Interviewing President Obama in Cabinet Room of the White House (White House Photo)
A trip to the White House is rare. To have access to areas like the South Lawn and the Rose Garden; even more so, but to interview the man elected who makes decisions that affect the free world? That’s once in a lifetime, even for a local television journalist. This is not a political column, so I’m putting all partisanship aside. WAVY-TV was chosen, along with eight other local television stations, to send an anchor to interview President Obama about his American Jobs Act. It doesn’t take an astute political pundit to understand why the White House put this together. All of us knew this was one more way to deliver the administration’s message after his $447 billion dollar plan stalled in Congress. Nonetheless, an interview with the nation’s Chief Executive is enough to bring a butterfly, or two, to my usually cast-iron stomach.
With "First Dog" Bo
It began with the assembly on the South Lawn, a place you rarely see on the daily review of Washington politics on NBC Nightly News. It is reserved mostly for state functions, but on this day it served as a backdrop for local live reports on our experiences. One by one, we’d be escorted through the Rose Garden to the West Wing, which housed the Cabinet Room. I was called first, and was brought to the door, which stood as the only barrier between my questions about Hampton Roads, and the President of the United States. Small talk with a White House assistant chewed up some of the moments, while a crew set up two cameras and microphones. I remained cool. “Will the president be inside the room, or will he make an entrance?” His assistant answered with a smile, “he’ll be the first person you see when you walk in.” I nodded as if I’ve been here before, but clearly I was in uncharted territory.
Preparing for live reports from the White House
The door swung open and President Obama was taking a drink of water as I walked in. We extended our hands simultaneously, and I offered “Good morning, Mr. President. I’m Tom Schaad from WAVY-TV in Hampton Roads. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.” President Obama reciprocated by showing a cool gratitude toward me. I stood behind the spot they had designated as we talked about my hometown of Pittsburgh, and I couldn’t resist plugging my Steelers, and their coach from Newport News, Mike Tomlin. “He’s a good coach,” the president said coolly.
Reporting from the South lawn of the White House
Finally, a man behind President Obama held up five fingers. Time to start. Five minutes. Three questions. Watch the interview here, and notice my awkward exit! Photojournalist Jeff Myers captured some “behind the scenes” shots as well.