Don't want to read a 95-page treatise on the high-velocity nature of modern political reporting and its impact on presidential politics?
Cool. We've got you covered.
After covering the 2012 presidential race, a nearly two-year slog that played out as much on Twitter and debate stages as it did in Iowa or New Hampshire, I was lucky enough to take a five-month hiatus from the breathless news cycle and complete a spring fellowship at Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, writing a paper on the nature of today's up-tempo, web-driven brand of political reporting.
Using Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign as a case study, I interviewed roughly 70 journalists and insiders from Romney's operation, and President Barack Obama's, to figure out what's behind the fraying relationship between political professionals and the reporters who cover them.
Along with plenty of behind-the-scenes reporting, there are a number of lessons for both the press and campaigns in the paper, which I titled "Did Twitter Kill The Boys On The Bus?" You should absolutely read it by clicking here.
But in the interest of saving you some time, what follows is a CliffsNotes version. Here, then, are nine things you may not know about covering the 2012 presidential race from the front lines:
1. It ain't cheap
At the height of the general election, it could cost as much as $10,000 a week or more to embed a reporter full-time on the Romney campaign or Paul Ryan's vice presidential campaign, a bill that usually included the cost of charter flights, bus rides, wireless Internet, "hold rooms" and food. That number was often five times higher for the television networks, which dispatched reporters, producers and camera crews to fly around with the candidates.
Several reporters interviewed for the paper provided their invoices for travel on the Romney campaign.
Six days of travel with Romney in October 2012 cost $4,080 for one reporter and his news organization, a tab that included a $9.54 food charge from Crepe Company, an Orlando dessert specialist. But that was a cheap week.
For the week of October 29 to November 5, the Romney campaign billed reporters traveling with Ryan a total of $12,805, largely for charter flights and "Ground Events."
On a single day, November 1, reporters traveling with Ryan were charged $4,381 to travel with the vice presidential nominee from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale to Las Vegas to Reno.
An editor would be forgiven for questioning the value of those flight legs, given how little news Ryan was stirring up at that point in the race.
2. It's a young person's game
Despite their many disagreements with Romney and his aides, several reporters traveling with the campaign throughout 2012 were actually sympathetic to one of the campaign's biggest gripes: that the press corps was too young.
It's always been this way, to an extent: Traveling with a presidential candidate for a year or more can be a grind. You live out of a suitcase and operate on next-to-no sleep for days on end. But the pressure in 2012 to fill multiple news platforms with content, multiple times a day, meant the newest generation of reporters had be even more hard-charging than in cycles past.
The campaign trail today attracts reporters with the kind of metabolism to thrive in this new world order. To the dismay of the Romney campaign---and their counterparts in Chicago---that meant their press retinue was young and, in their eyes, ill-equipped to cover the most far-reaching and momentous story in the country.
The lack of veteran journalists on the plane in 2012 was indeed problematic, according to many journalists who rode along with Romney in the press cabin of "Hair Force One," as some in the press dubbed their charter jet, in honor of the perfectly coiffed Republican nominee.
"I did often feel, honestly, it would have been nice to have had a layer of people with more experience to kind of look to," said one national print reporter on Romney's plane.
Several reporters who did not want to be named expressed similar regrets about the collective age of the press corps. Having seasoned political minds on board would have been nice, they said. But it also would have been useful to tap into some reliable institutional knowledge about media-campaign relations, to answer questions about access and procedures.
"I felt like I didn't have anybody to learn from," said another reporter on the plane who wished to remain anonymous. "Young reporters have always been on campaigns, but in the past there were also reporters who had traveled on a day-to-day basis who had been there and done that and had a bit of gravitas and stature and ability to throw their weight around with a campaign."
In 2008, there were plenty of young reporters mixed in with journalistic veterans traveling with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. For a variety of reasons, in 2012, those veterans were mostly staying far away from the Romney bus.
This didn't mean the Romney reporters were a bunch of wide-eyed journalism rookies. To the contrary, many had experience on political beats and some had covered the previous presidential race.
But the brand-name political journalists whose bylines grace the front pages of the major newspapers were a rare sight on the Romney plane.
This was partly a problem of Romney's own making. In 2012, Romney advisers harbored so much distrust toward the press and kept the candidate so cocooned that veteran reporters did not even bother jumping on the bus to cover the Republican nominee.