MEDIA

How Politico Got The Scoop On The Biden-Colbert Interview

A reporter bucking press corps convention forced the White House to lift the news embargo early.

NEW YORK -- Several hours before Stephen Colbert's moving interview with Joe Biden aired Thursday on CBS's "Late Show," news outlets were already publishing stories on the vice president's expressions of grief over the death of his son Beau, along with his hesitancy to commit to a presidential race.   

The floodgates opened soon after Politico reported details of the emotional sit-down at 7:10 p.m, shortly after the show finished taping. Other news outlets, expecting to receive a transcript of the interview in advance, were planning to publish at 11:35, when the show aired and the embargo lifted. 

Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere wasn't restricted by the embargoed transcript, however, because he took a more direct route to get details of the interview. He waited in line for tickets for several hours and watched along with the "Late Show" audience, he told The Huffington Post in an email. 

Dovere's piece caught reporters who'd been following the event off guard, since they had been expecting a pool report under embargo long before the show aired. When the president or vice president appear in settings that cannot accommodate a pack of reporters, one journalist is designated to attend the event and provide a report for the rest to use in their coverage.

"I didn’t travel with the vice president and wasn’t in the vice president’s pool, so wasn’t bound by any embargo that applied to the pool," Dovere wrote to HuffPost. "The screening is open to members of the public, who are free to discuss the taping after they leave."

On Friday, New York Times reporter Michael Shear -- the designated pool reporter for the event -- explained to colleagues how events transpired. Shear wrote that the White House lifted the original 11:35 p.m. embargo just a few minutes after Politico published its story and he "endeavored to quickly finish the pool report so that reporters on this list could produce stories."

Shear's full note to the press pool, first posted by The Washington Post's Erik Wemple, is below.

 

Note on Embargo: 
 
Many people have emailed, asking your pooler what happened with the embargo on the Colbert appearance last night. As a result, I thought it would be worth an explanation to the people on this list.
 
Before the taping, CBS informed your pool that we would be allowed to watch the taping, but that the contents of the show were to be embargoed until 11:35 pm eastern time, when the show began airing -- a routine arrangement for late-night comedy shows. Your pooler informed this list that a pool report would be distributed at that time. At the end of the interview with VPOTUS, at approximately 6:15 pm , your pool was led out by the White House to vans and taken back to a hold.
 
What your pool did not know at the time was that Edward-Isaac Devore, a reporter for Politico, had waited in line for tickets to the taping and was in the audience. Your pool did not see him there. At approximately 7:17 pm, Isaac posted his story and at 7:21 pm the White House officially lifted the embargo. Your pooler endeavored to quickly finish the pool report so that reporters on this list could produce stories.
 
Your pooler regrets any difficulties for the reporters on this list. If you have any other questions, feel free to send me an email.  
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