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WSOC's Pasquarella interviews president

By Mark Washburn
mwashburn@charlotteobserver.com

Channel 9's Natalie Pasquarella landed a pretty good interview last week - the president of the United States.

As part of a White House initiative to reach beyond the Washington press corps, local stations have been invited to interview President Barack Obama. Last week, the invitation went to stations in Miami, Philadelphia and WSOC in Charlotte. Pasquarella and photographer Bill Bruce got the assignment.

Ground rules: You only get seven minutes with the president.

With Obama about to depart on a trade visit to Latin America, Pasquarella asked about local-international connections like those forged by Charlotte's Rhino Assembly Corp., which has seen sales surge through new partnerships with Brazilian companies. She also got in some questions about the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

It wasn't her first White House experience - she'd been there before to interview Reggie Love, Obama's personal assistant and frequent basketball opponent who grew up in Charlotte.

"He said to me, 'So I hear you're from North Carolina and I hear you know Reggie Love.' A year and a half ago, I interviewed Reggie. I said, 'Yes, Mr. President, I interviewed him at the White House,'" Pasquarella said.

"He looked at me with a grin on his face and said, 'So why did you interview Reggie? What's he done?' Everyone laughed."

Obama was relaxed during the interview and seemed knowledgeable about Charlotte issues, Pasquarella said. "You expect this larger-than-life persona, but he was very down to earth." Her interview aired on Monday's newscasts.

Pasquarella, 29, is a fast-rising star at WSOC. She arrived in August 2008 from a station in her native Steubenville, Ohio, to co-anchor mornings and middays with Scott Wickersham. A year ago, she was promoted to anchor of the 10 p.m. newscast on Channel 9's sister station, WAXN (Channel 64).

During November sweeps, WAXN's 10 p.m. newscast was No. 1 among the three local telecasts at that hour for the first time in years. Fox Charlotte (WCCB, Channel 18) regained No. 1 in the February sweeps, but Pasquarella's newscast was the only one of the three airing at that hour - or of the three at 11 p.m.- to show growth in viewers year-to-year, up 12 percent.

A journalist for only six years now, Pasquarella said that getting to interview a president was a thrill. "Certainly a memorable experience this early in the game."

Media Movers

WSOC-FM (103.7) music director Rick McCracken marked 25 years at the station this week ... Laurabree Monday, anchor and news director at Comporium cable's CN2 in Rock Hill, is among the ranks of pregnant anchors. She and her husband, Channel 9 meteorologist Keith Monday, are expecting in April. Also due soon are Molly Grantham of WBTV (Channel 3) and Anjanette Flowers of WCNC (Channel 36). Christine Nelson of Channel 3 is due this summer. ...

On the next "Celebrity Apprentice" (9 p.m. Sunday, NBC), contestants will be making promotions for a video phone produced by a local telecom service, ACN in Concord. ... Sean Casey of Discovery Channel's "Storm Chasers" will host a screening of his IMAX film "Tornado Alley," 6:45 p.m. March 31 at Discovery Place.

Mark Washburn: 704-358-5007; mwashburn@charlotteobserver.com
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