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GayleForce Chat with The Hill’s Media Reporter Joe Concha

Is Hillary’s health status just a conspiracy theory, off limits for journalistic inquiry? Should major cable news networks use blurring techniques to ban political expression of interviewees? Joe Concha of The Hill joined me on Sidewire’s GAYLEFORCE chat to discuss all this and more:

Gayle Trotter, Right in DC
Welcome all to GayleForce! I am delighted to be joined by Joe Concha, Media Reporter for The Hill. Joe, thank you for joining us today!

Joe Concha, The Hill
Of course. Anything for you.

Gayle Trotter
The media have always played an outsized role in our political system, going back to Benjamin Franklin’s newspaper days and Thomas Paine’s pamphlets published during the American Revolution. Do you see a difference in 2016?

Joe Concha
It’s gone from outsized to insane. This election season is completely out of control.

Gayle Trotter
Right in DC
You wrote in The Hill that “Trump has the ball and Hillary can’t run out the clock.” (I love the basketball analogy, you know.) In what ways do you see Donald Trump hustling in the last three weeks?

Joe Concha
It’s a football analogy, my friend. Four corners is basketball 🙂 But I see Trump simply beating Hillary to stories lately. The Louisiana floods. He goes. Obama stays on vacation and Hillary offers a statement. Then Mexico. If you told me he would be meeting with its president there and come out looking presidential, I’d say you were crazy. Hillary, meanwhile, had no public speaking appearances in six days.

Gayle Trotter
You wrote that Trump received generally favorable reviews after he and Mike Pence traveled to Louisiana after the devastating storms and flooding. Do you think some in the media are changing their views on Trump or is this merely an aberration?

Joe Concha
No. The media — most of it — nearly lost its mind last night. We even had a situation this week when HLN — CNN’s sister network — blurred out a pro-Trump t-shirt of a hero cop they were interviewing.

Gayle Trotter
I was going to get to that in a bit! Yes, is that a new journalistic technique that should be encouraged? Didn’t CNN also blur out “Crooked Hillary” in a Donald Trump tweet?

Joe Concha
So yeah, any positive press always has a cynical “but” to it. This technique should be taught in schools, absolutely… on how not to do journalism. If you’re a reporter, you can’t just pick a side because Jorge Ramos told you to.

Gayle Trotter
Ha! Love it.

Joe Concha
CNN took “Crooked” out of a Trump tweet about her. Who alters Tweets? And why? It just looks so bad. And they’re shocked people are actually paying attention.

Gayle Trotter
In yesterday’s ABC News/Washington Post poll, more women view Hillary Clinton unfavorably than view her favorably. Presumably this would be big news but ABC buried the lede. Do you think this is deliberate or not?

Joe Concha
Yes. That’s absolutely the lede. It happens every day. And I don’t think it’s a love for Hillary so much, but a visceral hatred of Donald Trump to the point it affects judgement.

Gayle Trotter
Do you think the media will start portraying Hillary Clinton as losing steam or use stories to attempt CPR on her, especially in light on Trump asserting last night that Hillary does not have the “strength or stamina” to be our commander in chief?

Joe Concha
They have to start portraying her as losing steam. Look- she’s still the favorite. But ever since Trump changed his campaign team, this new Trump is showing how weak she is as a candidate. In the end, it all comes down to the debates, Gayle. And Hillary is the better, more prepared debater.

Gayle Trotter
What do you make of the stories about Hillary’s health? How about Dr. Drew losing his HLN show after making some negative comments? Does that make other media reluctant to engage this issue? Has there been self-censorship of this topic?

Joe Concha
I think it’s legitimate to at least ask questions. We had Obama’s ex-physician recommending Hillary get a neurological exam this week on CNN air, which dismisses any talk about Hillary’s health as conspiracy theories. BOTH candidates should release their full medical records. Hillary last released a letter in July of 2015.

Gayle Trotter
What about Trump’s performance in the debates against Cruz? Cruz is a much better debater than Hillary. Are you excited to watch the debates? Have we ever seen anything like what is ahead for us?
Friday

Joe Concha
Yup – but Trump lacks experience 1-on-1. Trump was always 1-on-4, 1-on-8. He didn’t have to deep dive into policy. Clinton has done 1-on-1 many times against Bernie and Obama in ’08.

Gayle Trotter
For the debates, how do you think Trump can avoid a repeat of the Candy Crowley debate disaster for Romney in 2012? Is it even a risk for him?

