Clinton Press Conferences Vs Interviews

This is the 180th day that Hillary Clinton has refused to face a news conference, and she replies that, instead, she has taken some 300 phone interviews.
This is more than a distinction without a difference. I faced this very situation in a national issue, and while the public may ask about the lack of press conferences, “So what?” there is a reason, and an important one.

Let me step on the lede first (yes, that is spelled correctly), against all journalistic standards — individual reporters develop a one-on-one empathetic relationship when they are asking questions — in a group, they become a mob. When they are a mob, Reporters ask much harder questions — they compete to ask their hardest question because they may only get one or two questions asked, and they are anonymous to the viewer as a mob. As individuals, even on a phone, they may face public backlash.

My experience is with a reporter mob that featured even Walter Cronkite!

When the USS Pueblo (AGER-2) was captured by the North Koreans in 1968, I rushed to the Bahia Hotel in San Diego, where I knew the wife of the Commanding Officer was staying, just to lend my support to a former Shipmate. Around her hotel door was a large group of reporters clamoring to interview Rose Bucher, the wife. I pushed through, entered, and asked Rose, “What can I do to help?”

She said, “Handle Walter Conkrite,” he is right through that door.

Because that event was obviously to be a massive, world-wide controversial event, the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) for Southern California, one Captain “Hap” Hill, avoided us for days as the media whirlwind increased. When he finally showed up, he demanded that Rose hold a press conference. I disagreed, politely, (because I was a Lieutenant and he was a Captain, and it quickly became nose-to-nose), because I said that Rose was a small town farm girl from Missouri, and I had seen both the empathy from reporters in one-on-one interviews. Having seen the mob feeding frenzy and Rose’s natural fragility in the maelstrom, she would not do a press conference.

Just as a side note, the Navy replaced the PAO with me, and a little Lieutenant whose training and experience was silently approaching ships and firing torpedoes became the “Spokesman for the Bucher family” for the biggest story of 1968, quoted in Time, Life, TV news shows etc.

My entire book on the subject, free and on-line is at http://www.allenhemphill.com/uss_pueblo.htm. Just click on the First Week button on the left.

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