For its 6pm broadcast on Thursday, NBC12 ran several minutes from Nobles’s Romney interview interspersed with counter-claims from the Obama campaign’s Ben LaBolt (and no help from Nobles navigating the back-and-forth). “Just a small sample of the big differences between the campaigns in the battle over Virginia, one of the election’s biggest prizes,” concluded Nobles at segment’s end.
Nobles was more aggressive in his questioning of Ryan on Friday (when “NBC12 was granted access to GOP Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan,” as the station’s teaser had it). For example, Nobles asked Ryan about Romney’s statement that he’s never paid less than 13 percent in taxes in any year, and whether Ryan understood that this “perhaps is a low number to most people.” Ryan danced around the point, and said most people aren’t concerned about someone’s tax returns, but Nobles repeated the question. Ryan then noted that Romney paid “what he had to.”
For broadcast, Nobles’s Ryan interview was pared to a bit more than two minutes, and included some “she-said” from Democrat and Richmond delegate Jennifer McLellan on Romney’s Medicare reform plan (she “argues it will still cost seniors more”), Romney’s not-less-than 13 percent tax rate (“attacked as being too low”) and Romney/Ryan’s economic plans generally (“a top-down approach.”) Again, the audience received no help from Nobles navigating the back-and-forth.
Asked about these criticisms, Nobles in an email on Tuesday wrote that one needs to consider the full interview that’s posted online (which has a bit more than 1,000 views) in context with what the station actually aired (which was potentially seen by hundreds of thousands of viewers).
“The vast majority of people who were exposed to our reporting saw a balanced story with a Democratic response that challenged the claims made by the candidate and provided an objective perspective on the issues of the race,” he wrote.
For Nobles, posting the full interview in his blog is an enhancement, added value to the report.
“I obviously put myself in a position to be judged for better or worse by posting the interview in its entirety on the Internet,” he wrote. “It is something I have always done with major newsmakers and it is not something I see major national news outlets doing on a regular basis.”
He acknowledged the criticisms from the left, and also noted that he’s caught flack from the right “from Republicans in email and in phone calls who watched my television coverage of both the Romney interview and the Ryan event/interview who felt it was too critical of the GOP ticket.”
I am confident that we handled the opportunities appropriately and that our viewers were given a well informed perspective on the race for president…That doesn’t mean there isn’t always room for improvement, but to suggest that local television reporters aren’t equipped to handle the responsibility is a misguided view of the way local newsrooms use the content and the way it is consumed.
This won’t be the last time that local reporters here and in other swing states will be “granted exclusive access” to Romney, Ryan, Obama or Biden. The challenge for reporters is to make such interviews—even in the face of format and time constraints, and evasive interviewees—more than an “exclusive” (and largely uninterrupted) recitation of talking points. The candidates, as NBC News 4 Washington’s Julie Carey put it in the intro to her one-on-one with Ryan last Friday, are “determined to stay on message, not make news.”