Will she or won't she? Why Hillary Clinton should take questions at NABJ/NAHJ today
Today, Hillary Clinton is speaking to a room full of Black and Latinx journalists in Washington, D.C.
Clinton's session will be important no matter what she says, but she could decide to make news by holding a formal question-and-answer session with the assembled reporters — something she has not done for about 250 days.
If she does, it would be an opportunity to engage with two increasingly important voting blocs in the upcoming presidential election. And it would alleviate pressure from critics — including Donald Trump — who say her campaign is shutting out the press.
So, if she does, what should the journalists ask? After Clinton's appearance was confirmed by the organizers for the joint National Association of Black Journalists/National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention Aug. 1, I decided to pose the following question on Twitter:
— André Natta (@acnatta) August 1, 2016
The tweet prompted plenty of retweets and likes across Media Twitter, but very few responses (thanks, by the way, to everyone who helped amplify it). But several journalists followed up with queries for the presidential hopeful.
Erin Murphy of Lee Enterprises wondered if it should even count as a press conference, even if she does take questions:
Does this count as a press conference? https://t.co/JxcsjvI89l
— Erin Murphy (@ErinDMurphy) August 4, 2016
Former News and Record editor John Robinson suggested those in attendance attempt to get her to commit to a regular schedule.
— John Robinson (@johnrobinson) August 4, 2016
Georgetown University law professor Heidi Feldman asked a question that’s definitely been on my mind.
— Heidi Li Feldman (@HeidiLiFeldman) August 1, 2016
A professor from overseas wondered if this appearance was because of wanting to prep for the upcoming debates.
— Dr. Alan T (@kinowords) August 4, 2016
I eventually decided to ask a more significant question about the situation:
— André Natta (@acnatta) August 3, 2016
To be sure, Clinton has not needed to take questions from the press to increase her standing in the polls. Her opponent continues to suffer from self-inflicted missteps following last month’s Republican National Convention, gaffes that don't require prompting from Clinton.
And there's risk to taking questions, too. A press conference could elicit stumbles as she tries to respond to unexpected questions on the fly.
But a willingness to take questions and relinquish at least some control of the narrative would show transparency and a willingness to go beyond talking points and meaningfully connect with the press.
For the media to function at its best, candidates need to make themselves available to questioning, even if it's sometimes adversarial. If they don't, it's bad for the press, the public, and the candidate — especially when they're facing two of the largest ethnic groups in the country.
What would you ask Clinton? Respond in the comments below or tweet at me @acnatta, and I'll add them to the story.
There was a flurry of additional re-tweets and likes of the original request just before Secretary Clinton took the stage. Many of the responses were from Trump supporters attempting to flood the stream. We did, however, receive additional questions.
Journalist Franklin Leal asked about the future of labor laws:
— Franklin Leal (@superfrank_) August 5, 2016
The hosts of the Tamarindo Podcast wanted Clinton to be frank:
— Tamarindo Podcast (@TamarindoCast) August 5, 2016
Freelance journalist Catherine Hollingsworth was concerned about the expiration date for memories:
— Catherine Hollingswo (@chollihamm) August 5, 2016
There was a request from conference organizers to submit questions via the #NABJNAHJ16 hashtag, but it appears none were asked to the candidate. Clinton answered five questions during the event and, as James Warren wrote and I mentioned earlier, she may not feel the need to answer more. It'd be nice, though.
I still think the counter is continuing to add days myself.