Joe Concha
The debates will draw 100 million. Obama-Romney drew 70 million for context. Depends on the moderators. Here are my picks: Lester Holt of NBC. John Dickerson of CBS. Dana Bash of CNN. Megyn Kelly will get the VP debate.

Gayle Trotter
Should the moderator’s age, race and gender be dispositive?

Joe Concha
Gender – maybe. Only because there is a female nominee for the first time in history. Someone like Bash or Raddatz should be there. I think Lester is a lock, but not because of his race. He’s just seen as non-partisan.

Gayle Trotter
Do you think the media coverage of Trump’s visit with Mexican President Nieto has been fair and informative? What about the coverage of Trump’s major immigration policy speech last night?

Joe Concha
The coverage has been unhinged on the latter. Trump’s been making that speech for more than a year. Everyone wanted a pivot to call him a flip-flopper… he didn’t provide it.

Joe Concha
The coverage of the meeting with Nieto was mostly fair.

Gayle Trotter
Did you read the Salon article on the impact of the Drudge report on mainstream reporting and commentary? Do you think Drudge still has disproportionate influence among news producers?

Joe Concha
Drudge rules producers. Rules them. They see a story on there and deem it as hot. it’s only hot after Drudge gives it the platform, however, not because it was hot before it got there. But he draws eyeballs more than anyone, including MSN and Disney.
Political eyeballs, anyway.

Gayle Trotter
Is this journalistic laziness? Or something else entirely?

Joe Concha
well – it’s more a rush for content. Instead of thinking out a segment and doing research, it’s all right there on Drudge in a nice, neat package to basically cut and paste. So you call that lazy, but everyone is under the gun to produce more, more..

Gayle Trotter
CNN seems to be peeling off talent from Fox: Kirsten Powers, Mary Katharine Ham. Will Megyn Kelly be making the move? She was spotted at the CNN Grill at the Conventions.

Joe Concha
Yup. Bob Beckel. Alysin Camerota. Sally Kohn. Five Fox folks in 18 months. Never happened before. Zucker understands that these are proven brands and likes to taunt, so to speak, Fox by hiring them. As For Megyn, it’s either Fox or CNN…

Joe Concha
And here’s why: At Fox, she’s the queen bee. The face of the network. That doesn’t happen at ABC, CBS, NBC. So CNN is the only one who can give her what Fox does… except for the fat lead-in of Bill O’Reilly and good in-house pundits.

Gayle Trotter
What’s her best career move? Can she be the next Barbara Walters with her primetime special approach?

Joe Concha
I don’t think so. Her strength is exactly what she’s doing. Cable news. Political stuff. Legal stuff. Fun stuff. Being Babs 2.0 makes her a shell of her full potential

Gayle Trotter
Do you see much change in the lineup or programming at Fox now that some of the creators of the original formula have left?

Joe Concha
Nope. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Bill Shine runs the show now, basically. He’s been there for 20 years. They just had one of their biggest months ever in August. The formula is already baked in. They keep Megyn, they’re more than fine. But they need to get younger. 68 is the average age of its viewers.

Gayle Trotter
Yes, isn’t that a shocking number?

Joe Concha
Kinda. Believe it or not, MSNBC is 63 and CNN is 60. Cable news is an older crowd in general. But Fox needs to get down with the pack more.

Gayle Trotter
How would you suggest they tackle that: all the cable news networks? Younger talent?

Joe Concha
Well, they need to take risks more. Just don’t hire younger for younger sake. Look at the reels, find the younger talent. Don’t count on “big names” or twitter followers. Good oold fashioned scouting and risk taking. Plain and simple.

Gayle Trotter
Final question: Does Hillary have a smart media strategy? No press conferences, limited availability. Do you see her continuing this strategy through November 8?

Joe Concha
Ailes knew talent. Hillary – she did have a decent media strategy, but playing not to lose won’t work now. She needs to do a press conference. Did you know you can walk across Russia in the time since she last did one, with 20 days to space (270). It looks secretive. Anyway – this has been a hoot.

Gayle Trotter
Joe, thank you for joining GayleForce today. We look forward to your further reporting on the media and this contentious and momentous presidential race!

Joe Concha
You ask great questions. Giddy-up. See you around.

Gayle Trotter
I learned from a master — you!

Joe Concha
Boom!And bye.

Gayle Trotter
Thank you again, Joe.

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