Susan Saccoccia | 4/20/2010, 10:09 a.m.
Between Barack Obama’s declaring his candidacy for the presidency and Election Day 2008, nationally syndicated columnist Roland Martin filed hundreds of reports about the campaign as a political correspondent for CNN and TV-One Networks.
Martin was also occasionally afforded access to Obama for intimate, one-on-one interviews. It would only make sense, then, that he would decide to publish “The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House as Originally Reported by Roland S. Martin,” a book recounting Obama’s historic run for the White House.
Recently, Roland talked about the campaign, the book, his career and his family life.
Let me start by asking what inspired you to publish the book?
I was thinking about the fact that I had written about a hundred columns during the campaign, and I realized I could do a book on it. So I started pulling all the radio interviews I did during the campaign, and my blog posts, and my interview with Michelle Obama, and I realized I could put together an anthology from just my coverage alone.
But then I thought of calling about 15 of the celebrities I had met on the campaign trail, like Common, Chris Tucker, Jessica Alba and Malik Yoba to speak with them about their involvement. And they all said, “Yeah, we’ll do it!”
How did you decide on the cover and on the book’s title?
I knew I wanted it to look like those “Hope” and “Change” campaign posters. Then I was trying to figure out what the heck to even call it, and I remembered a book I’d read about The New York Times’ coverage of Lincoln’s election, presidency and death, called “Lincoln in the Times: The Life of Abraham Lincoln, as Originally Reported by The New York Times.”
When did you start covering the Obama campaign?
I was already doing my daily radio show, when I was signed by CNN in February of 2007. He declared his candidacy that same month. At that time, I was trying to figure out where I fit in. Everybody was saying, “Hillary Clinton’s going to get the nomination,” like it was a foregone conclusion. But I thought, “Hey, I don’t think anybody’s paying serious attention to this guy.”
I decided my niche was to know anything and everything the Obama campaign was doing, so that, when I went on the air, I would own that space. We had correspondents covering several candidates at once, but my approach was, “No, I’m going to own ‘this’ space.”
Did you find it hard to stay objective during the campaign as a black man?
My role wasn’t to be objective. As a contributor, I was there to be subjective. I was free to give opinion, and that’s how I approached it.
You interviewed President Obama recently. Does he seem like a different person, given his big drop in approval ratings compared to a year ago?
I didn’t get a sense that, because of the drop in poll numbers, things have changed. He’s always been a person who’s on an even keel. But you certainly can tell that the weight of the presidency is there — as it is on any president — because their looks change in terms of their hair color and their facial expressions. It’s a difficult job. It’s not simple at all. If you want to age a lot of years, become president.