By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—From July 2011 until January 2012 the state’s iconic political television Capitol Journal was dark.
That all changed when two weeks before the opening of the 2012 Legislative Session, Don Dailey said, “Welcome to ‘Capitol Journal.’”
Veteran radio journalist Don Dailey has become the face of “Capitol Journal,” interviewing the state’s top lawmakers and opinion leaders.
“It was a Godsend,” said Dailey, of his hiring at APT. “I had just left WZZK, in Birmingham where I had worked in radio news for 21 year, when I received a call from APT,” Dailey said.
While he had studied and worked in television during his college years, Dailey had found a career in radio news. “Making the jump from radio to TV had its challenges but I have weathered the transition well enough or at least I think I have,” said Dailey. “ I had done a lot of public affairs programs in radio, so I was familiar with the format of ‘Capitol Journal.’”
The relaunch of “Capitol Journal” in January 2012, gave Dailey only two shows to host before taking on the grueling schedule of nightly news reporting.
During regular legislative session, “Capitol Journal” airs 5 nights a week, Monday through Thursday, it is a half hour program, Friday’s show an hour, featuring lawmakers as well as journalist.
“When the legislature is out of session we still have the hour-long Friday program,” said Dailey.
“I have had the privileged of interviewing some very important people in my tenure at ‘Capitol Journal,’” said Dailey. “I have felt very privileged and appreciative for each interview.”
Dailey would not say who his favorite interviews have been he does say, “Sometimes I go in thinking it is going to be a run-of-the-mill interview and one question turns the whole thing around and you go in directions that had not been imagined.”
He says these are the times the show is most for as a moderator, “There are those interviews that you don’t know what to expect. By that I mean an interview with a rank-and-file member of the legislature can suddenly take unexpected turn and develop a life of its own. This has happened several times this year and it always very invigorating.”
Dailey says that most all the legislators are easy to interview but says “there are some that don’t enjoy being on television so we deal with that.”
He tries to convey to his guest that “we are designed to not be controversial, we are about letting them talk about legislation and their views”
Daiely wants to encourage every legislator to make an appearance on “Capitol Journal.” “We are more a program of record not a confrontational talk show. I never bring a guest on with the intention of putting them on the spot.”
Over the year, whether true or not, APT and by extension “Capitol Journal” acquired the reputation as being as being a left of center television station, “I have often heard that comparison being made, it hasn’t been my experiences at APT so far,” says Dailey. “As for ‘Capitol Journal’ I work hard to keep the show straight down the middle.”
Dailey doesn’t reveal anything about his personal political leaning but lets the show speak for itself. “I never allow my personal opinion to enter the process, frankly I don’t think my opinion should matter, what is important is the opinion of the guest on the show.”
He says his job as moderator is to “ask the questions—granted sometimes they are tough questions–and keep the conversation going.”
Dailey believes the show is not about him or a point of view but about the guest’s.
When Dailey took the helm at “Capitol Journal” he instituted not only a redesign but also integrated, social media into the program system.
“With the relaunch, we created a Facebook page and Twitter account and the feedback we have received from social media has been very positive,” Dailey said. He says that the feedback the programs receive from viewers via social media has “been important and has at times played into what we plan for the show.”
Dailey says that he has received a great deal of encouragement from lawmakers and viewers who are glad to see the program’s return.
There are plans to bring on a co-anchor before the next legislative session. “When we first relaunched the show we had a co-anchor but unfortunately she had personal responsibilities that caused her to have to leave.”
Dailey says that he is in talks with APT management to host a new show later in the year.
“We are still working on the details, but I can tell you it will be a talk show, but more broad-based,” said Dailey, “so that its focus will not just be on the legislature or state government, there will be a variety of topics.”
Dailey says he has a great time doing “Capitol Journal” and has had many great guest and a few crazy moments.
“Early on we had a segment lined up for the nightly show and at the very last minute the guest canceled and there was no one else waiting in the wings,” Dailey recounts. “ I literally had to come up immediately on the fly.”
After contacting another legislature he found that there was another problem. “I contacted a legislator who said that they could come on the show, but that a the moment he was in the throws of session on the floor.
“The clock was ticking down to airtime, so I went to the floor where he was actually reading his bill and waited, as soon as he finished reading I escorted him out of the chamber and down to the studio.”
Dailey says that experience taught him to always have a back up planned in advance.
He says that there have been many memorable guests on the program and many memorable moments during his time as host of “Capitol Journal.”
“We have the governor on several times has been very interesting and fascinating to have him on,” Dailey said. He then adds that one interview that stands out with Senator Harri Ann Smith. “It was just after the gambling corruption trials, she was being bombarded for interviews but she came and appeared on ‘Capitol Journal.’” He says Smith was candid, open and a really fascinating guest.
Dailey, has been sighted by many as a consummate professional and has risen as a top talent on Alabama Public Television.