SIMI VALLEY, CALIF.–Among the hassles of hosting a national political debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library: Building a massive, elevated debate platform in the Air Force One Pavilion; babysitting for 800 credentialed journalists; keeping people fed and hydrated.
Among the rewards: Huge windfalls and exclusive shots of the candidates arriving at the debate hall.
All day long, CNN staffers — camera crews and reporters — greeted the debaters as they arrive on site to duke it out. These are CNN-only moments, as personnel from competing outlets aren’t allowed to shove their mics into the faces of the GOPers. Then CNN ushers the candidate to the debate set itself for a briefing on how things will go.
Guarding the exclusive required some shooing. “Our cameras were asked to move,” says a CBS News source. Of course, exclusive shots for debate host organizations isn’t exclusive to this debate; that’s the way things go. “It’s CNN’s event, they’re paying a lot of money,” says the source. The trouble was that CNN wasn’t sufficiently hard-core about drawing the restricted area. “If people can see, make the perimeter larger.”
Just what sort of television content did CNN’s sideline interviews yield? Were the interviews worth the fuss? Viewers will have to decide, though the Erik Wemple Blog was fond of the comments that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal gave to CNN’s Athena Jones. Asked about his goal for the JV debate in which he was due to participate, Jindal said, “I’m just going to be honest with the American people” and then spoke about Islamic terrorism. And on the matter of whether he’d done anything special to prepare, Jindal said, “I had a great breakfast of cold pizza and Diet Coke. And I’m thrilled to be here.” Only on CNN!