Chris Daniels, chief reporter at KING Seattle, has been captured on camera at least 32 times drinking with local and state politicians. “I just don’t want to do politics the way it has been done in the past.”
Chris Daniels, chief reporter at KING, Tegna’s NBC affiliate in Seattle, has been captured on camera at least 32 times drinking with local and state politicians.
The practice is even endorsed by the station’s news director, Pete Saiers.
“Last year I pitched this idea in a casual conversation with him and he didn’t even hesitate,” said Daniels. “He said, let’s do it.”
The idea turned into 32 news segments, and counting, of Drinks with Daniels.
“Last year, Pete Saiers and I were talking about our political coverage. My title is chief reporter and so politics fall under my jurisdiction. We were talking about plans for the future, the conventions coming up, our political coverage coming up. We had a bunch of city council races in 2019 and I said, you know, I just don’t want to do politics the way it has been done in the past with typical stories about here is what voters in one district have to say and here is who this candidate is and one sound bite from each. I said I would rather sit down and talk with these folks in a relaxed setting over a drink and call it Drinks with Daniels.”
In 2019, of the 15 politicians Daniels invited for drinks, only one chose alcohol. The others chose milkshakes, protein shakes, hot chocolate, coffee or tea. And only one declined entirely to meet with Daniels. But Daniels did a segment about that politician anyway.
This year, half the invited politicians opted for beer, or martinis, or an assortment of mixed drinks. Perhaps COVID or the stress of a hotly contested election played a role.
“I thought it was kind of funny the change from 2019 to 2020. You can make some natural assumptions why people decided that was the way to go.”
Whatever they were drinking, Daniels said the politicians were more at ease. “They are physically more relaxed because you are not standing there rigid.”
Daniels said part of his pitch to politicians was they picked the location, and the drinks. “I thought it would be a way to highlight a small business in Seattle.”
So, who’s drinking with Daniels? Incumbents and candidates, Republicans and Democrats for local and state offices, Washington state’s governor, state representatives, secretary of state, attorney general, mayors, members of city councils, and the Seattle Chamber of Commerce president.
The segments are not your typical interview, said Daniels.
“These are highly produced with music and slow motion shots of drinks being poured. We try to boil down a 20-30 minute conversation into an easily digestible, easy to follow, 4 minutes or so segment and give every candidate that opportunity.”
The camera work is not run of the mill either. Daniels said the crew shows up early at the location to set up three Sony FS7s DSLR mirrorless cameras that shoot in film-like quality.
And of course, since March, all rules of social distancing and wearing masks are followed.
NOTE: Daniels gives big props to Saiers and Laura Evans, KING’s assistant news director, as well as photojournalists Joseph Huerta, Eric Desrosiers and Mike Perry for working with him on the project.
Click here to watch more segments of Drinking with Daniels from 2019
Click here to watch more segments of Drinking with Daniels from 2020
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