1. Now that the 2008 Presidential campaign has finally come to an end, looking back…What was the oddest thing about this campaign? What impressed you the most about it? What disgusted or frustrated you the most? How do you think this election cycle will change or impact future presidential races?
King: The oddest thing about the 2008 campaign: To me, the intensity gap between Democrats and Republicans. It was obvious, mind you, so some might not find it “odd.” But it was striking to me because it was everywhere.
Most impressed me? Then Senator Obama’s ability to quickly recover from his few mistakes. Most politicians so new to the national stage have a harder time at this; it was proof not only of his considerable political instincts but the skills of his team.
Disgusted or frustrated? Can’t say I was disgusted or frustrated. This was my sixth so I have developed a thick skin to the silly and wacky things. I was both disgusted and frustrated with/at myself for gaining 10 pounds when I should know better!
Change future cycles? Even now there are people trying to find the next level after the revolutionary ways the Obama campaign used technology to raise money and to organize voters. And his success in traditional “red states” will make those more competitive – and therefore more involved – in the next cycle. The “Obama map” is a huge challenge for Republicans in presidential politics if they cannot significantly change it, so it will be fun and interesting to watch, beginning with the 2010 midterms.
2. You’ve said on occasion that viewers should kick the tires … have you had any experiences where you’ve gotten a new perspective on one of your reports?
King: Kick the tires? Sure, all the time. People call or email all the time with constructive criticism or maybe to say well I liked this story but you missed this angle, or you would be smart to follow up by looking at xxxxxxxxx. I like to keep in touch with people, and hearing from them six months or a year after I have included them in a piece is very helpful to me in trying to keep a feel on how certain issues are playing. One example: John Dyer is a remarkable Ohio man who lost his son in Iraq in 2003. In the 2004 election cycle he supported the war; by 2008 he had come to see it as a mistake.
3. What's been your most difficult assignment as a journalist to date?
King: The Southeast Asian tsunami. The devastation of the parents who had lost young children was numbing. The first Gulf War was difficult in a very different way; got a little too close to the action on a couple of occasions and was lucky.
4. What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt? What one would you dislike attempting?
King: I would love to work for an organization that helps. Pretty open ended, I know. I started working young because I needed to work to pay for school and then to pay off loans. In my travels with work you come to appreciate those who give up so much to help bring clean water or food or health care or education to remote and impoverished places. Or – and this is very very very different – manage the Red Sox for a week or three! Dislike? I’m pretty curious so I don’t have a visceral dislike of any profession.
5. What's your favorite must have gadget?
King: My simple air card for my laptop is a must so I can work while traveling. I’m slowly learning what an I-phone can do. And I love my new Mac air – I can fit it in a tiny briefcase.
6. Please tell us a little about the off camera John King. Your family, hobbies, favorite authors, favorite episodic television, things in your life that you are the most proud of, etc.
King: My amazing wife you know from TV. What you might not know is how funny she is, and how grounded in family and friends she is. Noah and Hannah are my treasures. Smart, spunky and challenging in the best of ways. Keep me young. I love to be outdoors; kayaking, snowboarding, went rappelling for the first time in 20 years this past June – in the Costa Rica rainforest! I like history and Shakespeare. TV favorites rather eclectic; Dana got me watching Brothers and Sisters; I make her watch some Law and Order. My dad was a huge Honeymooners/Jackie Gleason fan and I loved to watch with him. And Monty Python was on Wednesday nights growing up on the public TV station in Boston. Must see TV. (Cheers was a favorite, too; funny and home). I am most proud of my children, and my memories of my parents.
7 What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of interviewing someone for a story?
King: The most challenging part is to make it relevant to the viewer. A lot of what I do is Washington related and that, while important, often means a lot of process talk. I need to get better at turning just about every conversation to what it means for someone outside of DC.
8 Live television can be unpredictable- can you tell us about an on air moment that didn't go quite as planned or went awry?
King: Live television is humbling and at times humiliating. Of late, my “magic map” has decided to go off the reservation a few times on me on live TV. You have to learn to take the lumps and move on.
9 What were you like growing up? What was your favorite toy as a child? Do you have any brothers? Sisters? (Older or younger?) Did you play sports or a musical instrument?
King: I am one of seven children; five boys and two girls. (which means my sisters are as tough as they come). I am third in line (one older brother and one older sister). I don’t remember a “favorite toy” per se. If I had to pick one it would be an electric race track we had; my older brother and I would race so fast the cars would always fly off the track at the corners. I have zero musical talent; I played baseball and football but not very well!
10 What event has had the most impact on your life (either professionally or personally) and why?
King: The early deaths of my parents. My dad was 55 and my mom 59. They had very little but gave us everything and most of all a good work ethic and I hope a sense of humor and fairness. I judge myself by whether I can come close to meeting their example. I never will.
11. If you could pick one story from history to cover, what would be your dream story be?
King: Impossible to answer. Because we so often don’t get to pick the stories we get to cover, and because my interests are so varied. The Wright brothers would have been a pretty cool assignment. Friends and colleagues who covered the civil rights movement have stories that make me very envious of their glimpse at history. I had a bit role at the Mandela Inauguration and was in awe watching. Pick a page in the Bible, or a World War Two history …
12. What is your guilty pleasure?
King: My guilty pleasure?!?!?!? I have an affinity for beer (hops are a gift from the gods!) and big red wines.
13. A recent CNN promo for State of the Union stated, “He made magic with a map.” What happens to the magic wall now that the election is over?
King: The Magic Map has a new home on my new show. It will be a big part in what we try to do in connecting the big policy debates in Washington with the “real world.”
14. What are your goals for State of the Union? What are the challenges of doing a four hour program?
King: Four hours takes a lot of energy, but I’m fine in that regard. Another challenge is to mix it up – to have diversity in the issues we cover and the guests we invite in as part of our Sunday conversation. Which leads me to the overriding goal – to have a smart, fun, informative conversation that helps people understand the big debates in Washington, but that also reminds Washington of what people out in the real world think. Traveling every week is a big part of what we are doing, and the hope is those travels keep us in touch with outside the beltway as we hope to be with policy players inside the beltway.
All Things CNN would like to thank John King for answering our questions. He is CNN's chief national correspondent and the anchor of the new Sunday morning program State of the Union with John King.
State of the Union with John King airs on Sundays at 9AM ET.