J-School alumnus landed an exclusive interview with Donald Trump

Fall 2016 Edition

Matt Lindberg, managing editor of the Montrose Daily Press, interviewed Donald Trump aboard the GOP presidential candidate's plane on Oct. 18. Lindberg was the only journalist granted an exclusive interview with Trump during his campaign stop in Grand Junction, Colorado, that day. (Photo courtesy of Montrose Daily Press)

Matt Lindberg, managing editor of the Montrose Daily Press, interviewed Donald Trump aboard the GOP presidential candidate's plane on Oct. 18. Lindberg was the only journalist granted an exclusive interview with Trump during his campaign stop in Grand Junction, Colorado, that day. (Photo courtesy of Montrose Daily Press)

When you are a journalist and a presidential candidate decides to hold a rally in your area, it’s a no-brainer that you’ll cover the event.

After Matt Lindberg, managing editor of the Montrose (Colorado) Daily Press, learned that Republican Donald Trump would visit a nearby city, Grand Junction, for a rally Oct. 18, he sat down with his publisher to strategize about coverage.

"I applied for credentials, and then I saw in fine print that it said: “Ask questions about Mr. Trump's schedule,’ so I sent an email just asking about his availability," said Lindberg, who graduated from the KU J-School in 2008.

About two hours later, someone from the Trump campaign emailed Lindberg asking for his phone number. After some back-and-forth calls, Lindberg had more than just press credentials: he had landed a one-on-one interview with Trump, and he was the only print media in western Colorado to be granted an interview.

The day of the rally, everything played out exactly how the campaign staffers had explained it would: Someone tapped Lindberg on the shoulder and then he was escorted to Trump’s plane.

Lindberg was a bit concerned initially about the reception he would get because of Trump’s penchant for being hostile against the media. And the Oct. 18 rally was no exception, with Trump spouting his standard line that the media are “more corrupt than Hillary Clinton.”

"He was pretty vocal about how he hated the media at his rally, and he was pretty fired up about everything,” Lindberg said.

However, after being introduced to Trump, Lindberg said he was pleasantly surprised.

“He was extremely friendly right from the beginning,” he said. “He was asking personal questions about me, my family, my upbringing, our photographer as well."

Although the interview was one on one, they definitely weren’t alone. There were plenty of what Lindberg assumed were Secret Service officers – about six to 10 – and several campaign staffers plus the newspaper’s photographer.

Lindberg said his questions were focused on issues that would be important to people in Western Colorado: jobs. The area has been losing coal mining jobs, and a local dairy farm had just shut down.

"My thought was that everyone had heard everything about Trump and his campaign and knows who he is, so the idea was to ask him questions that were relatable to western Colorado and Montrose, the town we live in," Lindberg said.

Lindberg used a first-person format for his story to give his readers a feel for what it was like to be on Trump’s plane and for how Trump projected himself.

"When I asked him questions, I actually appreciated the fact that he didn't just rattle off some response,” Lindberg said. “It looked like he was genuinely thinking about what I was asking. There were a few times where I asked him a question and he asked me my thoughts. He seemed engaged."

After the about 20-minute interview, Lindberg said he left with a different impression of the billionaire than what he had expected going in.

"It wasn't my intent to necessarily humanize him, but I felt like after the story was done it kind of gave you a different impression, a different side of him that you didn't necessarily read about everywhere."

The story ran in the next day’s newspaper, and he said he received only positive feedback, even from people who identify as Democrats.

"I think people were surprised that we were able to land that interview,” Lindberg said.

Lindberg credits his education at the J-School and experience working at the University Daily Kansan for the success in his career. Out of college he started as a sports reporter in Montrose, then became the education reporter, then the sports editor, and news editor. In 2013, moved to North Carolina to be managing editor at the The Daily Herald in Roanoke Rapids. He came back to Montrose to take the managing editor job a few months ago.

Among his mentors at KU was Ted Fredrickson, even though Lindberg recalls being frustrated at how hard the professor pushed his reporting students.

"I always look back on that. He really prepared me for interviews like this -- being able to ask tough questions, being able to sit down with people of all different backgrounds," Lindberg said.

But even more than his professors, Lindberg credits his family for cultivating and supporting his passion for writing. His father, Dave Lindberg, encouraged him to pursue journalism and paid for his J-School education, his wife, Sarah, who has supported him through two cross-country moves, and especially late mother, Sharon, who died in 2013.

After his story about Trump was published, his grandmothers shared this story with Lindberg about his mother:  She knew young Matt liked to write, so she had encouraged them to give him journals for Christmas. She told them that she was sure one day her son would be writing about important people, maybe even presidents.

— Julie Adam

Trump 1-on-1 with Montrose Daily Press

By Matt Lindberg
Montrose Daily Press

Minutes after speaking to thousands of people in Grand Junction on Tuesday, Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump sat calmly in a seat on his private plane staring out the window.

He knows he has critics. He knows there have been unflattering headlines and accusations that attack his integrity. But looking at people leaving his rally at West Star Aviation, LLC, adjacent Grand Junction Regional Airport, he seemed not to care much about what he called “negative nonsense.” The turnout from the Western Slope seemed to offer him reassurance as to why he was running to be America’s next president in the first place.

