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Arizona governor endorses Obama

January 11, 2008

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., today, telling reporters that the upcoming election is about change — and that Obama is the one who can provide it.

Speaking in a teleconference with reporters and Obama Friday afternoon, Napolitano, a Democrat, said that Obama was the fresh voice that she believes the White House needs.  

“This endorsement is based on my belief in your leadership and vision and the fact that we need a new message of hope and solidarity, of coming together in Washington, D.C.,” she said.

Upon accepting the endorsement, Obama said that Napolitano has proven leadership with the economy, education and border issues, and that he looks forward to having someone with that background on his side. But, he said, “Her hallmark is common sense.”

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., had also sought Napolitano’s endorsement, but, in the end, Napolitano said she believed Obama would be the better agent of change the country must have in its next president.

– Rick Rojas 

Contrary to reports, Richardson may stay in race

January 10, 2008

Bill Richardson

Rick Scibelli Jr. for The New York Times

Despite fourth-place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will remain in the presidential race — at least for now, a campaign adviser told The New York Times Student Journalism Institute on Wednesday night.

Based on information provided by two campaign insiders, The Associated Press reported that Richardson was planning to drop his presidential bid today. According to The AP, Richardson had returned to New Mexico to meet with his senior advising staff about whether to leave the race.

Campaign staffers say, however, that Richardson returned to New Mexico to begin the legislative session. According to an e-mail sent to campaign staff members obtained by The Times Student Journalism Institute, the previous reports of Richardson’s exit were false.

Richardson had said earlier that he planned to remain in the race until the Super Tuesday primary on Feb. 5, when 24 states, including most western ones, will hold their primaries.

It was also reported in The New Mexican, of Santa Fe, N.M., that Richardson could be planning to stay through Super Tuesday, when New Mexico’s primary takes place.

As a Hispanic and a westerner, Richardson is expected to perform well in the western primaries, which are in the coming month. “He had a built-in constituency in those states,” said David Alire Garcia, a staff writer for The Santa Fe Record and host of the public television series “New Mexico in Focus.”

Sisto Abeyta, a New Mexico-based consultant for Richardson, said the change in the election schedule, pushing primaries up by months, had hurt Richardson’s chances. “It’s been made more about popularity than who can serve,” he said, adding that it has made the campaign difficult for Richardson, who has said he’s no rock-star candidate.

Richardson, 60, formally announced his candidacy on May 21 in a video posted on his Web site. “I am running for president,” he said, “because these times call for a leader with a proven track record and a demonstrated ability to bring people together to tackle our problems at home and abroad.”

Richardson’s chances were uncertain from the start, Garcia said. In the age of television, where candidates have to look good in front of a camera, he said, Richardson was a throwback to another era.

As the first Hispanic to run for president, Garcia said, Richardson didn’t appear to be a disenfranchised minority to voters. “I think it was such a beautiful irony that you have the first Hispanic candidate and he’s also the most experienced candidate on paper,” he said.

Richardson, who has been governor of New Mexico since 2002, is the only Hispanic governor currently serving in the United States.

Throughout his campaign, Richardson has both flaunted his extensive political resume and joked at how, even with his experience, he hasn’t claimed a space in the top tier. One of his advertisements, which many have labeled one of the funniest campaign ads of this election cycle, shows Richardson in a mock job interview with a disinterested corporate interviewer reading off his long resume. The interviewer smugly asks him, “What makes you think you can be president?”

Richardson began his political career as a member of the House of Representatives from New Mexico, where he served for 14 years. In 1997, President Bill Clinton selected Richardson to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and he served in that role until he became the secretary of energy in 1998.

A noted negotiator, Richardson represented the United States in negotiations for the release of American hostages in Cuba, Iraq and North Korea. In 2006, he met with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to negotiate the release of the imprisoned National Geographic journalist Paul Salopek.

He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times.

If and when he leaves the race, he is likely to be considered as a running mate for the Democratic presidential nominee, whoever that may be, analysts said.

“I would think he has an excellent chance,” Garcia said. Richardson made the short list of running mate for both Al Gore in 2000 and for John Kerry in 2004.

Political observers will be waiting to see whether Richardson endorses Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama. Garcia said he imagined Richardson was torn between his loyalty to the Clinton family and knowing that Obama had a chance of winning the election.

Abeyta says that if Richardson leaves the race, don’t expect to see an endorsement immediately, because he will probably wait until after the Nevada primary to make his choice.

Though he may be leaving the race after only two states, Garcia said, the Richardson campaign was a milestone. “He was very much a bicultural, bilingual, binational candidate,” he said. “I hope it will pave the way for future Latino candidates.”

— Rick Rojas

The art of asking

January 4, 2008

Diego Ribadeneira, managing editor of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute

Diego Ribadeneira, an assistant metropolitan editor at The New York Times. 

Chuck Buxton says interviewing is a fine art. Buxton, a senior editor at The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif., compared conducting an interview to walking and tackling in football. It’s about juggling to find the right source, getting that source to provide the right information and confirming that the source is who they claim to be. Buxton provided three keys to a good interview:

1) “Be careful.” He said the questions should be clear and the reporter’s notes clean.

2) “Be prepared.” Journalists should do their research and know whom they are interviewing. That means using the Web as a resource to learn about the person and looking at archives for previous stories on the subject.

3) “Be yourself.”

Don’t put on a front, he said, because most people can see through the face. So be genuine.Failing at those points can have devastating consequences, said Diego Ribadeneira, an assistant metropolitan editor at The New York Times. He recalled the story of a woman who said she was a victim of Hurricane Katrina. After fleeing New Orleans, she claimed she had been stranded in a New York City hotel, and The Times related her story in a profile of her. But it wasn’t true. Ribadeneira said that after the story ran, the paper learned she had not been a victim of the storm. She was, in fact, being investigated by the district attorney and other law enforcement, suspected of stealing from the government, and The Times had to run a corrective story.

Ribadeneira emphasized that it’s important to do background research, especially if it’s a mostly flattering profile. It’s embarrassing for a news organization to print a piece in praise of a person, he said, only to discover that the person has a rather unsavory background.

He added that it’s often better to save the tougher questions for later in the interview, alhough reporters should remember that in good interviews, “it’s more conversation than inquisition.”— Rick Rojas