Exclusive - Scott Conroy Extended Interview

January 19, 2017 - Scott Conroy & James McAvoy 01/19/2017 Views: 11,341

"Embeds" creator Scott Conroy talks about using his experience as a young political reporter covering Sarah Palin in the 2008 presidential campaign to build the go90 series. (6:15)

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Please welcomeScott Conroy, everybody.

-(applause and cheering) -Thankyou so much for being here.

Thank you for having me.

This is, uh...

This is particularly specialfor me

because when I firsttook over The Daily Show

and when I startedgoing on the road,

-I came out to New Hampshire...-Yes.

...and I met you you,an embed,

one of the reporters whoseon the road with the campaign.

-Mm-hmm. -And we talkedabout these stories.

You, as the embeds,were some of the first people

who saw the riseof Donald Trump.

Yeah, I mean, I think we focuseda little bit too much

in this electionon data journalism, on punditry,

and we probably could havelistened a little bit more

to the reportersthat were on the ground.

I mean, we get criticized forreporting that's anecdotal.

But I think if you had goneinto a diner

in Dayton, Ohio two weeksbefore election day...

-Yeah.-...and you talked to 20 people,

you would have hada pretty good sense

that Hillary Clinton wasin deep trouble.

It's a...It's such a tough thing,

because, you know,a lot of people watch the news.

And, like you say,punditry has become the thing.

-Mm-hmm. -There are peopleon the TV, they're in the boxes.

They shout their opinions,and then you go like,

-"I've learned something,"but you... -You usually haven't.

Yeah, but you're on the groundmeeting the people

and seeing the effects that thecandidates have on the voters.

What I enjoyedabout your experience was,

-you wrote about Sarah Palin.-Uh-huh.

And you were an embedon her campaign.

Yes, I was. 2008.

You saw the same thing with her.

-It was growingfrom the ground up. -Yeah.

Like, did you see, like,many similarities

between Palin and Trump?

Well, when I covered Palin,I distinctly remember

thinking to myself, "Wow.This is really cool.

"The most insane electionthat we will ever have,

-you know, in American history."-(laughter)

Yeah.

-Uh...-You silly, silly man.

(laughter)

But it is... I mean,you can trace all of this back

-to Sarah Palin, I think.I mean... -In what way?

Well, before 2008,before Sarah Palin,

you had these milquetoastkind of Republican candidates

-for the most part. I mean...-Yes.

Mitt Romney was the conservativein that race.

Did you...When you said "milquetoast,"

I thought "Mitt Romney,"and then I was like,

"That's not cool, Trevor."

-Then you said "Mitt Romney."-(laughter)

Then in my head, I'm like,"Oh, I was right." Carry on.

But she... I mean, she basicallychanged all the rules.

And people forget that she wasa phenomenon for a while.

When she gavethat convention speech,

I mean, people loved it.

It was the first timethey were ahead in the campaign.

So there was something there.

-She was wildly unpreparedfor the job... -Yeah.

...but she tappedinto a deep-seated thing

that Donald Trump justblew wide open.

What I found interestingin your writing was

talking about how you noticed

-that people on the ground wereliking Sarah Palin... -Yeah.

...which is somethingyou almost forget these days.

It's just liking. Not policy,not plans, but just likeability.

I mean, I think she had thisClintonian quality that I...

Bill Clinton,not Hillary Clinton.

Oh, was about to be like,"I don't think

you are familiar with..." Yeah.

That's important, and whateveryou think about her politics,

you know, she would put her handon your shoulder and say,

"How's it going?You know, I'm Sarah."

Um, just so good at that,making you feel comfortable.

-Yeah. -And that's the kind ofthing that as an embed,

you know, the charactersin our show,

they're experiencing, becausethey're riding around

on the bus, on the plane,with these candidates,

-and they get to see themup close and personal. -Well...

Actually, let's...We've got a clip from the show,

and it is comedy show,but this is one of the scenes

that I found really funnyfrom one of the episodes.

I hear you havethe best breakfast pizza

of any gas station in Iowa.(chuckles)

(camera shutter clicks)

God, she's not changingher mind. We need a plan B.

She's pregnant?

As if I'd have his baby.

Okay, listen, Miley Virus,I'm telling Brynn.

Now, you don't haveto be scared of me,

but you should definitely fearthe mother of dragons.

(laughs)Brynn is very aware.

I know all about her cutelittle pill-popping habit--

which is one tail from the trail

I've managedto keep off the blog.

-So far.-I can't wait to represent you

as your next president.

Come on, come on...Got it!

I'll alertthe Pulitzer Committee.

-(laughter) -Now, what I...what I love about that scene is,

first of all, everyone's young,which you'd think is fake,

but when I came outto New Hampshire, it was, like,

you guys are really young,as a group.

And also, there seemsto be a lot of sex... happening.

'Cause that's a sceneabout them having a threesome

with the candidate's daughter.

Typical dayon the campaign trail.

-(laughter)-No, I mean, no, like,

obviously, you've taken...you've taken creative license,

but it's not farfetched.

Like, a lot of embedson the... on the road

-end up getting marriedor hook up. -Yeah.

I mean, I covered Romneybefore Palin in 2008,

and two of our Romney embedsare now married.

Um, but yeah,you put a group of 20-somethings

into that kind of environment,where they're all, you know,

traveling together,staying in the same hotel

every night,and it's gonna happen.

I think people would bereally interested to know

that it is 20-somethings

on the front lines ofthe campaign for the most part.

They're the onesthat are doing the hard work.

It used to bethe boys on the bus,

you know, the bigwigs--they're back being pundits now.

So it really is the young peoplethat are, you know,

getting this informationfirsthand.

Well, let's talkabout that "hard work."

Specifically,that term, "hard work."

-Yeah.-Because it did feel like

the message that came outafter the election was:

if you were on the ground, ifyou were outside of your bubble,

if you weren't in yourcoastal bubble in the news,

you would have knownthis was happening.

-Yeah.-But a lot of news organizations

no longer put money into embeds.

They go: What's the point?I can just play some B-roll

of Donald Trumpand then know the campaign.

Well, to their credit,the big broadcast news divisions

still do spend millionsof dollars on the embed program.

-Yeah. -I actually just wrotea piece in The Huffington Post

about how I thinkwe should expand

that campaign embed programbeyond the campaign,

you know, to coverthe Trump Administration.

This is obviously a very scarytime for journalism,

and I thinkit makes a lot more sense

to put that young,hungry 25-year-old reporter

on the ground in, you know,Raleigh, North Carolina,

Des Moines, Iowa,talking to Trump voters,

you know, seeing how muchthey-they like it,

um, if the guythat they voted for

is now gonna take awaytheir health care.

-Yeah. -You know, I thinkthat's much more interesting

than putting another,um, reporter in the next...

the White House press corps,which is, frankly,

already sort of bloatedas it is.

And you don't get a lot of news

sitting in a press conference,uh, in that way.

I think it's much betterto send people on the ground.

Well, I mean, um,you're doing a great job.

The show looks likeit's really gonna be funny.

So thank you very being here.

-I hope you'll join us again,man. -Thanks so much.

Thank you so much, Scott.You can watch Embeds

on Horizon'snew streaming service, go90.

-(cheering, applause)-Scott Conroy, everybody.

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