Charlie Gibson knows. He is an experienced news journalist and his television network has landed the most sought-after interview of the 2008 elections. Charlie Gibson will have the first campaign interview with Governor Sarah Palin. And Charlie Gibson knows that this is not going to go well. Either half the country – or perhaps the whole country – will not like his conversation with Governor Palin.
The Democrats are hoping that Mr Gibson asks the questions that will test Governor Palin’s knowledge and skills. In doing so, Mr Gibson could appear to be the media bully. Senator McCain’s campaign already has cited issues with the main stream media. Intensive follow-up questions and requests for detailed clarification will be mentioned as evidence of media bias. The experience will be brought forth as one of the prime reasons why Governor Palin will be protected from a hostile media. Blame Charlie Gibson.
The Republicans are hoping that Charlie Gibson recognizes the historical significance of the interview. Governor Palin will be answering questions for the very first time as a vice presidential nominee. This is also a nominee who is sending her son to war. Mr Gibson could ask the questions that have been anticipated and for which answers / talking points have been prepared. It could be an interview during which Governor Palin reiterates prepared answers and the interview can be cited as a reference point. The interview will be characterized as ‘soft’ journalism. The critics will be quick to cite the questions that should have been asked and follow-up questions that would have tested Governor Palin. And, of course, Charlie Gibson will be blamed.
One might think that the ‘middle of the road’ approach is the safest and the most expedient. Unfortunately, that approach will garner criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. From a journalistic perspective, it will be interesting to see how Mr Gibson, a seasoned television interviewer, navigates this most delicate matter. He may keep in mind the old axiom that ‘no good deed goes unpunished‘. No matter how the interview goes, Mr Gibson will be the target of enormous criticism. Mr Gibson’s peers are preparing already.