After President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, there was the usual TV coverage, including a response from the opposing political party. But an outspoken Tea Party favorite, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, also decided to present her own “rebuttal” to the president’s speech. She set up a webcam and planned to stream her remarks as a webcast to the Tea Party website.
So far, so good.
But somebody in TV news decided late in the game to set up a “pool camera” that would capture Representative Bachmann’s remarks for live or recorded feed to any TV channel that wanted to carry it. Now Bachmann faced two different cameras… One feeding to her webcast audience and another feeding to potentially millions of television viewers on multiple networks or news programs. Guess which one she focused on? She stared straight into the webcam camera, leaving TV viewers with a strange disconnected feeling as the speaker’s words were pitched directly to them, but the speaker never made eye contact!
This is a tough call. You can’t present to two different cameras in two different locations. You don’t want to split your attention, going back and forth between focal points, as it disorients both audiences and makes you look shifty or unsure of yourself. I think that Ms. Bachmann probably did the right thing. She was coming into the room cold, having to come from the Capitol right after the speech. I assume she had practiced ahead of time with the webcam setup. She knew her position, she knew her framing, she knew her lighting in that spot. If she suddenly shifted position to accommodate the surprise TV camera, any of those factors could have been thrown off. But it’s kind of fun to say that the webcast was more important than network television!
Here is a very brief story on the subject, along with a video interview and a short clip from her TV feed.