Recently I was watching Derek McGuinty on WUSA9 and he read messages from viewers. One asked what the value was of having reporters put themselves in harm’s way during a hurricane. Do we really learn more by watching a reporter get blown about? I have wondered the same thing about embedded journalists in war zones, does watching the blow by blow make us understand the situation more? My answer would be no and more and more I think the same question/answer would apply to campaign coverage.
The Politico ran a similar story (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0908/13559_Page2.html) which details how close the reporters are to the candidate but how little real access they get. Proximity does not equal influence or access. The life of the political journalist looks glamorous. Whether they cover the White House or a presidential campaign, the life is surprisingly similar and can be really boring. This is one subject I actually know something about because I have worked for the Clinton White House and the last three presidential campaign cycles. The press get shuttled from event to event, they are told where and what to eat and file and unless there is a set press availability planned, their only chance to ask questions is on the ropeline or maybe at the airport. I have never been a fan of having ropelines turn into press conferences because that is one of the only time audience members can talk to the candidate – if only for a few seconds. I have also witnessed camerapeople nearly knock over audience members to get to the candidate and having someone get injured because of this would be terrible.
So what is the benefit of having them be so close? Is there role really the same as the White House pool? Is it really just a death watch? And that is not just my speculation. Whenever the president goes anywhere a press pool follows closely behind for the express purpose of being there should something terrible happen. The problem is now we have media organizations pay a lot of money to hear someone give the same speech a thousand times and I don’t even think hearing how many people attended an event (or didn’t) helps anyone decide who is the better candidate.