Politikos XVIV Reflections on the Democratic Convention:
September 9, 2012
Part One—What’s It Like to Attend a Quadrennial Political Party Convention as a Media Person?
In my last posting, in which I speculated about the future of political party conventions, I observed I was attending the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, NC, Sept. 3-6, and I had obtained media credentials (as a blogger for Patch). I had visions of obtaining a desk in a media room, setting up my computer next to reporters and bloggers from all over the USA – maybe not Bob Woodward, but newspaper and magazine and TV types – and then getting a pass to wander the floor of the convention, interviewing delegates. That did not happen.
The room, to which my type of press pass entitled me, sort of third class media, provided no view of the convention floor. And the desks in it were always filled. And I could get a floor pass for 20 minutes only, if they were not all out on loan at the time. I did visit the floor of the proceedings twice, and I did notice that the only floor interviews that could be conducted were off in two corners and were monopolized by the big-time TV correspondents.
So much for my visions of playing Andrea Mitchell or Dan Rather. Oddly enough, I did bump into Dan Rather, but on the seating level above the press gallery, and he was wearing a credential labeled “media vendor.”
There was a section of the arena, on the third level, almost behind the podium, where a handful of media people huddled with their laptops, but it took what seemed like forever to get there, and then from there to anywhere else. So I opted for sitting and note taking, on the third level, in a section labeled “Alternate Delegates,” above the booths reserved for NPR, CBS, Fox, etc., and then wandering the corridors of the three levels, observing and chatting.
I did talk to David Brooks of NPR, (originally from Wayne, PA), David Korn of MSNBC, Margaret Carlson, formerly CNN and now Bloomberg News, and rubber-necked as Senator Patrick Leahy, Rob Reiner and the fellow who played Newman on “Seinfeld” walked by. No earth-shattering observations. Speaking of interviews, pundits and politicians were holding discussion sessions all over “Uptown” Charlotte, surrounding the Convention Center and the Arena. Bloomberg News featured politicians and correspondents in a series of seminars on public policy issues; in the same building was MSNBC headquarters. A tent outside housed the MSNBC coverage crew, Chris Matthews, et al. Even sporadic rain showers did not drive off the ubiquitous crowd, shouting and waving below the stage; people just sprouted see-through plastic ponchos.
Weird factoid: umbrellas were not allowed in the Arena (the locale of the all the speeches) for security reasons. So all the entrances accumulated piles of umbrellas, since it rained each afternoon. The cops and other security people invited persons to pick any one of them, if you needed one on the way home.
Since my credentials were based on my blogger status, I thought I might try to write a report every day. Unlike other reporters, I cannot listen to speeches and write at the same time, so I could not do this while in the arena. Since I arrived back at my hotel at about 2 AM every day of the proceedings, I am afraid I was just too tired to do daily journalism.
Lengthening our days were late night receptions for delegates, sponsored privately. These are often written up afterwards as places that a little influence peddling can go on. I did not observe any of that. Drinks and “ heavy au d’oevres,” but not dinner, are allowed, since dinners would be an illegal campaign contribution. At least that’s what people said. At one reception with four other state delegations, I met State Senator Link from Illinois, who knows Obama from his Senatorial days there. He observed that Obama plays poker deliberately and cautiously, which sounded to me like a comment on his policy-making.
I met a German and an Italian journalist who write about and from the USA for German and Italian regional papers. Since my calling card says I am a retired professor, we wound up doing mutual interviews. Will my views appear in Bavarian and Piedmontese newspapers?