Posts about conventions

Reporters: Why are you in Tampa?

I challenge every journalist in Tampa for the Republican convention — every one of the 15-16,000 of you — to answer this:
* Why are you there?
* What will we learn from you?
* What actual reporting can you possibly do that delivers anything of value more than the infomercial — light on the info, heavy on the ‘mercial — that the conventions have become?
* Would you be better off back at home covering voters and their issues?
* Can we in the strapped news business afford this luxury?

Figure that those 15k journos spend $300 a night each on a hotel room times five nights, plus $500 for transportion. That’s $2,000. And I’m figuring they’ll be slurping up free meals and drinks. So $2,000 is probably (pardon me) conservative. That’s $30,000,000. Now multiply that times two conventions. That’s $60,000,000.

Why? For what?

Note that even while newspapers and news organizations have shrunken drastically, we are sending the same number of journalists to the conventions that we sent in 2008 and 2004.

Why? Editorial ego: It’s fun to be there, in the pack. It’s fun for a paper or station to say, “We have our man/woman in Tampa/Charlotte.” Well goody for you.

It’s a waste.

Take that $60,000,000 and divide it by a fully loaded labor cost of, say, $100,000 per head and it would pay for 600 reporters for a year. At $50,000 for a hyperlocal reporter, we’d get 1,200 towns covered — more than Patch! What could they do versus what you will do in Tampa and Charlotte transcribing marketing messages and horrid memes?

Or we could pay for Homicide Watch 1,500 times over, instead of just paying attention to a shooting that happens where tourists wander.

Those 15,000 journos will — three-to-one — cover 2,286 delegates (6,000 for those spendthrift Democrats) wearing funny hats, saying nothing new.

At least 3,775 newspaper jobs were lost last year; 39,806 since mid-2007; one in three newsroom jobs have been eliminated since 1989. How’s that make you feel, convention press corps?

We can see whatever we want to see on C-SPAN (and I don’t begrudge the networks for giving us America’s Got Talent instead of the conventions since at least AGT has surprises; the conventions are scripted).

Commentary? There’ll be more than we can possibly use this year on Twitter and Google+ and blogs and everywhere. We don’t need to pundits’ palaver. Citizens will comment this year.

So enjoy yourself, hacks. You’re living off the last dollars of your business. And for what? Tradition? Where has that gotten us?

Please prove me wrong. In a week, show me the amazing reporting we couldn’t have gotten if you weren’t there.

Covering conventions is an waste

Forbes.com reports that the number of journalists covering the conventions this fall will remain at the same level as 2004 and 2000: 15,000 of them. What a waste. The outcome of the conventions is known. There will be no news. Why are these news organizations sending so many staffers there?

Ego.

That’s it, pure ad simple: Our man in Denver. Instead of your woman. It’s for bylines, bylines the public couldn’t care less about. The coverage will be no different outlet to outlet. We can watch it all ourselves on C-SPAN.

The conventions aren’t news. Anymore they are only staged events to get media coverage. And it works. But it’s not for the public good that they’re covered.

Don’t try to feed me that line about how they’ll be covering their local delegations. Their local delegations never make news — not since 1968 anyway — and their actions couldn’t be more predictable, less newsworthy. If you want to cover the locals, cover them at home — before the event. But you still won’t get any news from them.

As news organizations dwindle, this is an irresponsible use of resources and it only shows how the industry’s leaders are tied to doing things the way they always did them. That’s what will be the death of journalism.

Those reporters would be far better used in their local markets doing real reporting there. Don’t go to the convention and ask the same old question and get the same old answer about health care; instead, go ask patients and doctors in your market what is happening. Don’t go getting locker room sound bites from local pols at the convention; spend the time at home to analyze their expense accounts and donor reports. You want to know what issues matter in November? Ask the voters in your backyard.

Should bloggers be going to the conventions? I’m not sure why. It was a big deal when they were given official status; we were all so proud. But I think we just became another cog in the media machine. I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember reading much of moment in the convention blogs four years ago. That’s because nothing happened.

If I were a newspaper editor, I would proudly make the point that I’m not sending anyone to the conventions. I’ll use the power of the internet to find and summarize the best coverage there is. I’ll do what I do best and just link to the rest.

Sendign 15,000 journalists to the conventions remains a shameful waste.