Higher Prices for Convention Security
Could Mean Less News Coverage
Media Nation Staff Reports
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Network and cable TV news
organizations report Tuesday evening from their vantage points over the convention
Media Nation Photo by Sarah M. J. Welch
It is a mantra as common as the roll call of convention delegates. As each
quadrennial political convention comes to a close, predictions run rife that the
convention will change next time around, along with the news coverage.
So what, if anything, has been different about this convention?
It wasnt an accident that when [the Democrats] first went on network
they opened with a video about 9/11, said George DeLama,
a managing editor for the Chicago Tribune. The Republicans will no doubt
do the same thing in New York.
Another difference lies in the debut of a new way to cover the event.
Every convention is like a coming-out party for a new medium, DeLama
observed. In 1996 it was the Internet folks
. In the 90s, you started
to see the rise of cable news
networks, and this time its the bloggers.
The Tribune, he said, has three people doing blogs. The response weve
gotten is amazing.
The Associated Press Walter Mears, who is blogging for the wire service,
started at the AP during the days of manual typewriters and teletype machines.
Copy moved at 65 words per minute, he said.
Mears, who is covering his twelfth presidential campaign, said he's "having
a ball. This is my home and Im delighted to be here. This is where I started
with the AP a long time ago -- 1955 -- in the old Globe building on Lexington
Street, he said. For him, the change in technology had meant more contact
Ive been getting more attention writing the blog than Ive had
in years, Mears said. Ive found it very amusing as the worlds
oldest blogger with all of three days experience in the field.
As security related to the convention gets more expensive, theres speculation
that the higher price tag will mean less news coverage and even a shorter convention.
Could it be done in two nights instead of four night? said Terence
Smith, media correspondent for The NewsHour on PBS. Of course it could.
Tom Oliphant, a columnist with The Boston Globe, says the convention is becoming
ever-increasingly an infomercial. Its a print reporters dream
because theres world-class schmooze. (He insists on fully disclosing
that his daughter is a speechwriter for John Edwards.)
Will the political parties give up the opportunity to showcase their candidates,
their stars and rising stars? Not likely.
While complaints abound about the seemingly scripted nature of recent political
conventions, Oliphant says it could be unwise to predict their extinction simply
because the television networks are cutting back on their coverage.
The pendulum never freezes. Its always moving, and it would serve
those broadcasting idiots right if one year it catches them with their pants down,
Bill Schneider of CNN likened the political conventions to major family events.
You dont go to a bar mitzvah to see any news; you go to find out how
the fella does, he said. The whole country will be watching to see
how does [Kerry] do.