Episode 65, with guests former CNN correspondent Frank Sesno and and former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert (and guest co-host Craig Minassian)

Frank Sesno and Bob Hebert are our guests this week.
Special guest co-host Craig Minassian of Minassian Media.
Show produced by Katherine Caperton.
Original Air Date: August 4, 2012 on SiriusXM “POTUS” Channel 124.
Polioptics airs regularly on POTUS on Saturdays at 6 am, 12 noon and 6 pm.
Follow us on Twitter @Polioptics Listen to the show by clicking on the bar above.
Show also available for download on Apple iTunes by clicking here.

Minassian: Episode 65 guest co-host

I’ve known Josh King for a long time, so it was nice to catch up and talk shop on his radio show. Josh was perfecting sophisticated, theatrical advance work before I even knew what advance was. We share many things: a Boston background, working both in the Clinton White House and Hollywood and, of course, Lewis Goldberg.

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Spokespeople Who Need Spokespeople

In the spirit of Polioptics, we talked about the delicate relationship between the media and campaign staffs, and what causes a press secretary to become part of the story as happened during Mitt Romney’s visit to Europe. Rick Gorka’s experience in Poland wasn’t the first time that a staffer “stepped on the story” by stepping out in front of the cameras (or microphones). Here’s a sampling from ABC News: “Political Spokesperson Bloopers and Blunders” via @OTUSNews.

And here’s “Gorka’s Moment” in Poland.


Lest you think the phrase “kiss my ass” is worthy of a full news cycle of coverage, there are a number of solid defenses out there for Romney campaign press secretary Rick Gorka, and here’s a good one.

For those who deal with the media every day, it’s hard not to have some sympathy for what Gorka went through in Poland at the end of a very long overseas trip. His rather specific instructions the press gave voice to what many staffers often feel. I don’t think I’ve ever expressed my opinions quite so publicly, though Josh has a few apologies for reporters that covered President Clinton that he’ thought worthy of offering again in public. So if you believe Josh owes you an apology, tune in to the show.

And while Gorka may have felt like this bulldog who apparently told a porcupine there would be no avail today, sharp explosions like this often have a long unseen fuse.

The traveling staff-traveling press corps tension arises from a combination of factors: exhaustion abetted by frustration; foreign time zones but East Coast deadlines; and the inherent battle for access as the media tries to justify the expenses of covering a trip. But these problems can also be avoided.

On the show, we discuss how something like this becomes part of the story, and how it can depend on what the press is being “fed.” An old hand (read: Josh) once told me “a reporter can’t complain if their mouth is full.” But on this trip, the regular traveling press corps seemed to go relatively hungry for fresh content for their multi-platform appetites. Some would say unreasonably insatiable appetites, but in the new media world, more access seems also never enough.

Now, I wasn’t in Poland so I only saw the same 30 seconds that everyone else did on the Today Show when I was looking for Olympic scores and local weather. But I do happen to be married to Shawna Shepherd of CNN, the most beautiful, smartest, savviest, hardest working member of the media covering Romney, so I have an appreciation for both sides in this story.

“Access” offered by candidates and their staffs to reporters following their entourage is a strategic decision based on a number of internal factors. Candidate Obama held several press avails on his foreign trip during the 2008 campaign which took pressure off the media hounding him at photo ops. The Romney campaign appeared to manage their trip a different way. Each candidate and staff has to execute against their own plan for their own reasons, but the common denominator is the press will use the content they’re given, so campaigns always have to be deliberate about what they hand over. After all, the last thing the candidate needs is for the campaign staff to be the story.

So when our colleagues asked if we could believe this happened, we say with a sigh — yes — yes we can and know that sometimes spokespeople wish they had their own spokespeople when it does.

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Frank Sesno, CEO of Face The Facts USA

Face the Facts – The News, The Newsroom and What is a Fact Anyway?

Two of the most respected members of the traditional media joined us on Polioptics this week for a robust discussion of journalism, the facts and everything in between.

Frank Sesno, longtime CNN anchor and director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University, and Bob Herbert, the former New York Times op-ed columnist, talked about the launch of their new project, Face the Facts USA.

So we ask what is a fact anyway?

Just the facts about “Facts” from their website:

Face the Facts USA is a nonpartisan, independently-funded initiative, backed by Americans who believe facts should come first in our national debate. We’re supported by The George Washington University and based at GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs, where faculty and students work with journalists and media professionals to research facts. With complementary attractions, live events, broadcast media and grass roots outreach, we offer information, conversation and thoughtful consideration of public policy issues.
We hope we’ll re-engage frustrated Americans in the political process. Non-frustrated Americans: you’re welcome too.

Why We’re Here

Because the fact-to-noise ratio in America is so off the charts – and facts matter.
Face the Facts USA slices through the hyperbole, spin, and slant that gunk up the biggest issues facing America today – and presents exhaustively researched and vetted facts in a compelling, easy-to-digest way.

Here’s some initial press about the project.

Given that both Josh and I spent time working in Hollywood, we obviously couldn’t resist the opportunity to talk to Frank and Bob about HBO’s The Newsroom, which is partially inspired by CNN. Frank and Bob’s reflections were particularly poignant this week, with news that the real CNN that network president,  Jim Walton, will be stepping down at the end of the year.

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The Clinton Global Initiative

As we wrapped up the show, Josh and I had a chance to talk about something I’m passionate about: the Clinton Global Initiative.

After starting on the 96′ campaign doing advance with Lewis Goldberg, and with Josh as our  first lead, I served in the White House press office working for, and learning from, Joe Lockhart and Jake Siewert.

Since then, I’ve been fortunate to be able to stay involved with President’s Clinton work through the Clinton Foundation. Since I worked in the White House during the second term, I always had a feeling that the “senior class,” my friends and colleagues from ’92, where really there for the beginning and we we’re working to finish what they started. So it’s been very fulfilling to me to be able to serve President Clinton in the early years of the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative as he has redfined what a political leader can do as a private, global citizen.

Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 150 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date, CGI members have made more than 2,100 commitments, which are already improving the lives of nearly 400 million people in more than 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued at $69.2 billion.

CGI also convenes CGI America, a meeting focused on collaborative solutions to economic recovery in the United States, and CGI University (CGI U), which brings together undergraduate and graduate students to address pressing challenges in their community or around the world. Visit clintonglobalinitiative.org and follow us on Twitter @ClintonGlobal and Facebook at facebook.com/clintonglobalinitiative. This year CGI’s Annual Meeting with be held September 23-25.

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