For as long as I can remember while doing this kind of work – there has always been a problem of just how public we get with someone’s personal life.
In 2000, we watched a U.S. Senate Race where the Republican candidate (for awhile at least), Rudy Giuliani, had to fend off stories about having a girlfriend while not yet divorced. Meanwhile the Rochester press had to deal with allegations that a County Court judge, Bill Bristol, failed to get a recommended ranking from the local bar association because of unspecified allegations of sexual misconduct.
Nothing fires up a newsroom argument quicker than what kind of play a story that involves such things as infidelity or sexual harrassment should receive.
That came up for us at WXXI and our television program Need to Know. But in a roundabout way.
Last Friday, we sat down for about 20 minutes with Hudson Valley-area Assemblyman Patrick Manning. The interview ranged from his conservative positions to the state of the Republican Party. The plan was to excerpt the interview for air on WXXI-AM (our news station), then air a larger portion of the talk on Need to Know on Friday, Feb. 17. The rest of the discussion would be put up online at the station’s website.
This week, after the interview, came stories like this and this about the break-up of Manning’s marriage and the circumstances around it. The stories also included charges by Manning that it was the campaign of gubernatorial rival, John Faso, that leaked the news.
Now, I have no way of bringing Manning back into the studio for a follow-up. And when you do these kinds of interviews you run the risk of events cropping up between recording the discussion and airing it.
But the question is – had we known about his personal life, would we have asked him about it anyway? Would we have asked him about the charges he made that Faso campaign was behind the release of the information?
I know how we would answer that.
My brain gets hung up on something else… the fact that jobs appear to be flying out of Rochester, the Finger Lakes Region and Upstate New York. I get rather myopic on comments by area leaders that our economy is "in trouble" and upstate is fast becoming "Appalachia" . You weigh that against someone’s marital difficulties and whether a campaign did or did not leak out such information… and you see it in a far different light.
The question becomes – How important are these personal issues really? How much time does your campaign plan to spend on this?
That’s our approach. What would be yours?