In contrast, George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson, and the other Yankees seemed to hash every disagreement out in the tabloids. As a youth at the time, this always struck me as unseemly, but the Yankees had hit upon the future of entertainment -- taking back office controversies public. By the 1980s, there were top disk jockeys, like Steve Dahl in Chicago, whose act largely consisted of on-air squabbling with station management. By the late 1990s, reality TV shows like Survivor and Big Brother became popular even though they consisted of little besides inside dirt on who was doing down whom.
Leon Hadar points to a Ryan Lizza New Yorker article that makes clear, without quite noticing it, that John McCain enjoys favorable press coverage because he runs his campaign as a sort of private reality show for the reporters important enough to be on the bus covering him:
"It is bracing to drop in on the McCain campaign after covering the overly managed productions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The Democratic candidates rarely speak to the travelling press. McCain not only packs his bus with reporters (whom he often greets with an affectionate “Hello, jerks!”) but talks until the room is filled with the awkward silence of journalists with no more questions. ... McCain and his aides openly discuss strategy, whether it’s Brooke Buchanan, McCain’s travelling press secretary, prepping him for a press conference (“ABC might ask about that”) or McCain discussing his targeting strategy for Tampa (“I thought we did a robo-call to tell people about Schwarzkopf”—referring to the endorsement by General Norman Schwarzkopf). ...
McCain’s open-access policy is partly strategic. After all, he is able to hammer talking points like any politician. (It’s not just his jokes that he repeats.) But, by engaging reporters in long, even substantive conversations, he also disarms them. The incentive to ask “gotcha” questions that feed the latest news cycle is greatly reduced, and the hours of exposure to McCain breed a relationship that inclines journalists to be more careful about describing the context of his statements.
This doesn't mean that reporters get anything important out of McCain about what he would actually do as President. He doesn't seem to say anything terribly interesting. He just gossips about horserace politics, like how much he hates Mitt Romney and how much he finds Ron Paul's supporters to be weird, and they find it fascinating.
Strikingly, the top-rated show of the decade, American Idol, follows the old-fashioned Dodger strategy. It completely ignores all the backstage conflicts among the performers and just shows them singing. Similarly, the Obama campaign keeps reporters away from both the candidate, and even his supporters, as much as possible: "The Obama campaign, like the Bush White House, prides itself on message discipline and tracks down leakers with a frightening intensity."