Paid Trackers Are Your New Press Corps

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 28 2014 11:58 AM

Paid Trackers Are Your New Press Corps

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That badge is a fake!

Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Last week a Democratic campaign sent me this photo of a tracker from one of their events. The America Rising videographer had shown up with something that looked very much like a press badge, the sort of thing that would allow her/him to be waved in to an event that might otherwise be closed.

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When I asked America Rising about the badge, Executive Director Tim Miller sent me this 2012 shot of a similarly equipped tracker for the progressive American Bridge.

"As a tracker," said Miller, "you are often getting asked who you are and why you are videoing. The ID badges make those encounters easier ... except in circumstances where the candidates aren't having open events, our policy for full-time trackers is for them to be transparent about what they are doing."

Indeed, that's what Miller told me earlier in the year when I profiled AR. Local media shrinks; the paid tracker industry, with a different profit motive, gets to be the historical witness at campaign events. Campaigns can complain about the presence of trackers, but few have figured out an effective repulsion strategy beyond just refusing to let them in and hoping it doesn't look too bad on tape.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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