The TVNewser Notebook: José Díaz-Balart Says His Job ‘Is to Provide Context, And to Separate the Wheat From the Chaff’

By A.J. Katz 

For our new bimonthly feature for 2020, TVNewser is speaking with veteran political reporters from across the TV news spectrum about their presidential election memories.

We’ve called this feature The TVNewser Notebook.

Fox News’ chief political anchor Bret Baier kicked things off last month, and for the second installment, which is hitting our site on the day of the 2020 Iowa caucuses, we’re featuring the anchor of Noticiero Telemundo (and NBC Nightly News Saturday) José Díaz-Balart.

We caught up with Díaz-Balart recently to learn about his past coverage of presidential elections, thoughts on how social media has changed election coverage, and his favorite on-the-trail meal!

TVNewser: Give us an interesting anecdote from the first presidential election you ever covered.

Díaz-Balart: The first national presidential election I covered was [Bob] Dole/[Bill] Clinton in 1996. That summer, I accompanied Senator Bob Dole to his childhood home in Russell, Kansas. It was a CBS This Morning exclusive. The senator became emotional when he took us down to the home’s basement. During the Great Depression, his family had been forced to move to the small basement and rent out the rest of the house to make ends meet. Outside, still attached to the garage, was the system of pulleys and rusted weights Dole used to regain his strength when he was recovering from his WWII wounds. It was moving to see this man, who had just been nominated to the Presidency of the United States, to relive such personal moments.

Is there anything you’ve learned from your previous election coverage that you’re taking into account as you cover this one?

I’ve learned that elections are predictably unpredictable. I learned that in Nicaragua in 1990, when Daniel Ortega lost the presidential election even though the Sandinistas controlled the entire system and most polls showed he would win. In 2016, many were surprised here when most polls projected Hillary Clinton would win and yet she lost.

How has social media transformed how you cover presidential elections?

The change has been night and day. Social media provides immediacy; but my job is to provide context, and to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Who is one political reporter whose work you truly admire?

I admire Mark Murray, NBC News senior political editor. His deep well of political knowledge; Lori Montenegro, Noticias Telemundo’s bureau chief in Washington D.C., who has covered politics for the Latino community for decades like no one else;  And CBS’ news political correspondent Ed O’Keefe.

What’s the best meal/restaurant you’ve had/been to during election coverage?

In 1988 during the Republican convention in New Orleans we escaped to have dinner at Antoine’s, where the classic Oysters Rockefeller was created. It was the first… and last good meal I’ve had during an election coverage.