A Young Reporter Makes a Soft Query and Pleases an Upset President
Kyle Mazza, 19, created his own network in Fair Lawn, N.J., when he was 8 years old. On Thursday, his question about the first lady provided a respite for Mr. Trump during a combative news conference.
@liamstack: The reporter who asked the softball Melania question at Trump’s press conference was 19. His TV network was made up.
During President Trump’s strenuous and freewheeling news conference on Thursday, there emerged a brief respite from the pointed questions about Russia, national security, immigration policy and chaos at the White House.
“Mr. President,” a reporter began, “Melania Trump announced the reopening of the White House Visitors Office. And she does a lot of great work for the country as well. Can you tell us a little bit about what first lady Melania Trump does for the country?”
Mr. Trump lowered his combative tone. “Now, that’s what I call a nice question,” he said. “That is very — who are you with?”
The answer — UNF News — barely registered with Mr. Trump.
“Good,” the president said. “I’m going to start watching, all right?”
UNF News is not a television network or a radio network, for that matter. UNF, or Universal News Forever, is the baby, identity, passion and obsession of Kyle Mazza, 19, who posed the question about Mrs. Trump.
The question, which was mocked a little on social media, will most likely end up as a footnote about Mr. Trump’s dealings with the news media. But Mr. Mazza’s unlikely path to the White House is a strange tale befitting these strange times.
UNF News, Mr. Mazza said in an interview on Friday, was his “own news station that I started when I was 8 years old.”
If Mr. Trump were to start paying attention to UNF News, it would be a start: The network has neither advertisers nor subscribers.
Yet in an era of fake news, overheated partisanship and general rancor, Mr. Mazza seems unfailingly earnest and without an agenda — aside from trying to become a reporter, with his own notion of what that means.
After forming WUNF, Mr. Mazza would write articles about events in his hometown, Fair Lawn, N.J. A few years later, he obtained press credentials from a local cable access channel, Fair L awn TV, giving him access to courts and other official events.
By the time Mr. Mazza got his driver’s license two years ago, he had seven police scanners and three weather radios.
“I always used to monitor the storms and the police reports,” he said. “It was extremely interesting.”
After graduating from high school, Mr. Mazza took classes at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting’s campus in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., while continuing to pursue his passion.
Mr. Mazza’s parents, he said, supported and helped pay for his journalistic ambitions. Once he could drive, he aimed his sights on Manhattan.
“I covered one of the mayor’s press conferences,” he said of Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York. “After I did that I got on the list to get advisories from the mayor, so I said, ‘Why not go to City Hall and get myself known there?’”
He soon discovered that in addition to Room 9, where the City Hall press corps works, there was an annex room for reporters in the basement, Room 4a.
Mr. Mazza asked the mayor’s office if he could work from that room. The answer was yes, and for the past couple of years, he has become a semiregular in the City Hall press corps. He said he mostly covers politics, breaking news and entertainment, but allowed that he really covered whatever struck his fancy.
Other reporters had mostly kind things to say about Mr. Mazza, even if they said his approach reflected his age and experience.
Mr. Mazza’s work has, at times, created some unease at home. He recalled when, during a State of the City speech by the mayor in 2016, there was a shooting of two police officers in the Bronx, and he wanted to go with the rest of the press corps with the mayor to the hospital.
“My mom was calling me; she was like, ‘Go home, go home, go home,’” Mr. Mazza said. “She was very nervous, and I went home. But after that, I always went to shootings and now she understands that it is my job.”
But even his mother was shocked when she saw him on national television Thursday.
Mr. Mazza had been going to the White House since the election, and said he had gone to four press briefings conducted by Sean M. Spicer, the press secretary, first securing a daily credential, and then weekly passes. He happened to be in Washington on Thursday when Mr. Trump announced that he was going to hold an impromptu news conference.
“I was prepared,” Mr. Mazza said, explaining that he had a news release from the White House about the first lady opening the visitors office, “and I said to myself, ‘There has not been a lot of coverage about this,’ and I thought it could be interesting.”
Despite the tension during the combative news conference, Mr. Mazza said he was not nervous, saying to himself, “If he doesn’t like my question, he doesn’t like my question. I am just going to ask my question.”
He was not concerned if some people might view his question as a softball.
“I was really honored that he appreciated my question,” Mr. Mazza said. “And I was appreciative he answered my question. The president took the time out of his day to answer my question.”