Though both press corps were formally organized as press associations, their organizational relevance differed remarkably. The LP in Munich manifested itself regularly through organized background discussions and, less regularly, through representing and defending collective and individual members’ interests against political pressure or stonewalling. The LCA had a much lower level of organization, especially as an interest group, and even its minimal functions were contested among members of the Albany press.
Spatial access was a basic concern for both press corps. However, because of the permanence of on-site presence, it was even more central for LCA reporters. Despite that not constantly dwelling within the bubble would suggest otherwise, the no-protest zone around the Bavarian legislature secluded the LP from civil society and expressions of public will to some extent. LCA reporters, even though they dismissed protests as staged and inauthentic, promoted these expressions of democratic will to the public realm.
LP reporters described press corps solidarity in much warmer terms, which was counterbalanced by a friendly and humorous sociability among LCA reporters. This may be a biased view of an outside observer, however, who has not been socialized in the USA and experienced manners of social interaction as refreshingly informal and unconstrained.
The LP was interesting from a boundary perspective: the association protected the professional autonomy of its members, which created a form of solidarity between them that blurred lines of competition. LCA reporters in associational capacities did not defend their competitors from political pressure. Just imagining the LCA president filing a complaint against the Governor’s office for denying a New York Times reporter access seems absurd, not only because cutting off the Times would be counterproductive (but is not unheard of). Conversely, journalists under attack would have never let themselves be defended by their competitors, which had not so much to do with the effective competition between outlets but the competitive culture that throve on the individual esteem of the reporter. In addition, the growing trend of reporters turning into “personal brands” in the social media age (see Chap. 7) might make this level of solidarity even more impossible.
Thus, press corps solidarity was more formal and organized in the LP and more voluntary and spontaneous in the LCA, which corresponds to the varying powers of collectivism and individualism in both countries. There is a tendency to embrace associational structures in Germany— which is a Vereinskultur (associational culture) in many ways—while in the USA there is skepticism against (or at least contestation of) such structures and a preference for informal solidarity emerging from free association between individuals. This difference is also favored by the varying power of market logics impinging on the journalistic fields.
Returning to competition: Not only does it appear much weaker, but reporters in Munich also perceived competition as necessarily detrimental. In contrast, Albany reporters perceived it not only as a matter of fact, including all of its downsides (stress, anxiety), but they saw competition as beneficial and improving their work. Competitive culture seems to be based on the elective affinity between individualism and the greater commercialization of news media in the USA.
Pack journalism was understood by state house reporters in two ways: covering the same issues and as covering them in similar ways. In terms of topical agendas, a certain synchronism within one bubble was inevitable and even desirable to reporters, who deemed some issues as inherently important. Synchronism became counterproductive to them when it was purely based on competition, however. At the same time, particularly LCA reporters saw competition as a driving force that averted pack journalism by fostering the will to stand out from the group. This ambivalence may be rooted in tensions between two kinds of competition: one is organizational (news outlets competing with each other for market share) and the other is individual (merit and esteem within the press corps and larger occupation).
The second form of pack journalism—collectively interpreting issues— had different origins. One of them was journalists talking directly to each other about issues they cover. This was more prevalent in the LP, whose sociability was more engaged and ritualistic (e.g. I never saw LCA reporters go for lunch in bigger groups). The competitive culture in the LCA further attenuated the collective interpretation of issues in conversation. Besides direct interaction, however, collective interpretation also evolves through thinking inside the bubble, which would seem to be stronger in Albany where the state house press was more deeply embedded in their political setting. Furthermore, Albany is a company town in many ways (the company being state government) and thus socially isolated. Especially reporters who had not lived in the area before their assignment typically relied on professional contacts to socialize with outside of work.
Another way how press corps ended up interpreting issues similarly was by the definition of narrative frames through exclusive stories, which others were compelled to follow. The power to set the narrative agenda was not evenly distributed in the press corps and the New York Times as well as its polar opposite, the New York Post, both acted in this way in the LCA. In the LP, in contrast, this power was more evenly distributed because tabloids were much less involved in state political coverage and because SZ was not as dominant as the Times.
Finally, both press corps emphasized advantages of this collective interrelation, which is best summarized by the collective wisdom of a press corps. Firstly, some knowledge was shared within the press corps and less experienced reporters particularly benefitted from that. Secondly, a better- informed collective could more easily defy and expose spin. Thirdly, a wise pack of reporters could act more effectively as a collective to evoke responsiveness and demand accountability from elected officials. This collective wisdom had been waning in the LCA, however, as its ranks were thinning.