CNN host Piers Morgan slides into the seat across from me. We are sitting in a booth in a (relatively) quiet corner of the CNN Grill in Charlotte. Seconds after he arrives, a server brings over a cheeseburger for Morgan, who just finished a Q&A on Wolf Blitzer’s show. During the RNC and DNC the CNN Grill has become a meeting place for media types. While there is a set in the restaurant, it feels more like a bar than a TV studio. Morgan says he feels right at home.
“I grew up in a pub, my parents ran a country pub, I owned a pub in London until recently, so doing interviews in a bar is perfectly natural, I have been spouting rubbish in bars all my life.” he quips. ” I quite like the idea of a grill too, grilling politicians. I think it is something we might adopt.”
Shorty after we sit down, Star Jones walks over to the booth to talk to Morgan about her appearance on tonight’s show.
For Morgan, the conventions have been an chance to showcase a more fun, less formal side of TV news.
“I don’t know how many cable news shows have pints of beer siting on the desk,” he says. “We have had some great guests, and lively end of the evening debate. It has been quite cool to ramp up the proceedings over a few pints with smart people, and having the kind of electricity of being in a bar and doing it live while it has been packed. It is actually quite exciting, I have really enjoyed that.”
He also cites his primetime newsmaker interviews as something he is particularly proud of during the conventions.
“To be the go-to person for the big interview hit is really important to me, because that is what I think I can bring to the network as well as anyone else,” he adds.
The conventions also allow a chance to grab guests you wouldn’t otherwise be able to secure. Morgan says he has two big, boldface names still on his list.
“I have always, always wanted to interview Bill Clinton, and I am hopeful. Maybe not before the convention ends but I am hopeful for an imminent interview,” he says. “And I would love to talk to Barack Obama. I have had better luck with the Republicans, I have done Mitt Romney three or four times now.”
Morgan has also leveraged his social media presence during the conventions. He has nearly 2.7 million followers on Twitter, which he calls his “preferred medium.”
“If you hear ‘wow’ on Twitter, ‘have you watched this guy [Julian] Castro?’ everyone races to a TV screen, and what are they going to watch? CNN, or whatever their preferred channel is,” Morgan says. “I think Twitter can help drive an audience, I don’t think it cannibalizes it at all.”
With such a wide array of media consumption choices, Twitter adds a remarkably personal touch to audience interaction, Morgan says.
“I like it because I have the attention span of a small gnat, so it fills all the boring car journeys, plane journeys and everything else,” he says. “I like the interaction with real people, the feedback. I love the newsfeed you get, so if you follow the right people you won’t miss anything. It is an iconic, modern, communication tool.”