Covering Campaigns and Jumping out of Planes

By Chris Ariens 

Blogging from the 2008 NAB-RTNDA conference in Las Vegas.

NBC’s Ron Allen and ABC’s Sam Donaldson on the big screen at this morning’s NAB Super Session: a discussion about the 2008 Presidential race.

As RTNDA chairwoman Barabara Cochran put it in her introduction, “over a century of political reporting” took to the stage this morning at the NAB-RTNDA conference in Las Vegas. CNN’s John King (first election reporting gig, 1988) moderated a discussion of the 2008 campaigns with NBC’s Ron Allen, 40-year ABC vet Sam Donaldson, former ABC correspondent Linda Douglass, now with National Journal, as well as John Harris of and Peter Maer of CBS News radio.

In addition to talking about the candidates, the campaigns, and the issues, King asked about the media’s role this time around: “do [the candidates] treat us differently?” Yes, was the answer.

“They have had to deal with a lot of cameras,” said NBC’s Allen. And blogs too. Donaldson told a story about being with a group of “20-something” staffers at ABC in New York and how they were buzzing about the importance of Perez Hilton‘s support of Hillary Clinton. “I don’t know why anyone would want that” but “he matters.”

And the political story that continues to resonate even today, Sen. Obama’s “bitter” pill. Douglass talked about how that story came, not from a reporter, but an Obama supporter, who wrote about it on the Huffington Post. “There was no editor…she is not getting paid.” Stories “do not adhere” to standards including “accuracy.”

As for how a new president will affect broadcasters and journalists, Douglass said all three candidates are against expanding ownership. If you’re big media planning to get bigger, “all three will give you heartburn.” Maer added, “all three are for shield laws” which protect journalists and their sources.

Click continued for more pictures, the story of John King’s jeans and Sam Donaldson’s big leap…

• At the start of the discussion, John King made note of his attire: a new sport coat, shirt and tie and jeans. “To celebrate the Delta-Northwest merger they sent my bags somewhere else.” A CNN staffer convinced the hotel to reopen the men’s store around 11pm last night so King could buy the shirt and tie. Before leaving Las Vegas for Wisconsin (to cover the McCain campaign), King sat down for an interview with TVNewser. We’ll have that on Friday.

• CBS’s Peter Maer congratulated fellow panelist Sam Donaldson on receiving the RTNDA’s highest honor last night, the Paul White Award. Maer then told a story about “deadline Donaldson” who, while covering the White House some years ago, “couldn’t wait for the [airplane] steps” at the Provo airport. So he “jumped out the door of the 727.” Donaldson joked, “I had a few minutes to a live report. Peter [Jennings} was a tough task master. I was in fear of losing my job!”

NBC’s Ron Allen talks with RTNDA Chairwoman Barbara Cochran after the panel discussion.

CNN’s John King moderated the panel discussion which included political reporters Linda Douglass and John Harris.