Deadlines Past: Forty Years of Presidential Campaigns: A Reporter's Story

Deadlines Past: Forty Years of Presidential Campaigns: A Reporter's Story

by Walter Mears
     
 

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For a reporter, a presidential campaign is the Olympics of political coverage, and an assignment to cover it is a front-row ticket from the trial heats to the finals. I had tickets from 1960 until 2000." --Walter Mears

Walter Mears had an insider's edge-and he made the most of it by serving newspapers and their readers around the country with some of the best

Overview

For a reporter, a presidential campaign is the Olympics of political coverage, and an assignment to cover it is a front-row ticket from the trial heats to the finals. I had tickets from 1960 until 2000." --Walter Mears

Walter Mears had an insider's edge-and he made the most of it by serving newspapers and their readers around the country with some of the best presidential campaign coverage to see print. The Pulitzer Prize winner also witnessed enough of "the oddities, inside stuff, and impressions" during his 45-year Associated Press career that he ended up with a treasury of American politics and the forces that shaped them.

Fortunately, in Deadlines Past Mears finally commits his unwritten stories to paper. Readers are richly rewarded by his focus on the 11 campaigns he covered, campaigns that altered the way American presidents are nominated and elected, and how the media told the tales along the way. The changes were gradual from Nixon versus Kennedy through Bush versus Gore, but the historical significance of each matchup becomes very evident in Mears's detailed and engrossing narrative.

This poignant political recounting is illuminated by personal experiences and the observations of one of the finest AP reporters to ever file a story. Yet Mears never preaches any viewpoint about candidates or campaign history. He tells readers what he thought at the time, without telling them what to think. The results are a richly woven fabric of fact and reflection made by a penetrating eyewitness with nearly unlimited access to his subjects.

Deadlines Past is destined to become a classic in the political genre, one of the most compelling examples of a hard-news reporter's life, and a captivating view of 40 years of American history.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
After 40 years of covering politics, Associated Press reporter Mears, winner of numerous awards, including a Pulitzer Prize, recently retired and has put his considerable talents to use reviewing the 11 presidential campaigns he reported on firsthand. With elections ranging from the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon battle to the fiasco of the 2000 election, Mears gives readers not just an examination of past elections but also a glimpse of modern U.S. history, as his work covers the war in Vietnam; the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy; the chaos of the 1968 Democratic convention; Watergate; the emergence of television in presidential campaigns; the role of money in politics; and the rise of the professional political consultant, ending with the madness of the 2000 presidential election aftermath. It is a whirlwind tour of the recent past, and Mears is a gifted and observant chronicler of these tumultuous times. Filled with insider stories and entertaining anecdotes, this is an account of how our nation and our politics have changed over the past four decades. Suitable for all libraries.-Michael A. Genovese, Loyola Marymount Univ., Los Angeles Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Seamlessly combining sound reportage with perceptive insights, AP veteran and Pulitzer -winner Mears recalls the 11 presidential campaigns he covered. Famous for his ability to come up quickly with an opening, a talent memorialized in Tim Crouse’s The Boys on the Bus, Mears was known as "What's the lead, Walter?" His speed was an enormous advantage, especially in the days before extensive TV coverage, when deadlines were tight and the print media had to be first with the story. The author recalls the tension and the adrenaline rush of getting it right, particularly on election night in closely fought races when returns were still coming in long into the night and he was expected to call a winner for the morning dailies. Mears began covering the campaigns in 1960 and retired after the 2000 race; he offers illuminating portraits of all the candidates as well as fair-minded assessments. Like most journalists, Mears appreciated JFK’s accessibility. Nixon was "the most fascinating figure I encountered as a reporter, a political genius with a conscience of clay." Carter was "a master of having it both ways." Clinton, "a political actor to rival Reagan with a sack of tricks Nixon would have admired," was someone "for whom evasiveness seemed to be a habit." Among the losers, Mears considered Dan Quayle a fine senator but not presidential material and found Walter Mondale solid but dull. Though he is primarily interested in the candidates, the author also records tremendous changes in their coverage. In 1960, TV cameras were still restricted to the studios, and the reporters were right up front; as the cameras became mobile, the reporters were pushed to the back. As campaigns were taken over byconsultants, financing became all-important, and the press’s relationship with candidates changed. The level of trust eroded, and political reporters began to report what was once regarded as mere gossip. A feast for political junkies.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780740738524
Publisher:
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication date:
10/01/2003
Pages:
360
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Walter Mears was an Associated Press legend, a reporter who was able to observe, process, and write critical political coverage, as another writer put it, "faster than most people can think." He reported on national politics from 1960 to 2001 as one of the "boys on the bus" and was said to be the most influential political writer of his time because his AP stories appeared in virtually every American daily newspaper. He received the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1977 for his coverage of the 1976 presidential campaign and election. He retired after the 2001 presidential inauguration and now lives in Arlington, Va.

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