America’s Buddy-Buddy Campaign Press Corps

by Walter Brasch

It’s a little more than a week before the presidential election, and I’m worried about what happens afterwards. I’m not worried about the candidates, the people, or the country. I’m worried about the media.

First, I’m worried about the TV ad salespeople. For more than a year they haven’t had to do much other than sit back and open digital files from the politicians. Now, the salespeople will actually have to go to work to fill airtime.

I’m worried about the owners of TV stations. Since January, politicians have placed more than a billion dollars of advertising. Most of that has gone to TV ads, at least in Pennsylvania and the other swing states. Revenue is bound to be down, and the station owners may have to make drastic changes. We can’t expect them to cut back on their golf club memberships, the leased BMWs, or the daily maid service. It looks like they’ll have to lay off reporters. Some may think that the words “TV” and “reporter” probably don’t even make sense in the same sentence, but that’s for another column.

And, speaking of reporters, let’s look at all the reporters. Print and Broadcast. For as much as two years, they have been hanging onto political candidates, like leeches onto the butts of subtropical hunters. These reporters have had to stay in sleazy 3- and 4-star hotels, eat room service food, awaken early every day, pack their suitcases, and rush to a Press bus that would be their traveling home for 12 or 14 hours every day. On the bus they talked with each other—and some poorly-paid and generally inexperienced campaign press aide. Occasionally, the candidates and senior staff rode the buses and talked with the reporters.

At the speech site, the reporters were herded into a fairly good viewing position, and expected to do whatever it is that compliant reporters do. If they interviewed anyone other than campaign staff, it was usually someone in the audience, grabbing such great lines as “I really like Shmidhouse Jones for President” or “I don’t trust that guy he’s running against.”

Away from speeches, they munched on campaign-provided lunches and drinks, campaign-provided news releases and speech transcripts, and campaign-provided concierge service. If case they missed an important ad-lib, they just had to wait for the next stop, where they’d hear it again. Late at night, if they have any energy left—and while they have plugged in their Blackberries, iPods, cell phones, and laptops to draw new energy for a new day—the reporters and campaign staff had a couple of drinks, “just to unwind.”

The goal of political campaigns is to keep reporters so busy, and so comforted, they won’t ask the critical questions or take the time to find the Invisible People and their very real problems.

For a month after the election, reporters will file “What happened?” stories. After a month, they’ll get “home leave” to be reintroduced to their children, who may have thought Mommy or Daddy were sprites locked up in cell phones. Possibly, the reporters will reflect upon why they became reporters, and actually take the time to meet someone who doesn’t hang around politicians and reporters all day long.

[Walter Brasch’s latest book is the second edition of Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush (October 2007), available through,, and other bookstores. Dr. Brasch has covered several Presidential campaigns, usually away from the “press gaggle.” You may contact Brasch at or through his website at:]

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About Walter Brasch

Columnist, author, journalism professor. Latest book is BEFORE THE FIRST SNOW: STORIES FROM THE REVOLUTION, a look at the couterculture from 1964, as seen through the eyes of a "flower child" who is now middle-aged--and of the reporter who covered her story. The book is available through . . . Check out website, for further info. Or, just write me:
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One Response to America’s Buddy-Buddy Campaign Press Corps

  1. Sharon Jenson says:

    Six corporations own major media, networks, etc. This is a conflict of interest
    when they have something to gain by a political party or official is for sale
    in a way that clearly benefits that corporation.

    98% of reason is unconscious, so many Americans enjoy those simple
    sound bytes that the McCain Palin team offers.

    What bothers me is the voting system. I get a receipt when I buy gas, go to
    the atm, or the grocery store so why then can’t the government provide
    me with one after I vote?

    Democracy, I believe, is on its way back. Obama has 9,000 lawyers lined
    up to take on the constantly-stealing-elections GOP. Special attention will
    be paid to Florida and Ohio.

    But we need a universal voting system across America with the same
    laws, voting times, and procedures. Until then, it’ll be a fight to the
    finish! (Or at the very least, to the US Supreme Court).