Interview - Daniel Weintraub

Interview: Daniel Weintraub, Journalist & Columist, The Sacramento Bee & The California Insider Weblog: 17th August 2003

In keeping with Media Man Australia's tradition of tackeling any subject, we explore the man who juggles traditional journalism with blogging!

Danirl Weintraub has been doing his thing for 20 years, and is currently keepin the world up to date with the daily happenings in the race for the Califonia election.

This interview was requested and published in a record breaking 45minutes!

What's your background?

I've been a journalist for 20 years, including 16 covering the California Capitol. I've worked for the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register and now the Sacramento Bee. I write three columns a week for the opinion page of the Bee, and those columns are printed in papers throughout California. I also write the California Insider weblog, at The blog is a collection of breaking news, analysis and commentary on California politics. I update it frequently during the day.

How did you get your break in media?

I was lucky enough to get three full-time summer internships with the Los Angeles Times while I was in college at San Diego State University. When I graduated, the Times hired me, first as a temporary fill-in and then as a full-time reporter.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

Learning something new every day, and explaining complicated subjects to people who don't have the time or the access to master them on their own.

What do you prefer to cover the most, and why?

I call it the connection between politics and policy - the place where all that business that happens on the campaign trail is translated into laws and regulations that actually affect peoples' lives.

If its possible to qualify it, how much attention have you and The Sacramento Bee garnered by the current election? (I'm writing to you from Sydney, Australia and our newspapers are reporting on the election and Arnie daily)

A ton. My weblog, which I started in April, is generating more than 20,000 hits a day, which I think puts it among the top 10 or 20 blogs in the country. I've also been asked to appear on national news shows almost daily since the recall campaign began.

How fair has the reporting on the election been?

I think it's been quite fair. In the early stages the media tended to dismiss the recall as a project of right-wing cranks. But many reporters took it seriously. And once the recall campaign got big money behind it, journalists pretty much accepted as fact that the measure would qualify. I think coverage of the candidates, which is just beginning, has been fair and balanced.

What political "dirt" are you willing to bring up on Arnold or any of the other candidates?

I have a pretty black and white view of it. It's newsworthy if it pertains to the job they hold (if a public office) or are running for. If you're talking about sex stories, I believe those are news only if there are serious, credible allegations that laws were broken.

Hows things look on my mate, Arnold, from where you sit?

He has an excellent chance, but it is going to be a tough campaign. There are several other Republicans in the race draining support from him, and only one Democrat, so the Democrats can unite behind their own. Arnold has the potential to explode our traditional boundaries around politics and energize voters who have traditionally tuned out of the process and stayed home on Election Day. But he also could screw up and see his support, which is broad but not deep, come crashing down.

Why has the Arnold Campaign been so successful?

I don't know that I would rate it a success just yet. His best chance is that he has built in support as a celebrity, yet he has a background and views that might lead people to see him as much more than just an actor.

Do you think the general public can see that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a man of substance, who educated himself, worked hard, and is now living the American dream?

If he runs a good campaign, that's exactly how they will see him. If he continues to hire fellow movie stars like Rob Lowe, they might see him as just another dumb actor.

We recently interviewed Lorraine (Abner Zurd) Fontanes. How's she looking?

I haven't been following her closely.

Are Californians voting with their hearts, his policies or a combination of things?

So far his support is mostly emotional. He's going to have to build on that in order to win.

What's your predication on the election?

I almost never made predictions. But before Arnold jumped in, I said I thought if he ran, he'd win. I'm not as sure of that now as I was when I said it, but I'll stand by it.

What's your workload like at the moment? - eg 20 hours per day, bigger than usual....

Probably 16 to 18 hours a day, about double what is normal. I am also jumping on breaking news. As a columnist, I was sitting back a bit and doing more analysis.

What's the best thing about working for the Sac Bee?

The leadership at the paper is tremendously supportive of everything I do.

What other media coverage have You received?

I have appeared on CNN, FOXNews, CNBC, MSNBC, Lehrer News Hour, and many radio shows, but mostly as an analyst. The weblog is receiving a lot of attention, mostly in journalism trade publications.

How did your online newspaper, and your own website / blogger come about?

I decided on my own a while back to do an electronic newsletter of items I'd collected that never made it into a column. In a brainstorming session earlier this year with our online shop, we just decided to make it a blog. We had no idea at the time that the recall was around the corner. Just dumb luck.

Do you write differently for web as to print?

My web entries tend to be more casual, more chatty. The print stuff is slightly more formal. Although I have always been told I write in a fairly conversational style.

Why do you think Americans generally like Australians? - they do, don't they : )

Maybe it's the accent. Aussies also seem friendly, and fun-loving. They remind me of Canadians. Not taking life too seriously. Our family skis in the Sierra just about every weekend in the winter, and the resort that is our usual spot is staffed almost completely by Aussies. We love 'em.

How is our Prime Minister, John Howard, perceived in the United States?

He is not known by the general public at all, or at least wasn't before Iraq. His support of Bush raised his profile a bit, in a positive way, but I'd guess fewer than 1 percent of Americans know his name.

What motivates you?

Just the desire to be the best I can be at whatever I am doing at the moment. More broadly, to help people understand the world they live in, especially what government is doing for them and to them. I believe fiercely in self-government, self-determination and individual responsibility, and I believe that none of these things can flourish without a free press. I'm proud to be part of it.

How do you create balance in your life?

Though I love my job, I have always seen it as a route to create the kind of life I want to live, spending time with my wife and my two sons, and my friends, getting outdoors and enjoying the natural environment, or traveling to the cities I love. I've never tried to get or hang onto a job that required me to sacrifice those things. As it's turned out, I've been able to have the things I value and have a job I love. I guess I'm blessed.

What do you do to relax?

Read, hike, ski and snowboard, hang with my kids, go to films, eat out with friends.

How would you like to remembered?

As someone who always gave everything he did his best, and was trustworthy, dependable and a good friend.

Editors note: A most interestig read. Very informatice, especially when you consider that Daniel is in the middle of covering one of the host important, certainly hyped, elections of all time.

We look forward to turning to Daniel for the daily accounts of all of the action in California.


The California Insider - Weblog of Daniel Weintraub

The Sacramento Bee

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