A newsman, being thrashed about in the middle of a media mob, shouted, “Don’t push me!” Another newsman responded, “You gonna get pushed.” A shoving match ensued that would have made any schoolyard dispute look highbrow. An exchange of expletives followed. The press coverage of the 1996 New Hampshire primary was in full swing. This year’s primary proved to have more intense media coverage than any previous primary. Grizzled media veterans were amazed at how the candidates were nearly inaccessible because of the sea of reporters perpetually following them. The invasion of New Hampshire by legions of the fourth estate revealed a news media increasingly intrusive and arrogant.

The GOP debate sponsored by WMUR-TV 9 in Manchester provided a showcase for the media’s audacious behavior. The press was shuffled into a giant garage in the back of the WMUR studios. The area was set up so the media could interview the candidates and their spin masters after the debate. There were not enough chairs or tables to accommodate the hundreds of reporters who crammed into the garage. One reporter remarked that it reminded him of a Third World bus station.

The press garage became so packed by the time the debate started that movement became nearly impossible. Once the debate was over, a circus-like atmosphere prevailed. The GOP candidates walked in one at a time to answer questions from the hordes of reporters. So-called “second-tier” candidates like Representative Bob Dornan (CA), businessman Morry Taylor, Senator Richard Lugar (IN), and Ambassador Alan Keyes were asked one or two questions before reporters would interrupt them and shout “thank you” to speed them off the podium.

Once the press conferences were concluded, the spin masters, politicians, and pundits descended upon the room and declared winners and losers. The press then began to do what it so often does, it interviewed itself. Reporters interviewed other reporters. Shortly afterward, a mass exodus occurred. People traversed across table tops fleeing the room. Reporters began pushing and shoving their way out toward the only exit door.

The press corps behavior degenerated further as the primary drew near. Pat Buchanan ventured to Timco Lumber in Center Barnstead, New Hampshire. When Mr. Buchanan arrived, hundreds of reporters engulfed the candidate, stopping him dead in his tracks. He finally squeezed his way inside.

When he came back out to face reporters, Mr. Buchanan made the mistake of walking near a shiny red parked car. The media hordes instantly began climbing all over the car, stepping up on the hood, and setting up tripods on the roof. No one seemed to notice or mind one bit that the ear was being used as a press riser.

There were about six people on the car when the hood buckled from the weight of their boots. Once Mr. Buchanan moved away from the car, the media abandoned the automobile as quickly as they found it. The car looked as if it had weathered a hailstorm. Small dents peppered the hood, complete with muddy footprints. The door and bumper of the ear had scratches on the side the media trampled.

Next, about a dozen media members ascended to the top of a 20-foot high log pile. Officials at the lumber yard, fearing the logs would roll, pleaded with them to come down. Even Mr. Buchanan implored them to come down, but alas, not a single person descended.

In the middle of this sea of reporters, cameras, and microphones, a voice penetrated from afar. “Hey, Pat, I’m from Barnstead, you have my vote!” proclaimed the anonymous voice. There was a moment of stunned silence, and then Pat Buchanan quipped, “There’s a voter in there. Release him!”

The media blockade of the voters continued on election day. Senator Dole decided to visit a voting station in Derry, New Hampshire, to create a photo opportunity greeting voters. A steady rain forced all the media under an awning at the entrance. Instead of Senator Dole greeting happy voters, the reporters on the scene essentially sealed off the entrance. Several voters approached the entrance befuddled. The voters, ostensibly the reason for the primary, were backed up into the parking lot as they tried to figure out what was going on. One reporter, possibly feeling a twinge of remorse shouted, “Let the voters through.” In a triumph of democracy. Senator Dole finally retreated to his vehicle and took off allowing the primary process to proceed.

The media’s overbearing presence in New Hampshire effectively separated the voter for the candidate. The residents were forced to evaluate a candidate from television news and advertising. No longer was New Hampshire unique in allowing the voters to “press the flesh” with the candidates. There can be no candid one-on-one moment when 300 members of the press are hovering overhead with cameras, microphones, and lights. In its frenzied pursuit of news coverage, the media exhibited behavior that shirked decency and respect for property. The fourth estate’s conduct in New Hampshire confirms that ego and arrogance have replaced responsible journalism.