NBC News White House Correspondent Savannah Guthrie is on the way up. She was recently named one of 2010’s Faces to Watch in TV by the LA Times, and has just launched a new show, “The Daily Rundown,” on MSNBC (9am EDT), with fellow White House correspondent Chuck Todd.
Savannah gets real with Inside the White House Press Corps, with some surprising observations about Twitter, media bias, and the role of pudits in shaping the news.
My name is Savanah Guthrie. I’m one of the White House correspondents for NBC, along with Chuck Todd, and we’ve both been here since Inauguration day. Actually, though, I did cover the Bush administration in the last year, I shouldn’t forget. I’ve been covering Obama since he was inaugurated and then, I cover the White House beat on the weekends in December ’07.
What makes a good White House reporter?
A good White House reporter has a good aptitude for a lot of different information, for complex information. You’ve got to be a quick read, have your eye on a lot of different issues. I think, though it’s harder and harder to do, because we all serve a lot of different platforms, having a moment to be thoughtful and think about the institution, think about the bigger picture, is a good quality to have. It’s one I aspire to but probably don’t always meet.
What one thing would you do to improve the briefing process?
Reporters’ questions could probably be shorter, and Gibbs’s answers could probably be shorter and more direct.
There should be more equality. I don’t always sit in the front row, a lot of times I’m in the fourth row. I know there are a lot of good questions back there. Sometimes in the front row we follow up and that’s good. We want our colleagues to be able to follow up, but we don’t want to monopolize. I think it’s good to have different voices.
I’m representing, we’re back there, I’m back there with you too a lot.
To what degree do you think the opinion media influence the questions that are asked here?
I think so. Opinion-makers, the “conventional wisdom” does shape a lot of the questions that get asked. Just look at the SOTU which we just had. People were saying, Does he need to reset? Does he need to get his groove back? I don’t think anyone used those words. But that kind of follows the thinking and the opining that happens, not just on the opinion pages, but also, let’s face it, on television. So I think it’s probably complementary. Our reporting informs the opinion makers and the opinion makers in their conclusions inform some of the questions we ask. It just is what it is. It’s certainly not planned, it’s just the way things are. Opinion makers probably push the envelope and sometimes we ask questions based on what we read.
Do you think there’s anything to the idea of media bias?
You know I’ve thought a lot about this. Anybody that claims there’s zero bias is just not living in the real world. I know that I and most of my colleagues work pretty hard to just play it straight and, we may not always succeed but, in terms of some organized bias, that I don’t buy. I just think human beings can’t help but see things thru their own perspectives. It’s an article of faith among journalists to try to be objective, to try to give a fair shake. That’s the old way, the old school way, I still think it’s the best way. But I guess I’m just more of a realist. I think people, no matter how good their intentions and how they strive, people’s biases probably enter into it. Hopefully they’re working very hard to make sure it doesn’t affect the coverage.
What do you take away from Twitter?
I actually find it to be pretty interesting. It’s a good way to hear what people are thinking. People are very opinionated. Especially when it comes to covering politics, I don’t know that we’re getting a good cross-section of the average American. People who are tweeting about politics generally feel pretty strongly, are pretty passionate, and they let those opinions be known. Occasionally people have criticized me and I’ve thought, that’s a good, that’s a fair criticism. I would have never though that would’ve been perceived that way. Sometimes I think they’re unfairly hard on all of us. But I’m not going to whine about it. We go out there, I know what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to be as straight about it as I can. Sometimes I succeed and, apparently, sometimes I fail, or people think I do.
If someone has a factual question that I can answer very quickly, I like to do that, because I think it’s helpful. If people just have opinions or they’re mad at me, I don’t really engage with it because I don’t know I can do it successfully with 143 characters. I kind of don’t do it either way. Sometimes people say nice things on Twitter and I might say thank you, because I want them to know I appreciate it. But, I don’t know. Plus, we’re so busy!
He’s [who?] so industrious as it is. He’s actually one of my favorites. I think he’s so funny. Of course I’m a Jake follower.
What’s your favorite guilty pleasure TV show?
All of my TV watching is completely humiliating. I’ll just tell you, the worst is American Idol. When you watch it you know it’s for teenagers, it’s not for people of my age. But I don’t watch the part that it’s at right now, where it’s all the auditions, but when it’s the top ten I do, I always watch it. Of course, I TiVo it. I also like Project Runway. A good show. I didn’t watch Jersey Shore but I heard about it. And then Jake was trying to cause mischief on Twitter with me and one of the J.S. people. For having never seen it, I know a lot of the characters’ names. I think I understand the basic premise. Tanning and Guido and Snooki and, “It’s the Situation.” I feel like I really missed a cultural phenomenon, actually.
What do you think of the new Apple iPad?
We were just talking about it in the booth. I just saw it on the screen, I haven’t had a chance to look at it. Well, apparently it’s the solution to all of our problems. I don’t know. It looks pretty cool. I don’t know if I’m into reading books on an electronic device. I like to feel the book. But I just got a Kindle for my mom for Christmas and she loves it. Now I feel bad. If I’d waited, I could’ve gotten her this iPad, which looks pretty nifty. She does have the iPhone, she loves it. She says it’s the one consumer product which doesn’t disappoint.
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