Political Strategy Presents Opportunity To TV News Interviewers

By Alex Weprin 

The New York Times reports on a relatively recent political strategy, being utilized heavily by both the Obama and Romney campaigns: quote approval. Specifically, campaign staffers are briefing reporters, who then have to ask the campaigns which quotes they can use.

The practice actually presents a tremendous opportunity for TV news outlets, as mentioned briefly in the piece.

Both presidential campaigns are keenly aware of what can happen when they speak too freely. Damaging sound bites can live on in the news cycle for days. Mr. Obama’s remark last month during a televised news conference that “the private sector is doing fine” landed almost immediately in attack ads. And Eric Fehrnstrom’s “Etch A Sketch” comment on CNN, about softening some of the harder positions Mr. Romney took during the primaries, continues to haunt the Romney campaign five months later.


What TV News has, that written news outlets often lack, is spontaneity. While the campaigns effectively has control of the quotes that appear in newspapers and magazines, on live TV, what gets said cannot be taken back. As a result, many of the biggest stories of the election cycle have sprung up from TV interviewers. The campaigns can (and often do) restrict TV appearances as much as possible, but they can’t keep denying them for too long. TV as a business may be facing unprecedented challenges, but there is no doubt that it is still the most powerful broadcasting medium.