Sandra Endo on Flirting Candidates, “Colorful” Bush Comments, and Convention-Week Massages

Sandra Endo

Sandra Endo covers local, state and national politics for NY1, where she has worked since 1998. Endo has covered Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the race to succeed him, Hillary Clinton’s run for Senate, and the 2000 presidential election. She discussed the campaign with Campaign Desk by email as part of our ongoing series of interviews with reporter and commentators covering the election.

Liz Cox Barrett: One of the major storylines that came from reporters at the Democratic Convention in Boston is that there was no story, conventions produce no news, they’re so tightly stage-managed, etc. Will this storyline prevail next week as well — where will you look for news, for stories?

Sandra Endo: Conventions do have the feel of a major Broadway production. Scripted, produced, rehearsed. Reporters hope something will happen, something will be said, something off-script, something, anything, that will make news. Bush’s personality differs from Sen. John Kerry so there is a possibility he may saying something colorful. Without holding our breath, there will be plenty of stories to tell, because we are in New York. From unprecedented security measures, political dynamics of the first Republican convention in an overwhelmingly Democratic town, to city labor issues, to the economics of it all. And then there are the transportation issues, businesses, and don’t forget, protests and more protests. These stories matter to New Yorkers, if not the rest of the country.

LCB: What can you, as a local television reporter covering the Republican National Convention, do better than the bigfoot networks?

SE: As a political reporter for NY1, New York City’s 24-hour cable, I report for a daily live one-hour political show called “Inside City Hall.” We know the issues important to New York, we know the local players, they know us, we cover them every day. We also know the city, all five boros, the neighborhoods within them, their makeup, the people. And we’d like to think New Yorkers know us. With that connection, we add a dimension to our coverage national and even bigger local networks can’t match.

Of course, we will report the political angle of the RNC on a national scale, down to the local leaders New Yorkers know and elected. We will also cover the effects of RNC, at the most local and intimate level: the transportation concerns, security issues, how local businesses are affected. Plus, the many protests planned, where they are being held, and where to go to avoid them. So whether a New Yorker is into politics or not, most likely the RNC will affect their lives somehow, and we’ll be there to provide the information they need to know.

LCB: What do you think the biggest lesson of the 2000 campaign was for the political media?

SE: The 2000 campaign showed us anything can happen in the world of politics, but at the same time, it showed us that it is more important to get the story right than to get it first. There is so much pressure in calling an election or in breaking news, but the chance of getting it wrong is much more damaging in the long run. Tarnished credibility lasts for much longer than bragging rights. As the election results unfolded four years ago, it exposed the complexities of the election process and the flaws of the system more starkly than in the past. All of a sudden, the stories of flawed procedures and ballots, voter disenfranchisement, the role of the electoral college and the courts, were given the weight they deserve. Those issues can no longer be buried or ignored.

LCB: What are some of the main differences you’ve seen this election year versus 2000 — in terms of the particular personalities involved in the campaigns, your ability to get information from or gain access to the campaigns, etc.?

SE: The players are certainly different this time around. George W. Bush is an incumbent. The Democrats are fired up and united. The Nader factor, not as strong. So the dynamics are different. Yet, in terms of access, the dynamics are pretty similar. The candidates mainly come to New York to raise money. Democrats know the state will likely go to them and given sheer numbers, there are more democratic surrogates around to talk. However, because there is a Republican Governor and Mayor, and with the convention in town, it shakes things up a bit. It keeps the Republican presence fresh and active. But in the end, New York is not a battleground state so candidates drop by to flirt, but don’t invest their time in a love affair.

The issue of homeland security has made this year a little different. It’s an issue that squarely concerns New York so information and access in that arena is a bit more open and fluid. The bottom line is, presidential campaigns have become so restricted and staged that candidates rarely take questions from the press. Clarifications and positions are explained by campaign managers and spokespeople. That is not unique to this year, but I sense it could be getting worse.

LCB: The New York Times ran a piece last month about the various concierge services that will be available to reporters at the convention — from dry cleaning and shoe shines to last-minute dinner reservations at hot restaurants. Which services do you think will be most popular among campaign reporters (feel free to name names) and which services do you plan to make use of?

SE: I just did a story on the amenities available in the Farley Post Office, the media center. Aside from the elaborate concierge service, Barney’s New York has a mini-boutique and spa set up inside, massages, haircuts and manicures are available, there’s gourmet food from Mitchell London, and a pool table to play on. While it’s thoughtful and ingenious for the host committee to be so considerate, I laughed at the thought of me being able to get my nails done in the middle of the convention. I think I would be fired first if I had that much down time! But for out-of-towners, or journalists without multiple daily deadlines, I think they should go out and enjoy a good meal. Information on tours, shows, and spas would be key too. I think for me, the best service they could provide, is someone to schedule my comp time.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.