On possible ticket rift, one pro says be “choosy” with coverage

The controversy surrounding Donald Trump’s Access Hollywood audio clip with Billy Bush raised questions about a rift in the Republican presidential ticket.

CBS explored this in depth.

Here’s what Mike Pence had to say on Oct. 10:

“It takes a big man to know when he’s wrong and to admit it and to have the humility to apologize and be transparent and be vulnerable with people.”

NBC showed other GOP reactions but didn’t include Pence’s response during its coverage that night.

ABC played that clip at face value with no other context.

But CBS devoted an entire story exploring what they called “a rift in the ticket.”

This piece went well beyond ABC’s. It laid out Pence’s contradictions.

Before showing the same clip as ABC, CBS said Pence had called the comments “indefensible” two days earlier.

According to CBS, sources said Pence was “apoplectic” after seeing the video.

Next CBS showed an MSNBC interview with Pence in which he called Trump’s comments a “poor choice of words.”

In the same story, CBS addressed another way Pence and Trump have differed: on Syrian policy. During the second debate, the moderator read Pence’s position. Trump said he disagreed with it. Later on, Pence said the moderator misstated his position, but CBS said it was read verbatim.

In a broadcast with limited time and stories constantly breaking, do Pence’s contradictions deserve priority?

NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik praised Dean Reynolds’s piece for CBS.

“For me this story did more than sort of rote recitation,” he said. “By focusing on Mike Pence you learned a lot more about that ticket”

He added:

“CBS didn’t simply accept [Pence’s] statement and leave it at that.”

Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, says journalists need to be “choosy about what to cover.”

“Once we know the answer and how Pence has set that course, it is less of a story unless it changes,” he said. “It stops being major national news, or is something to mention in passing in the context of a larger story.”

But Rosenstiel said this could change.

“If somehow Pence were again to back off defending Trump, to refuse to stand in for him at an event, or to criticize him again, then you have something new, another turn in the screw, a bigger story.”

More from Folkenflik:

  • “I think [Reynolds] laid out a more interesting story than simply saying how did Republicans react.”
  • “Pence puts on as happy a face he could in an ugly situation, but CBS didn’t take that at face value.”
  • “What he’s illustrating is the tensions really within the Republican party right now.”
  • “Given how short a lot of these pieces are on nightly newscasts, I think this one achieves a decent amount in an economy of time.”
  • “I don’t think the other ones are illegitimate.”

More from Rosenstiel:

  • “You do stories now that carry some significance or tell a larger story than just the facts of this one incident.”
  • “Pence’s time on the stump has taken on a greater significance.”
  • “However accurately or not, he represents the mainstream of the conservative wing of his party inside the Trump campaign.”
  • “That makes Pence more newsworthy.”

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