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AP’s Glen Johnson Tries To Get Reporters In Line: “We are here to observe and report, not impede.”

Looks like those dilly-dallying reporters following the McCain campaign are, well, a bit slow. So AP’s Glen Johnson issued a long note to reporters, reminding them of their “Campaign Trail Responsibilities.”

    When it’s time to move, please be ready to move. Obviously, there’s always missed alarms and other vagaries of the road, but, again, multiplied across an ever-expanding press corps, tardiness puts the campaign — and you — in the uncomfortable position of leaving someone behind. Nobody wants that, so using multiple alarms, settling up your hotel or dinner bill before the scheduled departure time and not straying too far from the file with nobody knowing your whereabouts will alleviate a lot of stress between the parties. One thing you may not know: the Secret Service press agents always get a radio call from their detail leader before a departure asking if the press corps is ready to go; it reflects better on them — and us — if the answer is always, “Yes.”.

We’ve obtained the full — and fulfilling memo — and it’s after the jump…


    To: McCain Press Corps
    From: Glen Johnson, AP
    Date: Aug. 5, 2008
    Re: Campaign trail responsibilities

    Folks:

    Since we have no formal team leader, I wanted to step up to address some concerns that have been exchanged between members of the press corps and the McCain campaign regarding access and our ability to do our job.

    We need to address these now to ensure we have the fullest possible access as we move toward the convention and then into the general election.

    Fundamentally, we have to be more attentive to the campaign’s concerns and needs as we do our jobs. In return, the campaign is pledging to be respectful of our request for the most complete and unencumbered coverage possible.

    This played out today in emblematic fashion: because of concerns the press advance director had with our ability to get into the pool vans and depart at a speed that did not inhibit the departure of the Straight Talk Express, we were almost denied coverage of Sen. McCain’s departure from the Rapid City hotel, which included him shaking hands along a rope line before he boarded his bus.

    With a protective pool formed, this is a must-cover scenario for us, and we were able to negotiate coverage — both with print and broadcast teams — with the proviso that everyone would hustle to the vans once the senator stepped onto his bus. In the end, it worked out fine. He shook his hands, we got our images and color and they got some nice photos and b-roll for the network news. The pool fulfilled its mandate.

    Going forward, though, we have to show across the press corps that this is the rule, not the exception. In return, the campaign is pledging to ensure that we can observe the senator in such public moments, while retaining the right to keep the protective pool at a distance if his event is more private in nature, such as simply walking to his limo or running into a grocery store during an otherwise down weekend.

    Gray areas can always be worked out on a case-by-case basis.

    More broadly, the campaign is asking us to be respectful of the challenges they face in herding us from point to point. And the campaign wants to remind us that we are here to cover the senator’s movements — at his pace — and not vice versa: He should not have to wait for us and we should not inhibit him from executing his campaign for the presidency. We are here to observe and report, not impede.

    Everyone can help in this regard in a few easy ways:

    1. Pay attention to the voluminous press literature provided by the campaign. This includes look-ahead schedules to help with booking hotels and coordinating swaps; a nightly note detailing the baggage call times and locals; the daily pocket schedules that outline the specifics of each movement, and; the information sheets about who is greeting the senator on his arrival in each locale.

    The advance director faces daily questions about this basic information, which individually are not trouble but become problematic when multiplied across an ever-expanding press corps.

    2. If you want to cover an arrival, departure or rope line, for example, please alert the press advance director. This not only allows her to keep track of us, but also to alert the Secret Service agents as to our whereabouts. That, in turn, eases their concern about who is near the candidate and how close they should be allowed. Going forward, we are going to have two agents: one with the pool, the other with the rest of the traveling press corps. It helps if you introduce yourselves to them so they can keep track of us

    3. When it’s time to move, please be ready to move. Obviously, there’s always missed alarms and other vagaries of the road, but, again, multiplied across an ever-expanding press corps, tardiness puts the campaign — and you — in the uncomfortable position of leaving someone behind. Nobody wants that, so using multiple alarms, settling up your hotel or dinner bill before the scheduled departure time and not straying too far from the file with nobody knowing your whereabouts will alleviate a lot of stress between the parties. One thing you may not know: the Secret Service press agents always get a radio call from their detail leader before a departure asking if the press corps is ready to go; it reflects better on them — and us — if the answer is always, “Yes.”

    4. With many news organizations swapping reporters, please pass along these concerns and requests to your replacements.

    If you have any coverage concerns or questions, feel free to pass them through me, whomever you choose or to speak directly with the press advance director. All she is seeking is common courtesy and an understanding of the substantial challenges she faces just in herding us, without the additional burden of trying to apologize for us.

    In turn, as a veteran of four campaigns, I have tried to outline our needs to her and find a means to accommodate everyone’s interests. We never want to be in the position of having a campaign justify reduced access because of our own bad behavior.

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