"A shouting match over journalistic ethics broke out on the Obama plane"

In many ways, little has changed for traveling reporters since the old days, most famously documented in Timothy Crouse’s 1973 classic book “The Boys on the Bus.” In both Mitt Romney’s and President Obama’s press corps, there are still all the indignities of pre-dawn wake-up calls and hours of travel to hear the same speeches in different locations. There is still the dependence on pool reports, the dangers of groupthink and the temptations of Stockholm clubbiness (Flag football with the Romney staffers on the beach, anyone? Mitt’s flipping the coin!). There is drinking (less now) and eating (more now), and tensions still surface among reporters (a shouting match over journalistic ethics broke out on the Obama plane). The boredom on the Romney trail has produced photo albums’ worth of gauzy, self-documenting Instagrams…

“There is a change in the relationship,” Pfeiffer said. “There is a tension with the press being on 24-hour gaffe control and their demand for interaction and access.” He added, “Everything in a campaign you judge on a ­risk-benefit analysis, and the nature of the media has dramatically increased the risk while the benefit has stayed the same.”…

The Romney press corps is no more accustomed to meaningful interaction. In a recent swing through Ohio, Richard Gorka, the traveling press secretary, rode with the Romney campaign staff and not on the media bus trailing it. On the plane, Stu Stevens, Romney’s senior strategist, drifted with cupcakes to the back section, where the reporters are corralled, and then disappeared to the first-class cabin with Romney.

On the surface, this may seem like the campaign exercising total control. In fact, it is a total relinquishing of control. Reporters for both new and more established publications used the same word to describe the nearly entire lack of access or information or even standard comment from the campaigns: “freeing.”

“Because they don’t comment, you are freer,” said one reporter who works for a prominent publication and was traveling with Romney and not authorized to speak on the record. “They have no leverage, and so you’re freer to write harder stories.”

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