“I was a news watcher as long as I can remember, and a sports watcher. In second grade I started watching the news and sports on tv, and I think that’s because it was back in the day where you had three channels, and if you were a kid and wanted to watch TV at five o’clock,
That was your choice. You’re gonna watch the news or you’re gonna watch static. I was a second and third grader watching the newscast each night. I developed a developed a fondness for it, even though it was way beyond my years.”
Scott MacFarlane covers Congress and the January 6th aftermath for CBS News. Scott has been with CBS since January after leaving the NBC affiliate in Washington DC. He’s covered Washington DC for nearly 20 years and has a long career as an investigative journalist as well, having won more than 20 Murrow and Emmy awards for his work. His Twitter is the go-to source for information on every January 6th court case: MacFarlaneNews.
You can listen to the full interview here.
Here are three things I learned in my conversation with him.
1) He views covering every case as vital
“There are now nearly 900 defendants. And what makes it trickier, and I think this is true in many different types of news and in many types of storytelling, sometimes it’s the lower-level person who can be the most interesting. There are people who are accused of conspiring to attack the Capitol, of equipping themselves with money and weapons of preparing for this horrendous moment.
Then there are people who didn’t even realize they were inside the Capitol illegally or who didn’t touch anything, realized all hell was breaking loose and ran right back out. They’re charged with crimes too, and their backstories may make them more interesting.
What’s up with the grandma who did this? What’s up with the person who brought his teenager or younger inside the Capitol? What’s that all about? Even if he or she didn’t take anything, break anything or punch anyone. So, what that means is you’ve gotta cover every case because you don’t know where the twist is going to be.”
2)He’s human and it’s hard not to react strongly as news comes out
“It was a real problem the first few weeks after January 6th, 2021, because it was one of those moments in history, maybe the only moment in history, where the size and scope of what happened became more clear as time went on. And outrage grew as time went on and engagement in the reporting on it as time went on. That’s not typical for coverage of news events.
Usually the further you get removed from an event, the less people are interested in it. This was the opposite. People became more desirous of information after months went by because the sheer enormity of it wasn’t known immediately.
There were some images we all saw that day and night and looked terrible. There were some accounts we heard that day and night that sounded awful. Certainly historic. But when more came in, we learned more. We learned how close the insurrectionists came to the vice-president who was running for his life with Secret Service.
When we learned of the masochistic or misogynistic, vulgar things that were said by the rioters, it became known how bad this was. When we saw how close America came to losing its democracy that day. That wasn’t known for days or weeks after in some instances. So, I had trouble at first muting my visceral reaction about it because this is a horror show. It looked bad that day. It was worse than we thought.
And as weeks went on, we realized that now I think we’ve gotten a good sense of the scope and size and it’s easier to process when I hear a new nugget that is troubling.”
3)He uses the Twitter videos he makes as a differentiator
I’m a big believer in those. I’m a big believer in providing something on a social media platform that is differentiated from what you’re doing elsewhere.
I will post, when I think it’s worthy, some of the videos that we broadcast, some of our news stories, some of our news videos on social media. And there’ll be some people who like it, who react to it, who comment on it.
When I specifically record something exclusively for the social platform, wildly more. Wildly more engagement because I think what the audience craves is something that is specific to them. Yeah, I did this special for you. Here’s something I got in my notebook that is just for you here. I don’t say it in so many words, but I think people sense it and they realize that they watch, that they watch a social media video, they’re gonna get something they can’t get elsewhere, and that’s why those work.”
Check out the full interview here. If you’d like to read a transcript instead, click here.