Telemundo's Montenegro Gets Answers From Obama

For some viewers, a highlight of President Obama's primetime press conference on his 100th day in office (April 29) came when he took questions, back to back, from reporters for Telemundo and BET.

"The presence of a reporter from BET - and the fact that he was included in the president's prearranged list of those to be called upon - was as surprising as almost anything else that has taken place in the new president's relations with the news media," was blogger Richard Prince's take.

He noted Obama called on Lori Montenegro, a Washington-based general-assignment reporter for the Hispanic network Telemundo, in addition to BET's Andre Showell.

Montenegro told The Wire her Blackberry was already buzzing with shout-outs before the president had finished answering her question.

Reached on the job at the White House Friday, Montenegro said she didn't know she was about to be called on for the first time by Obama. "When I heard my name I was like, 'Oops, that sounded like my name!' "

Obama has made a concerted effort lately to call on minority journalists who aren't embedded in the White House, and that's a good thing, Montenegro said.

"Sometimes there are just topics where Hispanic media, or an outlet that might be geared to the African-American community, follows a story very closely for many years. So we have a different take or a different perspective on that issue. ... You sometimes get out of the person a different answer, it's not that typical answer."

She said she got "a very good answer" to her question about immigration reform. "I don't think we have ever heard him say we don't believe in chasing after a handful of workers, [that] that's not to our benefit."

Obama also said he wants to get the process started this year and has reached out to Hispanic Congress members and others, she said, and that also advanced the story.

As for the 50 or so calls, e-mails and texts she's received, Montenegro - a 12-year Telemundo reporter once called on by President George Herbert Walker Bush at a press conference, but never by President George W. Bush - said "people were proud."

"And a lot of people - I don't like to talk about it, but a lot of people did state to me that they were so thrilled to actually see a Hispanic, a woman of color, actually get up there and be able to ask a question.

"That is what really struck people," she said. "That they could see a woman with a Hispanic name, who is of color, have an opportunity."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.