CNN’s Brooke Baldwin talked to TPM recently about the question she would ask the presidential candidates, why viewers should tune into CNN and her approach to interviewing.
Why should someone watch CNN over the other cable networks?
Because we’re fair. Because we truly do journalism with a capital “J”. Look, many of us could be at other places, but we’re at CNN for a reason. I’m proud of the work. I know that we do the right thing, and I hold integrity as a personal quality to the very highest, and I hold that personally and professionally, and the peers around me on my team are the exact same way, and that is priority number 1 at the place where I work.
When you’re interviewing someone like the RNC’s Reince Priebus, or a guest who likes to be combative with interviewers, what’s your approach?
To be honest, I prep for any interview the same, whether it is someone who has lost a loved one in a tornado in the middle of the country, or whether it is Reince Priebus who wants to come on and talk to me about some political subject of the day. I want to go in giving each one of those folks equal due diligence, equal respect, and I need to know who they are and what we’re going to talk about. Obviously the conversation, i.e. with a politician — either a Republican or a Democrat — you know your stuff. And this is the biggest compliment I ever get when I do interviews, is that I listen. It’s so simple. You just have to listen. So when you’re hearing them either not making sense, or repeating themselves, or talking in circles, or saying something that’s not factually correct, CNN has to hold them accountable, and I personally want to hold them accountable. Because I have however many Twitter followers, and this is what I love about Twitter: the second I finish an interview, my Twitter feed blows up, and people, they will absolutely hold me accountable for what I’m asking, they will let me know in an instant how I did, where else I could have pushed, how I did in my job. And I rely on that, every day.
What is your reaction to Candy Crowley moderating one of the presidential debates this fall?
Obviously I think Candy rocks. When you meet Candy, not only does she espouse brilliance, politically, and is the most well-read political anchor I think that’s out there, she’s just cool. She’s sassy and spunky and she knows her stuff, and it’s about damn time that we have a woman do this — it’s been two decades. It’s been too long.
Why do you think it has taken so long?
I don’t know man, I don’t know. I really can’t even answer that. But hopefully by now that will change.
Is it too bad she was not assigned to one of the more traditional debates, instead of the town hall one?
No, no, I don’t think it’s too bad at all. I think it’s a win for women. It’s a win for Candy. It’s every little step. It’s incremental. So whether it’s this kind of debate, or a more traditional one, it’s a win. And the next step it’ll be more involvement.
If you were moderating one of these debates, what would you ask the candidates?
The obvious question is, we’re sick of the sniping and the negative ads, people just want to know how people can get back to work. I want to know specifics. I want to know specifics on the economy. And in terms of women’s rights, I want to know about how they treat their wives. I think you can tell a lot about someone about their home life, and that’s kind of how I like to question people in interviews, too. I don’t want just policy and wonk. I try to hit on personal questions, as well, because you can get a lot out of someone when you make it personal.
How would you frame one of those questions?
Let’s use Syria as an example. I would want to know, if there are questions over using, say, air attacks, and you know you’re having to make this call. And you go home, and you are vexed, and tyring to sort through this. I want to know, do you tell your wife about it? And how much do you listen to her?
With CNN’s president stepping down at the end of the year, what does the future of the network look like?
Well goodness, I don’t know if I’m the person to answer that question. I can only answer the question, what is the future of my two hours? Because I’m not at the top. I love CNN. I’m from Atlanta. This was my first internship. I want to see CNN kick tail, and I can only do my two-hour part each and every day. And our numbers are half-decent in our meager afternoon slot, and I’m proud of that.
What story deserves more coverage than it’s getting?
I’m really big on Syria. I feel like we did so much with Tunisia and Libya and Egypt last year. And there are such atrocities happening. And I think it’s just so important to continue to keep it on the dial high. I know it’s an election year. Perhaps we’re not hearing as much on Syria, specifically, from the different politicians as we have in other countries. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t cover it.
More than a year into the uprising, how do you keep viewers interested in the story?
I think as much as you can — whether it’s about Syria, or any mass casualty — you have to personalize it. So the more opportunity we have to tell a story about the 45-year-old shopkeeper in Aleppo, who was crossing the street and was gunned down by a sniper and has a wife, and, oh, by the way, his wife was allegedly raped by one of the regime troops to send a message to the family. That is a way, in my mind, we can — and I hate saying this, because I want Americans to care — but it’s a way to make Americans care. I know Syria’s far away, and I know eyes can glaze over when we report more numbers and we hear more gunshots. And when you personalize a story and explain how Syria fits in the big picture and how it relates back to us in the US and why we should care, that’s when I think it’s effective.
This interview has been edited and condensed for space.
David Taintor is TPM’s News Editor. He contributes to TPM’s Livewire coverage, among other areas. David is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, where, yes, it gets very cold. Reach him at taintor [at] talkingpointsmemo.com