This week, we had the pleasure to speak with Steve Swatt, host of Comcast Newsmakers and Time Warner Local Edition
What’s your top story for today?
As host of public affairs interview programs for Comcast and Time Warner Cable, each month I interview dozens of state and local elected leaders on different subjects. My top stories today are implementation of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and Governor Brown’s proposed temporary sales and income tax hikes on the November ballot.
Tell us about your dream assignment.
My dream assignment has always been to cover a presidential campaign. I’m fortunate in my career to have covered six presidential campaigns (Nixon/McGovern, Ford/Carter, Carter/Reagan, Reagan/Mondale, Bush/Dukakis, Clinton/Bush), including 10 presidential nominating conventions; a dozen presidential debates; caucuses and primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, California, Nevada and three presidential inaugurals.
Describe the wackiest story you’ve written.
I spent a week reporting on Louisiana’s 1991 governor’s election, which had the most bizarre players I’ve ever covered. The Republican nominee was David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. You can image the circus that surrounded Duke during the campaign. A video surfaced of Duke leading a cross burning in KKK regalia and billboards against Duke included giant Nazi swastikas. The Democratic nominee was Edwin Edwards — a smooth talker whose past was filled with corruption. During the campaign he said, “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m found in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.” He also said of Duke, “The only thing we have in common is that we both have been wizards beneath the sheets.” Bumper stickers read, “Vote for the Crook — It’s important.” Edwards won the election — his third stint as governor. Years later, he was sentenced to ten years in prison on corruption charges.
What is your PR pet peeve?
When I was a reporter, I liked PR folks because they gave me information and leads that often were very helpful. However, during political campaigns, I got tired of incessant PR spin that I’m sure even the PR practitioners didn’t believe.
Top trend in the industry you’re currently covering or are interested in.
Without a doubt, it’s the domination of big money in the political process. Billionaires and multi-millionaires are having an undue influence over our electoral process — sanctioned by the Supreme Court — often without the public even knowing who is behind the orgy of spending.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I fell in love with journalism while a pre-law student at Cal. While earning my Masters Degree in Journalism at Berkeley, I worked for the San Francisco Examiner, then spent two years at United Press International in Los Angeles, and 23 years with KCRA TV (NBC) in Sacramento, as a political reporter and capitol correspondent. I then became a partner in a statewide public affairs firm (Nelson Communications Group, which later merged with PR giant Porter Novelli) and taught at CSU Sacramento. I wrote a political mystery novel, Fair, Balanced…and Dead about a TV reporter and a massive scandal at the State Capitol in Sacramento. These days I’m semi-retired — providing political analysis, working on a second book and hosting public policy interview programs for Comcast and Time Warner Cable.