Saturday, December 29, 2012

PressThink: Philip Gourevitch: Campaign Reporting as Foreign Beat

PressThink: Philip Gourevitch: Campaign Reporting as Foreign Beat

“The press moving as a pack confirms its own take on things,” Gourevitch said. (That’s as well as I have heard anyone put it.) There are many names for this take. It’s called pack journalism. Conventional wisdom. The herd mentality. The script. The frame. Master narrative. It’s the story you agree to accept because it tells you and everybody else what you (and everybody else) are doing on the bus.

Cheesy package tour. That was Gourevitch’s first impression about traveling with the campaigns. You sign up. You get on the bus. It hits all the major sights. Crowds of people get off at each one. Then they get back on. The campaigns tell you what the schedule is. The campaigns tell you where the pick up will be. The campaigns feed you, get you to the airport, take you from the airport.

“Right there they have you,” Gourevitch told our crowd of about 50 journalism students and faculty. “Outside the bubble you cannot go because then you’re dirty again and have to be checked by the Secret Service.” Under these conditions, he said, “no spontaneous reporting is possible.”

You cannot jump into the crowd with an audio recorder and find out why those people were chanting what they were chanting before they were shown away by security guards. Accepting this limitation—a big one—becomes part of the bubble.

This can happen with Bi journalists in a war of attrition against V Republicans in an election, spontaneity is Iv-B and restricted by the process, Bi journalists might write a normalized story and the V politicians do the same. It can also happen in reverse with V journalists writing about Bi politicians, each is normalized and trying to wear down the other. V tends to be more in a bubble because they get surrounded by Iv, in this case Secret Service lobbyists and campaign workers. This bubble is often intended to deceive those outside, the Secret Service needs to deceive potential attackers, the lobbyists need to keep the facts secret because they are competing for business, and the campaign workers try to obfuscate problems with the V politicians. They are then surrounded by Iv deception which can disconnect them from seeing what is happening, the Iv  spokesmen might then work in the Io journalistic market to deceive if they can without doing anything illegal. The Bi journalists tend to work together as a team to counter this deception by discussing it between them, it works the same as an I-O market. 

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