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Friday, April 6, 2007

John Roberts Q & A

Several weeks ago our sister blog "All Things Anderson" had a unique opportunity to have John Roberts answer reader's questions. All the questions that were received were sent to him and he was gracious enough to answer all of them. (About 50 in total). Thank you again to John and we wish him well in his new position at CNN.

Here is a sampling of some of the best....

1) From Book Asylum:Does the proliferation of blogs make your job as a journalist easier, harder, or no impact?

Blogs have actually given more ‘flavor’ to my reporting. They are really a terrific way to find out what people are thinking. I scan a number of blogs every day – particularly conservative blogs. The media is frequently criticized for a liberal bias. Reading conservative blogs and listening to radio programs like the Laura Ingraham show helps me to understand what they’re looking for in terms of coverage.

2) From Lori in Chapel Hill:
What a time to be a White House correspondent -- between Clinton, the 2000 election and the Bush administration. As a reporter, was the transition between administrations difficult? You certainly had lots to report on! Anything about your years in the White House that you wish to share as your most memorable?

There are so many great stories, I don’t know where to begin. There was elephant polo on a Clinton trip in India – bungee jumping in New Zealand – Pisco sours in Peru…..As far as stories go – the trips to Russia were amazing – as was President Bush’s first meeting with Putin in Slovenia. I think the most memorable though, had to be 9-11. But here’s the rub. I was supposed to be the pool correspondent on Air Force 1 that day, but skipped the trip to Sarasota because of a story I had to do in DC the day before.The transitions can be a challenge. I had been covering Gore and had to quickly learn all of the people in the Bush camp – without the benefit of having been with them on the campaign.

3) From Marcia:Since your originally from Canada how would you compare the Canadian media to that in the US?

I don’t think there’s as much difference now as there used to be. When I first started in television, back in 1979, the American media was already much more mature, and had adopted high-energy production techniques to augment newscasts. Canadian news was much more staid. The issues were different as well. In Canada, there were a lot of stories about fishing, lumber, the French-English situation, native rights, etc. and of course, a lot of politics. We’d cover City Hall every night, for Pete’s sake. When’s the last time you saw coverage of a mill rate debate?These days, there’s not a lot of daylight between US and Canadian news. Marshall McLuhan – a famous Canadian futurist talked about the “global village”. It’s pretty much upon us now.

4) From Copperfish:You started in the music industry as vee-jay, was it hard for you to shift to a more serious field which is journalism? If yes, why?

It wasn’t – and here’s the reason why. I actually started reading news at a tiny radio station in Owen Sound, Ontario. I actually did the hog reports, then went on to cover city council, etc. I worked as a deejay for a couple of years, then moved over to TV. The first show I worked on was The New Music – a magazine show, which, as I stated in a question above was like a Rolling Stone or New Musical Express for TV. When CityTV launched Much Music, I agreed to help start it, with the caveat that on my 30th birthday, I would leave and go back to hard news. So - music journalism was really a departure from where I started, and I never lost my ‘jones’ for news. It took a while for the media to get over the transition though, but I think by now, they have. When you look at my career in total, I have spent 25 years in news and 5 years in music journalism.

5) From Book Asylum:What's a typical day like at the DC Bureau? (Is there such a thing?) Are correspondents responsible for developing their own story leads or are assignments give out from the various bureaus?

It’s kind of like the weather in Florida. There’s a certain level of consistency, but it can change dramatically in a moment. Much of the news in Washington, of course, is driven by what’s happening on Capitol Hill. But things can blow up in a heartbeat. Just look at the US Attorneys scandal. One minute…barely a blip on the radar. Suddenly it’s the lead. And, of course, there’s all the fun of politics and the Presidential campaign. It’s a tremendous amount of work to keep up on it all, but it’s great to have a front row seat to history on a daily basis.Story development is combination of what’s on the daily schedule, and what correspondents can dredge up by working their sources.

6) From Fran:How does he balance his work with his family?

Fran – it’s a real challenge. If I put in less than a 12 hour day, it’s a real rarity, and travel takes me away for weeks at a time. The trick is to make the time you have together really count. So – on the weekends, I’m a real homebody. Sometimes when I’m up in New York, my wife will come up and visit. She’s doing that this week. No question – it’s tough, but many people have it a lot tougher than I do, so I’m not going to complain too much.

7) From Phebe:What’s on your nightstand? What are you reading for pleasure, for work and what’s your most recent read?

A lamp and Bose wave radio are the permanent fixtures. Temporary occupants right now include Vali Nasr’s Shia Revival, Barack Obama’s Audacity of Hope, Time and Newsweek, and the latest issues of BikeWorks and Guitar Player magazines.Shia Revival is my latest read…just finishing it. I work on my motorcycles myself a lot, so I read BikeWorks for tips on repairs and modifications, and Guitar Player has some good lessons to further my playing. My problem is that I read so much research during the day, and work such long hours that by the time I pick up a book at home, I read for about 15 minutes, then fall dead asleep. It can take me weeks to finish a book.

8) From Carrie M.What type of story do you most enjoy reporting? Is it politics, war from the front lines, breaking news, human interest stories, or something else and why?

To be honest, I like them all. Politics is great because you’re covering the evolution of the nation. Wars are non-stop adrenaline, as is breaking news (though without the bombs and bullets) and human interest stories are rewarding (particularly a story like Hurricane Katrina). Wars are probably the most interesting stories to cover – there are so many aspects to them. But every time you go to one, you push your luck, and luck can only be pushed so many times before it jumps up and bites you big-time. I’ve lost some good friends in Iraq.

9) From Stephanie:As a fellow Canadian, I am wondering what drew you to American national and political news. Was it just how the opportunity for advancement was presented? Or was that the goal all along, to be a national correspondent/anchor with a major American network?

Stephanie….it was more of a fluke than anything. I was working in Toronto when an American agent called me up and asked for a tape. I was simply interested to see what he thought. A couple of months later, he called and said he had a job for me in Miami. And the rest, as they say….histoire…

10) From M. Silva:What kind of motorcycle do you ride?

I have two. Both Harleys. A 2005 15h anniversary edition FatBoy and a 2007 Road King Custom.

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