Our lead story this week was about FBI Director James Comey and his statements from his congressional hearing. The hearing regarded President Trump's accusation of President Obama wiretapping him, as well as the Trump team's potential communication with Russia during and after the election.
We kicked off the show with a cold open from Comey; a cold open is when the show starts with a soundbite from somebody else before our anchors read the first story. I selected the soundbite; I felt very strongly this specific quote was the most important aspect of our most important story, and thus it belonged at the beginning. Comey's statement was, "With respect to the president's tweets, about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets."
As soon as I heard arguably the top law enforcement official in the country say those words, I immediately felt Trump's wiretapping accusations had been totally debunked right then and there. Those accusations themselves were in my opinion one of the biggest stories in recent memory, because of both the merit the accusation had and the sheer fact such an accusation was made. In essence, Trump accused Obama of something equivalent to Watergate, the biggest political scandal in the history of the United States. So to me, Comey saying there wasn't any evidence to support that claim was a mandatory soundbite to start the show. As video producer, it was also my responsibility to order the CNN video of Comey from the congressional hearing.
There is one thing I would change about that cold open. The graphic on the bottom of the screen read "FBI Director Testifies." Had I been a viewer who didn't know what Comey was testifying about, I would kind have been like, so what? Had the graphic indicated what the topics of the hearing were, it would have been very clear why we not only included that story but led with it too. Because in today's day in age, particularly on mobile devices, watching footage without sound is much more common, so it's important to be able to show the viewer what's going on in addition to telling.
Now, I understand the Trump administration's potential coordination with Russia was a principal reason for the hearing, and a topic that was covered heavily. That is also what the first and large portion of our coverage of the story was dedicated to following the cold open. However in hindsight, I don't think it made sense to start off the report talking about Russia. If we elected to utilize a cold open where Comey talks about wiretapping, which I believe was the correct choice, then that's how we should've led with the actual story as well. About a minute and twenty seconds went by in the story before the wiretapping allegation was mentioned. Obviously, the Russia aspects needed to be covered, and covered thoroughly. But I think switching the order in which the two topics were covered would have been the better choice.
I still feel strongly however that this was without a doubt the correct lead story for our newscast. Our reporter Madi did a great job providing all the information necessary from the long-developing story, including the most important statements from Comey's testimony and even going all the way back to comments Trump made in 2016, which was excellent research and content. Yes, it was the biggest story nationally, but I also like how we localized it as well, providing the response from among others California Senator Kamala Harris. I can't take credit for that idea but I think it was a great aspect to include!