This week, two of Washington’s most tenacious reporters are trying something similar over lunch in an interesting collaboration that blurs the line between online and broadcast reporting.
Politico’s Chief White House Correspondent Mike Allen and ABC News Senior Political Correspondent Jonathan Karl grilled Alaskan senatorial candidate Joe Miller in a two-part web video posted on both the Politico and ABC News websites. They dubbed the experiment “The Scoop.”
In his widely read daily blog “Playbook,” which previews Washington’s news agenda, Mr. Allen wrote that he and Mr. Karl have been taking sources to off-the-record lunches together since 2001. Most took place at the Bombay Club, a trendy restaurant across Lafayette Park from the White House, or in the cafeteria in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
What is unusual is having reporters from competing news organizations share the screen in a high profile interview. Mr. Miller ran as a "tea party" insurgent and defeated the incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski to land the Republican nomination. Senator Murkowski is now mounting a write-in campaign.
In an email, Karl said “The Scoop is a one-time experiment we hope will become something more.” A clip from the Miller interview was part of Karl’s Monday appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America.
Karl described the project as “a chance do something different and take some chances you can’t necessarily take on a regular broadcast. This format allows for a conversation that is both informal and in-depth.”
The Monitor Breakfasts are now recorded and made available to news outlets through a partnership with Fora.tv.
The Miller interview, divided into two segments, runs more than 13 minutes – much longer than the the time that would be available to reporters on a network newscast. The session took place at “We The Pizza,” a Capitol Hill eatery whose chef, Spike Mendelsohn, delivers a mushroom pie during the interview and stays to ask a question about candidate Miller’s beard.
Miller did not appear to break new ground on policy during the interview. He argued that the issue of setting a minimum wage is “clearly up to states.” He also restated his position that federal unemployment benfeits are not authorized by the US Constitution. And he ducked the issue of whether former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin should run for president, saying it was “her choice entirely.”
But the session offered interesting clues to the candidate’s personality and personal plans. “Mike and I have found that some of our most interesting discussions with newsmakers happen over lunch when everybody is a little more relaxed,” Karl said. “We wanted to see if we could make that work in an on-the-record format so our readers – and viewers – could get a chance to listen in.”
Miller, a West Point and Yale University Law School graduate, appeared quite relaxed. “Fitting in is not my concern,” he said early in the interview. The candidate added that he favors “a lot of defunding” as a way of changing current spending priorities. Miller and his wife, Kathleen, have eight children and he said “most of our kids” will come to Washington if he wins.
Most candidates say they want to spend as much time as possible in their home state, and Miller was no exception. “We are going to spend most of our time in Alaska that we can, at least outside of the duties that we have here,” Miller said. But one reason he cited for wanting to get home was unusual. It seems one of his sons has a bear hunting permit he wants to use.