Campaign Coverage in the Time of Twitter
How technology has transformed reporting on presidential politics
Thurs. August 25, 2011
Senior contributing writer Jodi Enda (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes about the media, politics and government from Washington, D.C. She previously covered the White House, presidentialcampaigns and Congress for Knight Ridder and was a national correspondent for thePhiladelphia Inquirer. Enda has written about coverage of foreign news and of federaldepartments and agencies in recent issues of AJR.
The late, legendary R.W. Apple Jr. covered 10 presidential elections for the NewYork Times, the last in 2004. Once dubbed "America's most powerful politicalreporter," Apple was notorious for his ambition, his appetite and his ability. Helived large, ate large, spent large and, above all, wrote large. Everything about theman was outsize. His Rolodex was especially grand: He knew everyone, fromcounty chairmen to presidents, and they knew him. For decades, it was so.Yet less than five years after his death, the iconic political reporter better known as"Johnny" would barely recognize the beat he dominated for so long. He wouldn'tknow many of the young new reporters on the campaign trail, of course, butneither would he know a number of the media outlets that employ them. Moresignificant, Apple wouldn't recognize the way reporters of today do the very jobthat he defined
interview by interview, word by carefully chosen word
throughall those election cycles.No longer do reporters slog elbow to elbow with presidential contenders vying forvotes in Iowa and New Hampshire. No longer do they get to know the candidatesin a way that voters do not
up close and personal, with their feet up, their guarddown and, perhaps, a drink at the ready. No longer do they have the luxury of weeks or days or even hours to gather string and dig deep and analyze before theywrite a story. Heck, many reporters scarcely have time to write what Apple wouldhave considered stories, so busy are they thumbing 140-character tweets, tappingout blog posts and shooting or appearing in video.