The New York Times | Talking Points Memo
How did Robin Roberts land today’s interview with President Barack Obama? That’s the question journalists are asking after Obama revealed exclusively to Roberts that he supports same-sex marriage.
ABC News’ Senior Vice President and Spokesman Jeffrey Schneider wouldn’t say whether Obama requested to speak with Roberts, but said her past experience with the president was a factor.
“She’s interviewed the president numerous times and was the first person to interview him on the eve of his inauguration,” he said in a phone interview. He noted that Roberts anchors a show that is “trading back and forth” with the ‘Today’ Show for first place. Recently, “Good Morning America” surpassed “Today” in ratings for the first time in 16 years.
Talking Points Memo has reported that the White House requested Roberts specifically on Tuesday.
“We have standing requests to interview all kinds of newsmakers, particularly the president of the United States,” Schneider said.
The New York Times’ Brian Stelter suggested another reason Roberts was well-suited for the interview: “Ms. Roberts, as her fans already know, is a woman, an African American and a Christian. Polling data indicates that African Americans and regular churchgoers are more prone to oppose gay marriage than other groups of people.”
It also helps that the network has a “huge reach” online, Schneider said. In the past year, ABC has taken steps to build its social media strategy and its overall online presence through training and experimentation. Schneider said ABC broke the news online of Obama’s changed position at about the same time it broadcast the interview.
Reuters Deputy Social Media Editor Matthew Keys spotted the URL revealing Obama’s position about 10 minutes before the interview aired. AdWeek’s Charlie Warzel wrote about what Keys’ finding says about the nature of the news cycle:
“While it goes without saying that the interview was a huge win for ABC News—securing the big interview and the proprietary footage makes this one of the bigger days in recent memory for the network—Keys’ scoop also showcases the intensity of the current news cycle, where no exclusive is safe. ABC had advised employees not to tweet the news and did an admirable job keeping the news from leaking, only to be foiled by a former affiliate employee with a keen and obsessive eye for news.”
Columbia University student Peter Sterne notes that he actually tweeted about the URL a minute before Keys, which is a good reminder about the nature of “scoops.”
“Good Morning America,” “World News Tonight,” and “Nightline,” will all feature segments of Roberts’ interview.
“I’m looking at six TVs in my office, which are all showing Robin’s interview with the president,” Schneider said. “It’s clearly dominating the present news cycle; it’s blanketed the entire Web.”
Related: How 13 news sites handled Obama’s announcement (Screenshots/Poynter)