18 of the women covering Hillary Clinton pose at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. Jeff Green/Politico
The reporter contingent assigned to follow presidential candidate Hillary Clinton includes at last 18 regulars who are women. "No one can remember a political press corps this heavily female," says Politico in a story looking at the phenomenon. Andrea Mitchell invokes "The Boys on the Bus," Timothy Crouse's fun chronicle of the media on the 1972 Nixon-McGovern campaign, in her comments.
In 2008, I was one of the only women in [Clinton's] traveling press corps," recalled Amy Chozick of The New York Times, ticking off names of the reporters covering Clinton's first presidential race. "Wow, it was pretty male then. So what's changed?"
The change seems to be a combination of more women doing political reporting in general, and many more being drawn to Clinton's potentially historic candidacy. It's made for an unusual atmosphere, with a female candidate sparring with a nearly all-female corps of reporters. It hasn’t brought Clinton more positive coverage, according to those both inside the campaign and outside it. But reporters and press aides alike note that there’s a different vibe nonetheless, punctuated by occasional expressions by the candidate herself of camaraderie for fellow pioneers.
BuzzFeed’s Ruby Cramer recalled one press gaggle at which Clinton encouraged her to “liberate herself” and ask what she really wanted to ask. Cramer had planned to ask a lighthearted question but explained that she felt obligated to ask about a former Clinton tech staffer, Bryan Pagliano, who took the Fifth Amendment rather than testify before Congress about Clinton’s email practice. (Cramer ended up asking both questions.)
“And Hillary said ‘Liberate yourself — ask me what you want to ask … no just be free, be you,’” Cramer recalled, chuckling. “I felt like she was encouraging me in a woman-to-woman way."
“It was kind of mortifying but also a funny and light moment in which she was also just echoing something she had said about herself in the past,” Cramer added referring to public comments Clinton has made about how she no longer feels as though she needs to be so careful about what to say "because somebody might think this instead of that."
Carolyn Ryan, political editor of The New York Times, says several factors are converging in the 2016 campaign. "One, a younger generation of talented women reporters is coming of age just as Clinton pursues the presidency,” Ryan told Politico. "Two, while I don't think editors are choosing reporters to cover Clinton because of their gender, women are drawn to this story journalistically, given its sweep, history-making potential and the way the Clinton story intersects with the broader discussion about gender, power and culture in this country."