote in a recent story about Lamont that read: “… Lamont is hardly the seasoned politician. He conducts one-on-one interviews without handlers, although one aide recently interrupted him during a telephone interview just as he was going to answer a question about what his most bizarre campaign moment has been. His attention was pulled away to the aide, who could be heard in the background. ‘What? Don’t tell that story?’ Lamont said to the aide, repeating the advice he was being given. He didn’t tell the story.” How would you describe the access reporters had to the candidate? Did it change over the course of the campaign?
NV: Lamont’s entourage has grown as he has become more of a household name, as one would expect. He has remained relatively accessible throughout the campaign, however. A lot of people like to draw analogies to Lamont and Jimmy Stewart’s character in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. One blogger even superimposed Lamont’s picture in footage from the movie. It’s clearly evident that Lamont’s supporters like his aw-shucks anti-establishment persona.
LCB: During the 2004 presidential campaign, reporters received countless opposition research-type emails each day from both candidates, the RNC, the DNC and others, along the lines of, “John Kerry drives an SUV!” Was this true of the Lamont-Lieberman contest as well? How would you characterize the tone of the race overall?
NV: Flooded inbox comes to mind. I spent an hour the other day moving campaign-related emails from my inbox to a special folder. You never know when you might need them. I received a number of emails and telephone calls, trying to plant stories about the opposition or wanting to know why we were not covering certain campaign events. I even got called on the golf course on a day off. If covering the primary race taught me anything, it was to treat these overtures cautiously.
LCB: What are some misperceptions the outside media has of Greenwich? How do you think the town is generally portrayed by outside media?
NV: Without fail, not a day would go by during the primary race that we’d get a chuckle about some of our competitors’ characterizations of Greenwich. The words leafy, toney and WASP come to mind. And then there was the newspaper that referred to Lamont as “liberal moneybags.” Those newspapers are writing for a different audience, however. We do community journalism, and every once in a while, which, luckily, is pretty often these days, the story goes national.
Greenwich is no doubt a wealthy town, but, at the same time, it’s got its share of people working multiple jobs to scrape by and seniors on fixed incomes. Many of its elderly residents are rich in property — they bought in before the real estate boom — but cash-poor.
LCB: Finally, is it possible to live in Greenwich on a reporter’s salary?
NV: Not exactly. Some apartments here rent for $2,500 a month. Someone once told me your monthly rent should not exceed your gross weekly pay. Throw that one out.
I am one of the fortunate few who have been able to find reasonable housing here. Living in the town you cover makes a big difference.