As a child C. R. Douglas was, in his words, obsessed with politics. On Sundays he’d wake up early to watch Meet the Press and Face the Nation. At 10 years old he traveled from Bellevue to Spokane and sat on his father’s shoulders to watch president Jimmy Carter speak. And because grade schoolers interested in governmental affairs were hard to find, he’d chat up his parents’ friends instead. That love never waned, and it’s helped make him one of the most respected political reporters in Seattle, first on public-access TV, later at the Seattle Channel, and now on Q13’s evening newscasts. Watch closely as he covers this month’s elections and you’ll see a guy who’s giddy about never having to outgrow his childhood obsession.
Public access was a lot of fun. I mean, I was able to get the mayor at the time, Norm Rice. I just made calls and worked every connection I had, and one interview begat another, begat another, begat another. Finally I had a little tradition going, and people said, “This is kind of an interesting show to do. Pretty smart guy who knows his stuff. Give him a chance.”
I’m very lucky that my entire career has been in Seattle. You’re supposed to start in, like, Cheyenne, Wyoming, and then go to Medford and Eugene and Portland, and then, as a destination, get to Seattle. But I did pay my dues. It wasn’t all lights-camera-action at a commercial affiliate. Public access was about as low on the totem pole as you could get. Public access was my Cheyenne, Wyoming.
You don’t want to prepare so much that you’re not interested in hearing their answer. You want to prepare so that you’re ready with a good -followup question. Actually, one of my pet peeves is when an interview subject doesn’t come prepared. I’ve walked into a lot of interview situations where I’m better prepared than they are for what we’re about to talk about.
People trust me. People like me. People aren’t scared to see me. But they recognize that I’m also going to ask them hard questions. They get it. But they also have a history with me that makes them feel better about that.
The most intimidating interview I ever hadwas with Colin Powell. For god’s sake, he’s Colin Powell. I got 20 or 30 minutes of his time, and I thought, Well, I’m never going to see him again, so I’m going to go for it. After a few softballish early questions I said—didn’t ask, but said—“You’re the reason we went to war in Iraq,” referring to that famous speech he gave at the UN. And he got incredibly defensive and pushed back. It was a very tense, very uncomfortable interview. And he was ready to leave the minute the cameras were off. But he was gracious and shook my hand and had a picture taken. And I sent him a thank you note with that picture. Never heard back.
Our viewers are concentrated in their 40s. They’ve bought a house, they’ve got a stake in the community, they’ve started a family, they’ve become regular voters. But it’s fun to try to see how low we can get on the age spectrum. Can I get a thirtysomething interested in state insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler? Can I get—heaven forbid—a twentysomething interested in a gas tax increase?
I’m an educator, first and foremost. That’s why I love covering political campaigns and initiatives—because they’re things the viewer has to ultimately make a decision about. Okay, they can decide not to vote. But if they’re going to be part of the political process, these are the things they absolutely have to act on.
We have a beast to feed, and there’s a constant deadline. There are days when I’m at the desk with the anchors and it’s 30 seconds before a commercial’s about to end and we’re about to go live with my story and I’ll hear in my earpiece, “Your package is not ready. The editor is still finishing it.” Which means that I’ll have to ad lib my entire three-minute story. That happens more times than I’d like.
I’m pretty good at handling stress, but I wouldn’t say I’m remarkable at it. I get a little anxious. And I’m already pretty loud, but sometimes, 10 minutes before a newscast, I’m the voice you hear the most in the newsroom.
The gay marriage issue was something I was fairly sympathetic to, but it’s more theoretical to my life than practical. You’re talking about a single gay guy enjoying life in the big city, who has no plans to marry anytime soon.
At public access, we had a crew that was completely volunteer. And one thing I did to show my appreciation was to cook this Bundt cake, which they loved. It’s a great recipe from my mother, and it’s only six ingredients. But I can’t cook anything else. People will ask if I’m related to Tom Douglas, and I am not. There’s no relation genetically, nor is there any relation skillwise.
You know, my first job in life was on television. Twelve years old, I was a regular on KING TV’s Sunday-morning education show, I Like Myself. It was kind of the original Bill Nye, the Science Guy. Ran for five years. And for the final two years, between ’78 and ’80, I was a regular. I even ended up doing interviews of other kids. I remember walking in to audition and seeing the set and the lights and everything. It felt like home.
This article appeared in the November 2013 issue of Seattle Met.