Why Campaign Reporters Travel In Packs

Jon Stewart has described the media’s style of pack journalism many times with the same analogy: 8-year-olds playing soccer. As Stewart describes it, there’s a weird clump of legs, all moving in the same direction. Suddenly the kids see a ball rolling, and the weird clump converges on it in an awkward, graceless, and rather amusing fashion.

As Stewart sees it, reporters are the kids and news stories are the ball. Chris Hayes, displaying why he’s as good a political analyst as anyone I can think of, explains the psychology of the political press in a great item, written after last night’s debate in New Hampshire.

Reporting at event like this is exciting and invigorating, but it’s also terrifying. I’ve done it now a number of times at conventions and such, and in the past I was pretty much alone the entire time. I didn’t know any other reporters, so I kept to myself and tried to navigate the tangle of schedules and parking lots and hotels and event venues. It’s daunting and the whole time you think: “Am I missing something? What’s going? Oh man, I should go interview that guy in the parka with the fifteen buttons on his hat.” You fear getting lost, or missing some important piece of news, or making an ass out of yourself when you have to muster up that little burst of confidence it takes to walk up to a stranger and start asking them questions.

Of course, it’s amazing work. But I realized for the first time yesterday, that this essential terror isn’t just a byproduct of inexperience. It never goes away. Veteran reporters are just as panicked about getting lost or missing something, just as confused about who to talk to. This why reporters move in packs. It’s like the first week of freshman orientation, when you hopped around to parties in groups of three dozen, because no one wanted to miss something or knew where anything was.

The reporting that emerges from this is, to put it mildly, unhelpful. Read the rest.


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