“You know, I am a nice person,” Trump told me during a one-on-one exclusive interview with the Montrose Daily Press. “I pride myself on being a nice person, but I am a person who knows how to get things done also.”

Trump, a billionaire business man and one-time host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” is known for being outspoken, and at times, bombastic to some.

Much like on TV, Trump was fired up as he addressed the crowd about “crooked” Hillary (Clinton), Obamacare, the media, corruption in Washington and his goals if elected president.

But Trump was strikingly different once on his plane. He asked about my family, my thoughts on the Western Slope. He was composed and offered thoughtful responses to questions asked, gathering his words carefully before speaking.

“I’ve been here before …” Trump said of the Western Slope. “I think it’s one of the most beautiful places in the country.”

Trump told rally attendees one of his major focuses if he gets into office will be “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

“We’re going to bring coal miners back to work,” he said to audience members, addressing coal mine closures on the Western Slope. Then, he spoke directly to one specific man who identified himself as a lifelong coal miner.

“You ready to go back to work sir?” Trump asked him. “… Jobs will come back under a Trump administration, income will go up under a Trump administration, and taxes will go way down under a Trump administration.”

When discussing the loss of coal mines, a dairy farm and a power plant throughout the Western Slope and Montrose County, Trump asked what I felt were the reasons for the closures. Carefully listening, he then offered his thoughts on opportunity throughout the Western Slope, noting it’s a great source for natural gas. He specifically focused on coal mining during the rally and on his plane.

“I think it is (important) because clean coal could be a tremendous source of energy,” he said. 

The Republican candidate then praised Western Slope residents.

“Look at the entrepreneurship,” Trump said. “Look at what they’re doing and what they’re producing in this part of the world. I think it (the Western Slope) represents an amazing work ethic. That’s why I want to put people back to work.”

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was discussed while on the plane.

“She’s definitely crooked — no question about it,” Trump said as he leaned back in his chair with half a smile, but still was very serious in his demeanor. 

He drove that point home previously during his rally.

“Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt person,” he told the crowd that offered a thunderous applause that made it impossible to hear the rest of his sentence.

That happened a lot Tuesday. It felt like a rock concert 30 minutes earlier as an instrumental seemed ready for a summer blockbuster blared through the speakers in the hangar, preceding Trump’s initial appearance soundtracked to “God Bless the U.S.A.” 

Those cheers continued as he blasted Clinton for her email controversy.

“It’s many times worse than Watergate,” he said emphatically. “If the Clinton administration gets in, history will record 2017 — it will be the year America lost its Independence.”

He also was critical of Democrats’ tactics, playfully mocking protestors who were thrown out of the event for disruptive behavior. He remarked on recently published reports of Democrats paying anti-Trump protesters at his rallies, noting people were happy to do it for $1,500 and a new iPhone. That came as one man grabbed his genitals and stuck his tongue out in Trump’s direction.

He then criticized the media for playing up accusations levied against him as opposed to following what he called important topics, such as WikiLeaks.

“They’ve attacked my business, my family, and my temperament, which has always been one of my best things,” he said to a roar of laughs. “No matter what they think of me, the one thing they know is I’m going to tell you what’s happening — what’s happening with our country.”

Then there was Washington.

“It’s time to sweep the corruption out of Washington,” he told supporters, noting he felt President Obama could be using his remaining months in the Oval Office better served than campaigning for Clinton. “… Fortunately, he doesn’t have much time left.”

Trump announced Tuesday morning in Colorado Springs he will push for a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress if elected. He reiterated this while in Grand Junction, noting his proposal would limit House members to six years (three terms) and Senate members to 12 years (two terms).

“It’s time to drain the damn swamp,” Trump told the crowd about Washington.

As each minute progressed on his plane, Trump seemed to get even cheerier. He said he wants to take care of Washington and rebuild the military, calling them some of the greatest people in the world during the rally. 

“But jobs are so important in this country — we’re going to bring our jobs back,” he told me.

He was happy to talk about the Third Presidential Debate, set for 7 tonight at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. It will be moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News.

“I think I did very well in the first two debates … I think it’s going to be more of the same; we will see what happens,” Trump said. “I’m prepared, I’m ready.”

Trump’s focus once again shifted to the crowds of people leaving the venue.

“I’ve never seen anything like that, have you?” he asked, then questioning where I thought people came from. 

When told I had run into people from all over the Western Slope and as far as Utah, Trump appeared appreciative.

“That’s so cool — I love that,” he said, observing people walking by the plane from a distance.

He didn’t hold back when addressing advocates he has in Montrose County either.

“I just want to say thank you to everyone for their support; it will be well-founded,” Trump said. “We’re going to help this part of the country — it needs some help. But, there are some great people here — amazing people here. The outpour of love is something special.”

Trump’s plane was immaculate — TVs, couches, gold-plated … practically everything. It seemed like a fitting space for a billionaire. But just basing impressions on conversation, one could have mistaken him for an average Joe.

“It was nice to meet you,” as he stood and we shook hands.

Reprinted with permission from the Montrose Daily Press.