Our news partners at KDKA television arranged a sit-down with President Barack Obama at the White House today to talk about a range of local and national topics -- from the Japanese earthquake to the Marcellus Shale to Pitt basketball. Asked by anchor Ken Rice how he swung the invite to the Map Room, Political Editor Jon Delano had this to say:
Persistence. I interviewed the president about a half-dozen times during the campaign in 2008, and from the day he became president I have been after the White House to allow me to come down here and interview him. And it took two years so I can't exactly say it was a quick response, but we kept at it and persistence usually pays off.
I have no doubt that Delano has been bugging the White House press office about an interview, but there's more to it than that. Local television interviews have been a part of the White House communications strategy recently as he tries to sell his policies to the public and prepare for his re-election run. Last month, he did a series of interviews with stations in Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Richmond, Va. Today, according to the official White House schedule, Delano's sit-down was coupled with stations in town from Albuquerque, N.M., and Hampton Roads, Va., during the span of about an hour.
How convenient that Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin and New Mexico are key states for Obama in 2012.
In addition to the swing-state considerations, a local TV interview gives Obama a longer-form format that better suits his style -- he's not as good in quick soundbites, but he knows an exclusive with a local affiliate will give him more space to speak his mind. Since he has arrived in office, Obama has been much more inclined to grant longer-form interviews (even with the lowly Post-Gazette) than appear in news conferences or take questions on the fly during the day, situations more common to previous administrations. (The White House press corps, of course, doesn't like this.)
Regional media outlets are also less concerned with the latest Beltway controversy than the bigger picture and how his policies impact the home folks. The focus today was on education funding and Obama told Delano his message to state leaders (read: Tom Corbett) is "I really think it's important for us to make sure when we cut, we don't cut education."
Still, Delano didn't shy away from the news of the day, asking Obama if fallout from the Japan nuclear disaster could reach our shores (No) and "Are we earthquake-proof" in relation to domestic nuclear facilities. Obama gave a vague reply: "We constantly monitor -- I asked this question of our Nuclear Regulatory Commission -- we constantly monitor seismic activity." (The Richmond station asked about Planned Parenthood.)
And, in case your're wondering, Obama picks Pitt to reach the Elite Eight.
Photo of live shot outside White House posted by Delano on the twitters.