Two CBS reporters, one who covered Obama and one who covered McCain, talk about it…
I do think one of the biggest reasons McCain started seeing more negative coverage in the last half of the campaign is he went negative and cut off press access, so the press were left to report on nothing but the negative campaigning.
This put Obama in the role of the victim, and so he got to fire back at the McCain camps “unfair” attacks.
And then there was Palin, who was completely cut off from the press and so they just kept digging into her background and uncovering one weird thing after another. And then her interviews and the questions about her readiness and it all came tumbling down.
Then the financial crisis hit and McCain’s team took a big gamble and suspended the campaign. And when congressional Republicans essentially ignored McCain, the press reported that.
Obama reportedly kept his distance from the press corps but didnâ€™t aggravate them since there was no substantive shift as the campaign went on in the way he dealt with the press. McCain made a major shift, freezing out (and often blasting) the press after July, after having been one of journalistsâ€™ most accessible and beloved politicos. A huge mistake (which we noted at the time). Obama didnâ€™t take anything away from the press; McCain did. Any reporter will tell you that having direct access to prime sources may not change the reporting of a story, but it could influence how reporters perceive a story if they are locked out from hearing first hand from the primary sources. In addition to squandering his imagery, McCain squandered a still potentially advantageous relationship with reporters covering his campaign.
So, in the end, I think McCain’s strategy was why most of the coverage about him was negative, not because the press, who had loved him before, was biased against him or for Obama.