Reinventing convention coverage
: The fact that 15,000 journalists are going to the convention is the best evidence that their bosses have absolutely no news judgment.
Nothing is going to happen there. It’s not news when nothing happens.
This is the real reason I didn’t apply for credential to cover the convention with other bloggers. I said that I wanted to leave room for other citizen journalists who’ve never been behind the curtain before and that’s true. But I also didn’t know what the hell I’d write about: I saw myself with my laptop and wi-fi and camera phone and camera and digital recorder and phone modem: all dressed up and nothing to cover.
Now I hope that the bloggers who are covering the convention find the fresh stories and viewpoints that jaded old journalists (like me) can’t find. I hope they start conversations the politicians and reporters are no longer interested in starting. As Jay Rosen, who’s now in Boston, said in this weekend’s Newsday:
I think the bloggers have something to add:
They don’t know in advance that what they are doing is meaningless; if they did, they wouldn’t do it.
They don’t assume that a ritual is an empty ritual simply because it obeys a script, since this is the very essence of ritual, as any Boy Scout or churchgoer can tell you.
Although we’re told that “bloggers wear their politics on their sleeves,” and things like that, politics is a personal matter for most of them – not a professional interest. Their communication style is citizen-to-citizen, rather than expert-to-layman or media to “mass.”
I’m not worried about the bloggers at the convention. They will find something to say; they will find the stories to hear.
But I am worried about my profession if it’s stupid enough to send thousands of reporters at huge expense to cover a story that they know isn’t there.
Are we nuts?
Last week at the Aspen Institute, I appalled a few of the attendees when I said that if I ran a newspaper — not likely — I would not enter journalism contests because they skew journalism to be for journalists.
Well, now I’ll add another contrarian contention. If I ran a news organization, I would:
1. Send not one single reporter to the political conventions. I’d get everything I could possibly need from these events off the wires (and blogs) and TV. If news is a commodity — and it is — convention coverage is as common as corn.
2. Instead, send reporters across the country to find out what people really care about. No, they wouldn’t do man-on-the-street interviews with one-way quotes. They’d get into conversations about the issues (see the post above) to see what really matters to the citizens. And I’d devote resources to polling to see what the people’s priorities are and how they match up with the politicians’.
3. Make nonvoters a beat. I’d send a few reporters out to talk to the people who don’t give a damn to find out why (and to find out what matters to them instead). No, this isn’t about tryhing to increase voter turnout; not our job.
4. Give the convention the play it deserves. The networks, of course, are giving the conventions less prime time coverage because they don’t deserve it. If all news organizations followed suit, the parties would be forced to reinvent their conventions (see the post above). I’d still cover the conventions, but not devote big headlines to it unless big news happens. Covering the conventions is like covering the new TV season.
: UPDATE: David Weinberger surveys the new media neighborhood in Boston:
The credentialed bloggers are sitting in the section of the bleachers designated “Blogger Boulevard.” Want to know exactly where it is? Easy: It’s on the other side of the Rubicon.
This event marks the day that blogging became something else. Exactly what isn’t clear yet, and the culture clash is resulting in public functions that, because there is no single culture of blogging, are Dostoyevskian in their awkwardness….
The media are trying to figure us out. The DNC is trying to figure us out. We are always