“We’d have to hire a crew in our Gulf Coast bureau every time,” said Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington bureau chief. “These things take a lot of time and advance planning. It’s not something you can do on the spur of the moment.” Now he can, with the flip of a switch.
For professional political talkers, a cable-news contract used to be the ultimate. The residuals were limousine rides, paychecks, e-mails from names not heard from since homeroom. But D.C. greenrooms can feel stifling — a windowless, schmooze-or-be-schmoozed cell.
Sure, the power schlep is still a fun ride for some, but what if you could have the power without the schlep? So far, half a dozen on-air commentators are getting the upgrade of in-home cameras. This is just the beginning.
In the Carville-Matalin house, CNN’s team of techies mounted a smallish camera — called a Cisco link — that gets steered and focused by engineers in D.C. or Atlanta or Hong Kong or whichever CNN nerve center has booked either half of the power couple.
“This is an option that turns out to be cost-effective and also smart for the contributor and the network,” Feist said.
It’s also awesome, and “inexpressibly gratifying,” Matalin said in an e-mail. Then she found some words to express it: “For us personally, the system allows us to be available when CNN needs us without having to miss out on our kid’s many happenings.” On that day, for example, she had her daughter Matty’s induction into the National Honor Society to attend. And on that weekend, she had a school dance to chaperone. The work-family balance, thus, can finally teeter in the family direction.
“It eliminates travel time, set-up time and all the rigmarole that attends any segment, no matter how short,” she wrote. “Bottom line: I love love love Cisco.”
The opposites-attract back story of the Democrat and Republican strategists is seen here and there in their backdrop. His-and-her items include a speckled, white end table (Mary) and an autographed LSU football helmet (James). Bookshelves are stocked and curtains are drawn in their pundit cave. In many ways, it’s like the typical man cave, where a suburban dad could dial in rants to WFAN, except now the sport is politics and the analysis is more polite.
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Some pundits have a camera peering into a Harvard office (CNN’s David Gergen) or Philly radio studio (MSNBC’s Michael Smerconish). That’s too formal, with none of the same pundit-to-public intimacy — or pundit-to-pundit status differentials. When ranking perks, it’s only luxurious if the cameras allow the commentator to maintain proximity to a patch of green. And a bed. And a fridge — and not the green-room mini-fridge that holds all the diet Dr Peppers.