There is a fascinating article up on Huffington Post about how John McCain works the media. (The link to the article is found at the end of the this report.) The article is an interview with Paul Waldman who has co-authored a book with David Brock titled Free Ride: John McCain and the Media. Brock is the founder of Media Matters, an organization dedicated to countering right-wing bias in the news media.
In the interview, Waldman makes the case that John McCain gets a "free ride" from the media because he takes the time to stroke reporters and develop a personal relationship with them. This is a quote from the interview:
"But what McCain understands better than anyone in his profession is that nothing is more important than establishing a personal relationship with reporters. As he's found time and time again, when you build up those ties of friendship, they become a resource you can draw on later. So when something pops up that would be enormously problematic or even fatal for another politician, reporters give McCain the benefit of the doubt."
Waldman also explains how McCain's relationship with the media benefits him:
"What you find when you examine McCain's treatment by the press is this: The rules are different for John McCain. Other candidates get defined by their biggest weaknesses and the worst thing they ever did; McCain gets defined by his best qualities and the most noble thing he ever did. Other candidates find a press corps that mocks their spin and assumes they're phonies and liars; McCain's spin frames his coverage. (When was the last time you saw a story about McCain that didn't refer to him as a "maverick" or his utterances as "straight talk"?) Other candidates view the press as an adversary, and the coverage they get reflects that relationship; McCain views the press as a partner and friend, and that's how they treat him.
The result is that a whole series of ideas about McCain -- that he's a maverick, that he's a reformer, that he's an ideological moderate -- have become so embedded in the coverage of McCain that journalists no longer even ask whether they're true. And in many cases, these ideas are either completely false or have been wildly exaggerated."
Basically, if you are interested in establishing a relationship with someone, you do it by being nice to them, by flattering them, by making their jobs easier, and by not criticizing them, especially publicly. McCain is apparently applying those rules to the media because he wants a relationship with them. It obviously works, although, tellingly, not as well with his home-state news media.
In the article Waldman points out that reporters from his home-state of Arizona have seen the whole gambit of McCain's emotions. They have seen his temper, his rudeness to those who disagree with him, and his pettiness to his opponents. It is not as easy to stroke someone who has seen you blow up at them or others.
Still, since most of the media doesn't come from Arizona, McCain's treatment of the press gets him the results he wants. Since Obama hasn't been around that long, and since Clinton and the media seem to have some sort of love-hate relationship going, Democrats are going to have the face the fact that McCain will be getting much better media treatment than the eventual Democratic nominee.
Here is the link for the Huffington Post article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/25/free-ride-inside-the-med_n_93285.html