Questions For. . . Chris Wallace

1219693763Now that the Olympics are over, we can turn our full attention to the every-four-years spectacle we really love—the presidential election.

We caught up with FOX News Sunday host Chris Wallace just hours before Barack Obama announced his running mate late last week, and talked about whether journalists should bother covering the party conventions, the death of newspapers, and his clam chowder preferences. True pro that he is, Wallace deftly answered our questions while keeping up with the latest rumors.

Boston Daily: You’ve covered the conventions for a number of years. How have they changed, and where are we now in terms of what the conventions mean?

Chris Wallace: The big difference then, was that things actually happened at conventions. When I was 16 years old in 1964, I was the go-for for Walter Cronkite at the Republican convention in San Francisco. There was news, party leaders came, there were sometimes fights on the floor. It really has become a made-for-television package where the various news operations allow each campaign to have four days with at least an hour a night for a campaign commercial.

Having said that, there are always surprises. Things do happen. I think the big story at the Democratic convention is the question of Hillary and Bill Clinton and are her supporters going to jump on board the Obama bandwagon. There’s some real drama about that. There’s a lot of bitterness, a lot of ill feeling. Are they going to disrupt the convention? There are always things to cover, but the big difference is how much it has become a made-for-television production.

BD: There has been a lot of talk in journalistic circles that maybe the media should abstain from covering them and just have them be what they are—television events.

CW: I disagree with that. First of all, compared to what? We’re in August, there are summer reruns. Even for the networks, it’s a choice between—hold on one second, let me just see this. Somebody just sent something out that says that,, I don’t know if it’s true or not. . .

BD: Do we have a VP?

CW: Well, I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s true or if it’s a fake, but something out here that says. . . Well, I don’t know if it’s true. But we’ll see shortly. I was going to say, even for the broadcast networks, the convention beats doing a summer game show rerun. It’s four nights every four years covering how a party wants to present itself and how a candidate wants to present himself as the possible president is worth doing.

BD: In the absence of hard news, you get analysis, and over-analysis, and more analysis. It’s not just news and politics, but sports, business—everything on television has to have an interpretor…

CW: I’m looking at this. Oh, this is a fake. OK. Give me the last sentence again.

BD: Have we in the media gone too far away from reporting?

CW: No. I think we report. Lord knows we’re going to be reporting tomorrow about who Obama’s vice presidential nominee is, why he picked him, does he strengthen the ticket or does he not, and what it tells us about how Obama sees his candidacy and the race. But having said that, sure, on all-news cable there is a lot of analysis. I don’t know that that’s necessarily bad—if it’s good analysis it’s good, if it’s silly analysis, it’s a waste of time.

BD: The Vice Presidential selection process is my favorite story of the campaign cycle for the past month or two. Everyone has been rumored to be in the running, so it’s safe to say someone will get the nod. But that seems to be something that’s filled a lot of air.

CW: Well, it’s the only game in town right now. We know who the nominees are, we basically know what their messages are going to be, and it plays into the nature of reporters and journalism. If there’s a big secret out there, people want to know what the secret is.

BD: Our time is running short, so let me ask you a couple of quick Boston questions. You began your career at the Globe, right?

CW: It was my first full-time job after college. I spent four years at the Globe.

BD: Does it pain you as a news lifer to see the upheaval that the newspaper industry is going through?

CW: Yes and no. I didn’t start in newspapers in Boston until 1969, and I think there were three daily papers then. Ten or 15 years before that, there were a half-dozen or so. I would love to see the continued vibrant battle in a lot of towns among a variety of newspapers.

But having said that, I’m sure Gutenberg had a lot of people complaining about how his printing press was screwing up the illumination industry. There are always going to be technological advancements, and they’ll always change the nature of the game. Cable has changed television, Internet has changed cable. You can’t stand there and tell the future to halt. It won’t, and if you’re smart you embrace it and find new ways to inform people.

BD: Let me ask you a few rapid-fire Boston questions. Do you make it back to Boston much?

CW: Not a lot now. My son went to college there, and I used to go back when he was there. I love it. I go to the Vineyard every summer, and I love to get to Boston whenever I can.

BD: That was my first one—Cape or Vineyard?

CW: Vineyard. All the way.

BD: Globe or Herald?

CW: Globe.

BD: Josh Beckett or Pedro Martinez?

CW: That’s a tough one. Can’t I say both? I think I’d really say [Curt] Schilling because he was the guy who turned it around.

BD: Cambridge or Boston?

CW: Boston.

BD: Finally—clam chowder. New England or Manhattan?

CW: Oh, New England. Not even close.

Chris Wallace hosts The Strategy Room (11 a.m.-1 p.m. ET) each weekday and will participate in primetime convention coverage. He is also the host of FOX News Sunday.

Image from