The Boys on the Bus by Timothy CrouseThe Boys on the Bus by Timothy Crouse

The Boys on the Bus

byTimothy CrouseForeword byHunter S. Thompson

Paperback | August 12, 2003

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Cheap booze. Flying fleshpots. Lack of sleep. Endless spin. Lying pols.

Just a few of the snares lying in wait for the reporters who covered the 1972 presidential election. Traveling with the press pack from the June primaries to the big night in November, Rolling Stone reporter Timothy Crouse hopscotched the country with both the Nixon and McGovern campaigns and witnessed the birth of modern campaign journalism. The Boys on the Bus is the raucous story of how American news got to be what it is today. With its verve, wit, and psychological acumen, it is a classic of American reporting.
Timothy Crouse has been a contributing editor to Rolling Stone and The Village Voice, and the Washington columnist for Esquire, writing numerous articles for these and other publications, including The New Yorker. He translated, with Luc Brébion, Roger Martin du Gard’s Lieutenant-Colonel de Maumort. The new version of Anything Goes tha...
Title:The Boys on the BusFormat:PaperbackPublished:August 12, 2003Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0812968204

ISBN - 13:9780812968200

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Read from the Book

CHAPTER I   On the Bus   June 1—five days before the California primary. A grey dawn was fighting its way through the orange curtains in the Wilshire Hyatt House Hotel in Los Angeles, where George McGovern was encamped with his wife, his staff, and the press assigned to cover his snowballing campaign.   While reporters still snored like Hessians in a hundred beds throughout the hotel, the McGovern munchkins were at work, plying the halls, slipping the long legal-sized handouts through the cracks under the door of each room. According to one of these handouts, the Baptist Ministers’ Union of Oakland had decided after “prayerful and careful deliberation” to endorse Senator McGovern. And there was a detailed profile of Alameda County (“… agricultural products include sweet corn, cucumbers, and lettuce”), across which the press would be dragged today—or was it tomorrow? Finally, there was the mimeographed schedule, the orders of the day.   At 6:45 the phone on the bed table rang, and a sweet, chipper voice announced: “Good Morning, Mr. Crouse. It’s six forty-five. The press bus leaves in forty-five minutes from the front of the hotel.” She was up there in Room 819, the Press Suite, calling up the dozens of names on the press manifest, awaking the agents of every great newspaper, wire service and network not only of America but of the world. In response to her calls, she was getting a shocking series of startled grunts, snarls and obscenities.   The media heavies were rolling over, stumbling to the bathroom, and tripping over the handouts. Stooping to pick up the schedule, they read: “8:00–8:15, Arrive Roger Young Center, Breakfast with Ministers.” Suddenly, desperately, they thought: “Maybe I can pick McGovern up in Burbank at nine fifty-five and sleep for another hour.” Then, probably at almost the same instant, several score minds flashed the same guilty thought: “But maybe he will get shot at the ministers’ breakfast,” and then each mind branched off into its own private nightmare recollections of the correspondent who was taking a piss at Laurel when they shot Wallace, of the ABC cameraman who couldn’t get his Bolex to start as Bremer emptied his revolver. A hundred hands groped for the toothbrush.   It was lonely on these early mornings and often excruciatingly painful to tear oneself away from a brief, sodden spell of sleep. More painful for some than others. The press was consuming two hundred dollars a night worth of free cheap booze up there in the Press Suite, and some were consuming the lion’s share. Last night it had taken six reporters to subdue a prominent radio correspondent who kept upsetting the portable bar, knocking bottles and ice on the floor. The radioman had the resiliency of a battered Timex—each time he was put to bed, he would reappear to cause yet more bedlam.   And yet, at 7:15 Mr. Timex was there for the baggage call, milling in the hall outside the Press Suite with fifty-odd reporters. The first glance at all these fellow sufferers was deeply reassuring—they all felt the same pressures you felt, their problems were your problems. Together, they seemed to have the cohesiveness of an ant colony, but when you examined the scene more closely, each reporter appeared to be jitterbugging around in quest of the answer that would quell some private anxiety.   They were three deep at the main table in the Press Suite, badgering the McGovern people for a variety of assurances. “Will I have a room in San Francisco tonight?” “Are you sure I’m booked on the whistle-stop train?” “Have you seen my partner?”   The feverish atmosphere was halfway between a high school bus trip to Washington and a gambler’s jet junket to Las Vegas, where small-time Mafiosi were lured into betting away their restaurants. There was giddy camaraderie mixed with fear and low-grade hysteria. To file a story late, or to make one glaring factual error, was to chance losing everything—one’s job, one’s expense account, one’s drinking buddies, one’s mad-dash existence, and the methedrine buzz that comes from knowing stories that the public would not know for hours and secrets that the public would never know. Therefore reporters channeled their gambling instincts into late-night poker games and private bets on the outcome of the elections. When it came to writing a story, they were as cautious as diamond-cutters.   