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The Pull of the Journalistic Mainstream

One common problem reporters in both cases acknowledged was inherent to the social formation press corps constituted, which often acted as the stereotypical pack. In the interviews, pack journalism came up only once in each case in the context of bad journalism, which preceded specific questions about it and group dynamics in general. Even though reporters reflected critically about it when they were probed specifically, they took some extent of pack journalism as an inevitable part of their job. As one LP reporter put it: “There are those media waves that evolve and it is often difficult to resist them and keep calm” (Interview, LP reporter, November 24, 2011). Another interviewee gave a recent example of this: At a relatively formal occasion, the Bavarian Minister-President did not wear a tie. This turned into a story most of her competitor-colleagues wrote about but she chose to ignore: “Then you think: ‘Am I doing something wrong? Do I run in the wrong direction? Am I out on a limb with this?’ ... Of course certain things [in the LP] do go in one direction” (Interview, LP reporter, January 25, 2012).

As Chap. 5 will illustrate, US reporters had quite nuanced views on pack journalism, including benefits of it. But as their Bavarian counterparts, they mostly focused on negative implications. It could be a “nasty thing,” said one young TV reporter, “where we’re all jumping and going in one direction because we saw two other people do that. [It’s] not good journalism. It’s kind of laziness in a sense” (Interview, LCA reporter, April 22, 2010). Conversely, one young reporter was impressed when her colleague did not give in to the pull of the mainstream, relayed through the press corps as well as his superiors:

[He] really fought day to day with editors saying ‘this is what the real story is’. ... it’s nice when you see people do it differently. ... If you see everybody going one direction ... that’s when [politicians and their spokespeople] get something just their way; that’s when they can sneak something in. I sound kind of paranoid but, truly, I think it’s dangerous, the pack mentality. (Interview, LCA reporter, April 16, 2009)

There is an indefinable threshold when deviating too much from the pack becomes considered problematic. This was apparent in the ivory tower- journalism critique quoted above. One LCA reporter made a similar remark: “There is a new reporter ... who has reported a few things that were kind of aloof from the pack, neither of which is proven true. . I look at them and I think ‘Ok, well, it’s his business, I don’t necessarily trust it because I know the track record’” (Interview, LCA reporter, May 18, 2010). I later figured out that he was referring to a journalist who reported on state politics without being physically in Albany most of the time. To sum up, reporters of either press corps considered going in the same direction as inevitable but blindly following the pack as detrimental.

 
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