Damon: That’s what their strategy was, I think. They wanted their earned media to be focused on the staged event of the day. Even with the TV interviews, they required a 24-hour embargo, so TV stations had to sit on the interviews for 24 hours, so that the news cycle following the visit would be dominated by the speech that was given and the optics of the rally the issues that the campaign wanted to talk about and not the issues that the journalists wanted to raise.
CJR: This is hypothetical since you weren’t offered a one-on-one with either candidate. However, had you been given such an opportunity, would you have agreed to the stipulated embargo?
Damon: I’d have to think about that a little bit. As far as a newspaper interview, if a candidate said something extremely newsworthy, you don’t want to sit on that for 24 hours. But when you’re talking about just sitting down and getting the candidates to open up about issues that are important to readers, the actual Nevada voters, that story doesn’t necessarily have to run that afternoon.
CJR: Moving forward, using the just-concluded campaign as hindsight, is there anything about your team’s reporting strategy you’d like to change during the next election cycle?
Damon: I think, looking back, I would have spent more time talking to voters, because journalism is a two-way street. You are informing the voters on what kind of candidates they have before them and hopefully giving voters enough information to make a wise decision. But it also works the other way. In talking to voters and being knowledgeable reporters in your state, you can inform the candidates, and the people making the decisions, about what the problems are that are being experienced and what voters think is important. Looking back now, I would have carved out more time to do a little more of that voter-to-the-decision-maker reporting.