AP's Josh Boak scored an extremely rare one-on-one interview with President Joe Biden that yielded a half-hour conversation on topics ranging from the nation’s economic woes to its damaged psyche.
In the first 16 months of Biden’s presidency, he did no print interviews except for a few chats with columnists. That dry spell ended when White House reporter Boak sat down with Biden on Thursday. The interview was the result of 18 months of dinners, background chats, coffees, emails, drinks and one particularly tense Zoom call that Boak’s 5-year old crashed with a posse of stuffed animals.
After a spate of recent stories surfaced about Biden’s frustration with his low approval ratings, it became apparent to Boak that Biden felt misunderstood. Boak honed his pitch for an AP interview and emailed a contact, saying that the public needed to know more about how the president and his team weighed decisions on how to respond to the Russian attack on Ukraine and issues close to home, including high inflation and a greater risk of recession. “To do this story right, it requires details on how the choices were made and considered,” Boak wrote. “You’ve seen many of these articles in which the details are used to generate heat instead of light. I’m looking for some light that reveals the underlying facts.” Within a few hours, Boak got a phone call asking if he wanted to sit down with Biden.
Although the White House would not agree to video coverage, Evan Vucci made photos during the interview and video’s Dan Huff shot a debrief of Boak from the White House that was edited by Derek Karikari. Getting the interview on the wire with speed and precision was a group effort by the White House team, with Zeke Miller crafting alerts and writing takeaways, Darlene Superville anchoring the painstaking effort to produce a transcript from faint audio, as well as contributions by reporters from multiple bureaus jumping in to help.
The interview made news as Biden told AP the American people are “really, really down” after a tumultuous two years, but he stressed that a recession was “not inevitable” and held out hope of giving the country a greater sense of confidence. Nuggets from the chat were also useful for a variety of other AP stories on the day of the interview and beyond, on subjects ranging from Roe v. Wade to gun control.
The exclusive was used on some 350 news websites, including PBS, CBS News, NPR, Yahoo, and The Independent. It was viewed or downloaded by 247 customers in APNewsroom. In addition, many news organizations wrote their own stories off the transcript of the interview that AP published. Major political newsletters including Politico Playbook, Axios and CNN's Brian Stelter all had prominent coverage of the interview.