NYT Editor Denies Reporters Fell 'In Love' With Obama

NBC's "Today" show invited, on Monday, New York Times executive editor Bill Keller to promote a new book featuring photos from the campaign called, Obama: The Historic Journey, and in his interview with Keller, substitute anchor David Gregory actually asked if the book adds to the, "criticism of the news media that we're somehow cheerleaders for Barack Obama," to which Keller admitted it was "a fair question," but claimed, "as a rule, reporters don't fall in love with candidates. They fall in love with stories."

However earlier in the segment Keller called Obama "a rock star," and exposed the fact this his own children, "Had their front door of their bedroom plastered with Hillary paraphernalia...and by the end, you know I think every kid in America was asking their parents when they could go have a play date with Sasha and Malia."

The following exchange was aired during the 8:30am half hour of the February 16, edition of Monday's "Today" show:

DAVID GREGORY: You know it's interesting I thought it was President Bush who was so notable in saying, the day after Election Day, that this was "a great moment for America." That's what President Bush said. He said, "It's a historic moment and something to be celebrated." Yet at the same time, I don't have to tell you, we're all subject to it, there is that criticism of the news media that we're somehow cheerleaders for Barack Obama, and then there's a book like this. Does it add to that criticism?

BILL KELLER: It's, it's a fair question? You know I think, as a rule, reporters don't fall in love with candidates. They fall in love with stories though. And this one, it was pretty clear from early on it was gonna be a remarkable story. It was, the stakes were so high. The electorate was so angry and anxious and polarized. And the range of candidates, there was no heir apparent. So it was clearly gonna be a wide open race. And then this guy emerges, you know from seemingly no where. Not a lot of experience. We did think about that. You know, towards the end of the campaign McCain kept saying the press is in the tank-

GREGORY: Right.

KELLER: -for Obama. Although a year earlier they had been saying the press was in the tank for McCain because he was such a popular figure. But we, we thought about that in doing this book and we made a point of including some of the stuff about his controversial pastor Reverend Wright. His association with a sixties radical, Bill Ayers. And, and, and, you know, and, and the questions about his experience. So it's not a tribute book. It's a, I hope a slice of history.

Below is the complete transcript of the interview with Keller from Monday's "Today" show:

DAVID GREGORY: Back now at 8:38 on this Presidents Day morning and the folks at the New York Times are out with a new book that traces President Obama's road to the White House. It is called Obama: The Historic Journey and there's a young readers edition as well. Bill Keller is the executive editor of the New York Times. Bill, good morning, good to see you.

BILL KELLER, NEW YORK TIMES: Good, thanks for having me.

GREGORY: There's some terrific pictures that we're gonna be showing here including this one, which my friend Doug Mills your great photographer down at the White House and photo editor took on Inauguration Day. What got this project started for you?

KELLER: I think somebody looked out the window on the day after Inauguration Day, and realized that there were hundreds and hundreds of people lined up outside our building to buy copies of that day's newspaper, and they said, you know, "A-ha, there's a real hunger for-

GREGORY: Right.

KELLER: -for some-, for something to hang on, some way to hang on to this event."

GREGORY: And you, you went, took the extra step of doing something for young readers, too. And you have so many young people who engaged in, in the history of the first African-American president as well.

KELLER: Right, as you know, this was something of a children's crusade early on and even, even, before-

GREGORY: Sure.

KELLER: -you know it became Obama's nomination. I have two little girls who had their front door of their bedroom plastered with Hillary paraphernalia.

And by the end, you know I think every kid in America was asking their parents when they could go have a play date with Sasha and Malia.

GREGORY: Right, exactly. Now we're looking at some of the photos. So many candid photographs on, on the trail, capturing the Obama, both at campaign rallies like this and more personal moments. You know, whether it's a pose or a gesture or, a smile like this. It's also a reminder of just how long, incredibly long this campaign was.

KELLER: It went on forever. One, one of the things that's really striking is in the early portions of the book there's some photos by Ozier Mohammed, of, of the stage of the campaign before he was a rock star and before he was drawing these stadium capacity crowds. The sort of intimate moments of him, you know, looking at his Blackberry or walking through a diner and not being recognized. And, or knocking on doors in Iowa. And just, you know, it's hard to remember back that far to when he was a sort of unknown.

GREGORY: This is also different, too. There young kids now living in the White House and who were on the campaign trail, Sasha and Malia, you mentioned. And obviously your photographers captured a lot of those images as well, as, of this family out on the campaign trail together.

KELLER: Yeah it was a question we actually thought about a lot, on Election Night. So, because one of your big choices is, "What's the page one picture?" You know is it the guy? And usually it's the guy. But on this occasion we went with the family because the, this is extraordinarily new thing to have an African-American First Family, and, and you know an appealing family that got a lot of people excited.

GREGORY: Lot of great images as well, we look at then candidate Obama signing books, his autobiography. A lot of interesting pictures during that

transition in that time with President Bush. This is a great bowling shot here. Now that he's the president, now things have changed. He has moved from some of the high of the, the history making part of coming into office. What's an incredibly difficult time to be President.

KELLER: It's, it is an incredibly difficult time to be president and he's found that out already. One, one thing that's made it harder, I think, is you know we live in this accelerated news era, thanks to the Internet and 24 hour cable where not only do people expect the news instantaneously, they expect snap judgments of people. So, you know, whereas FDR got 100 days, you know this guy got 100 hours before people were saying, you know, the thumbs up or thumbs down on his whole presidency which I think is a little early for that, myself.

GREGORY: You know it's interesting I thought it was President Bush who was so notable in saying, the day after Election Day, that this was "a great moment for America." That's what President Bush said. He said, "It's a historic moment and something to be celebrated." Yet at the same time, I don't have to tell you, we're all subject to it, there is that criticism of the news media that we're somehow cheerleaders for Barack Obama, and then there's a book like this. Does it add to that criticism?

KELLER: It's, it's a fair question? You know I think, as a rule, reporters don't fall in love with candidates. They fall in love with stories though. And this one, it was pretty clear from early on it was gonna be a remarkable story. It was, the stakes were so high. The electorate was so angry and anxious and polarized. And the range of candidates, there was no heir apparent. So it was clearly gonna be a wide open race. And then this guy emerges, you know from seemingly no where. Not a lot of experience. We did think about that. You know, towards the end of the campaign McCain kept saying the press is in the tank-

GREGORY: Right.

KELLER: -for Obama. Although a year earlier they had been saying the press was in the tank for McCain because he was such a popular figure. But we, we thought about that in doing this book and we made a point of including some of the stuff about his controversial pastor Reverend Wright. His association with a sixties radical, Bill Ayers. And, and, and, you know, and, and the questions about his experience. So it's not a tribute book. It's a, I hope a slice of history.

GREGORY: Okay. Bill Keller thank you very much. The book is Obama: The Historic Journey. Bill Keller thank you, once again.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.