Montrose Daily Press Managing Editor Matt Lindberg knew when Donald Trump planned a rally in nearby Grand Junction that the circus was coming to town. He didn’t know he would be invited into the tent to see the ringmaster himself up close and personal.
He says that he got a call from a Trump operative on Tuesday morning, just before the presidential candidate was scheduled to speak before 10,000 people on the Western Slope of Colorado. Lindberg was being invited on the Trump plane for a one-on-one interview with one of the most controversial men in recent history.
“I was told I would get a call from an unknown number during the rally, and I needed to answer,” Matt wrote to me in an email. “Then I would be escorted to the plane. That happened.”
Matt and Daily Press sports editor Richard Reeder got an uninterrupted 20 minutes with The Donald while ensconced in the candidate’s largely gold-plated jet.
Matt says his goal was to capture some of the flavor of the man rather than give another report from another rally. I couldn’t agree more.
Matt’s reporting from that day is interesting, personal, clean and would be worth the price of the paper to anyone in the area who is interested in presidential politics in this unprecedented year. (By the way, the story is behind a paywall or I would share it with you. I have mixed feelings about the paywall concept, but this is certainly an instance when it increases the value of the paid product.) Matt pulled out local nuggets. Trump said he had been to the area before and found the Western Slope of Colorado beautiful. He asked Matt where he thought the people came from for the rally. Matt said he talked to one attendee from as far away as Utah. …
Importantly, Matt set the scene. He talked about the immaculate plane and the gold plating throughout. He said that Trump was attentive to a small-town editor and genuinely pleasant. Matt also found room in a long report for the news of the day. He quoted Trump on his “drain the swamp” sound bite in reference to Washington. He recorded the candidate’s claims that he will bring back coal jobs and also a “crooked Hillary” jab.
It was really quite a coop that Matt and Richard handled admirably.
Significantly, Matt says the result has been overwhelmingly positive. As a result of the interview, he has been invited to speak at a local college class and to elementary school children. He’s been stopped on the street and congratulated. He says his personal Facebook page “blew up.”
I told him that, hindsight being 20/20, I might have written a slightly different story. I would have tried to set the scene and make it local as well, but also questioned why the biggest celebrity in the world wanted to talk to me. Clearly, Trump thought it in his best interest to spend 20 minutes with the managing editor of the Montrose Daily Press. Why? Probably because he thought Matt would humanize a man that many see as a monster and perhaps that the small-town, swing-state journalist would be dazzled by all that bling. I would have mentioned that Trump was having a bad week by any objective standard – a parade of women calling him a cad, falling poll numbers, once-red states back in play – and that that was likely why he wanted to talk to someone like me in a solid Republican stronghold.
My report might have read a little differently, but that is not to say I think Matt failed in any way. His report was his impression, delivered dispassionately, accurately and with honor. And that is a lot these days.
Congratulations, Matt, on the interview everyone wants.