It being Thursday, many reporters were knotting their stomachs over their Sunday pieces, which had to be filed that afternoon at the latest. They were inhaling their cigarettes with more of a vengeance, and patting themselves more distractedly to make sure they had their pens and notebooks. In the hall, a Secret Service agent was dispensing press tags for the baggage, along with string and scissors to attach them. From time to time, in the best Baden-Powell tradition, he courteously stepped forward to assist a drink-palsied journalist in the process of threading a tag.   The reporters often consulted their watches or asked for the time of departure. Among this crew, there was one great phobia—the fear of getting left behind. Fresh troops had arrived today from the Humphrey Bus, which was the Russian Front of the California primary, and they had come bearing tales of horror. The Humphrey Bus had left half the press corps at the Biltmore Hotel on Tuesday night; in Santa Barbara, the bus had deserted Richard Bergholz of the Los Angeles Times, and it had twice stranded George Shelton, the UPI man.   “Jesus, am I glad I’m off the Humphrey Bus,” said one reporter, as he siphoned some coffee out of the McGovern samovar and helped himself to a McGovern sweet roll. “Shelton asked Humphrey’s press officer, Hackel, if there was time to file. Hackel said, ‘Sure, the candidate’s gonna mingle and shake some hands.’ Well, old Hubie couldn’t find but six hands to shake, so they got in the bus and took off and left the poor bastard in a phone booth right in the middle of Watts.”   To the men whom duty had called to slog along at the side of the Hump, the switch to the McGovern Bus brought miraculous relief. “You gotta go see the Hump’s pressroom, just to see what disaster looks like,” a reporter urged me. The Humphrey press room, a bunker-like affair in the bowels of the Beverly Hilton, contained three tables covered with white tablecloths, no typewriters, no chairs, no bar, no food, one phone (with outside lines available only to registered guests), and no reporters. The McGovern press suite, on the other hand, contained twelve typewriters, eight phones, a Xerox Telecopier, a free bar, free cigarettes, free munchies, and a skeleton crew of three staffers. It was not only Rumor Central, but also a miniature road version of Thomas Cook and Son. As the new arrivals to the McGovern Bus quickly found out, the McGovern staff ran the kind of guided tour that people pay great sums of money to get carted around on. They booked reservations on planes, trains and hotels; gave and received messages; and handled Secret Service accreditation with a fierce, Teutonic efficiency. And handed out reams of free information. On any given day, the table in the middle of the Press Suite was laden with at least a dozen fat piles of handouts, and the door was papered with pool reports.   It was just these womblike conditions that gave rise to the notorious phenomenon called “pack journalism” (also known as “herd journalism” and “fuselage journalism”). A group of reporters were assigned to follow a single candidate for weeks or months at a time, like a pack of hounds sicked on a fox. Trapped on the same bus or plane, they ate, drank, gambled, and compared notes with the same bunch of colleagues week after week.   Actually, this group was as hierarchical as a chess set. The pack was divided into cliques—the national political reporters, who were constantly coming and going; the campaign reporters from the big, prestige papers and the ones from the small papers; the wire-service men; the network correspondents; and other configurations that formed according to age and old Washington friendships. The most experienced national political reporters, wire men, and big-paper reporters, who were at the top of the pecking order, often did not know the names of the men from the smaller papers, who were at the bottom. But they all fed off the same pool report, the same daily handout, the same speech by the candidate; the whole pack was isolated in the same mobile village. After a while, they began to believe the same rumors, subscribe to the same theories, and write the same stories.   Everybody denounces pack journalism, including the men who form the pack. Any self-respecting journalist would sooner endorse incest than come out in favor of pack journalism. It is the classic villain of every campaign year. Many reporters and journalism professors blame it for everything that is shallow, obvious, meretricious, misleading, or dull in American campaign coverage.    

Editorial Reviews

“All the secrets . . . the definitive story.” —The Washington Post“Provokes, perplexes, illuminates and amuses.”—Newsweek“An extremely insightful and provocative book.”—New York“Crouse takes a big bite out of the hand thatfeeds news to America——a mean, funny,absolutely honest book!”—Hunter S. Thompson“Marvelously entertaining . . . There is no better way tofind out just how the news . . . reaches us.”—The Boston Globe