Covering conventions is an waste 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?


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.

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  • There’s plenty of news at a national political convention. It’s just that none of it takes place inside the hall. I wrote about it in 2000:

    Editors and reporters need to think creatively rather than get stuck in the go/don’t-go paradigm.

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  • Marcos

    “Covering conventions is an waste” is not proper English, Professor. Thank god they are sending real journalists to the conventions and not you.

  • It’s the terror of 168. Every week you need to fill 168 hours of air time. The conventions are a gift, easy to cover, no real investigative reporting needed, lots of visual glitz and, perhaps, even a bit of violence on the streets.

    What more could any “news” outlet ask for?

    Jon Stewart captures the whole thing frequently with his mashups of news channels all using the exact same phrases on the same days. Why think when you can copy?

  • duneview

    Marcos, you might want to double-check your own grammatical usage before correcting the “Professor.” Here’s some help.

  • They go for the free food and booze. And a political convention is THE best chance most geeked-out reporters, etc. will have to get laid in the last four years. You think they’re hanging around Mobile, AL (for example) when there’s a party like THAT going on? Get real.

  • What’s your opinion on the Big Tent?


  • David

    Surely some news organizations (ie The New York Times, CNN, etc.) would want to send somebody – I mean, this is each party’s long-form “pitch” to the public. It is all smoke and mirrors and B.S., but it is their chance to put up the best smoke and mirrors and B.S. display they are capable of, as a preview of the B.S. we can expect should that party be catipulted into (or retain) the White House.

    Thing is, the news coverage is the most interesting thing about the conventions – if they’re going to eat up hours of prime time network TV (as well as cable news and C-Span) we might as well get the neat writing about backstage antics, in-fighting, delegate confrontations, and whacky outfits. As long as the show is being broadcast, we should get the all-around story. I do agree with much of your sentiment though…I think we do with a lot less coverage about the presidential election overall, where the candidate’s differences are pretty well known, and from here on it is mostly just about ads and insults.

  • Wow. I’m actually surprised a schooled journalist can be so completely wrong.

    The only way you go to a convention and not come away with some legitimate news, is if you go to a convention and don’t look for legitimate news, preferring to feed the nonsense instead.

    Journalists, heal thyselves

    Read this

  • Imagine the total number of local stories the country (and different regions) are going to miss out on.

  • Taylor

    { “Why are these news organizations sending so many staffers there? }

    Because most are not news-organizations, as they claim.

    They are entertainment & marketing organizations.

    If one visits a restaurant boldly advertising its product as “French Gourmet Cuisine” — but it primarily serves cheeseburgers, pizza & shakes … they are charlatans, no matter what their claims or history.

    So too with most American “news-organizations”, especially TV network & cable ‘news’. They trumpet themselves as professional journalists… but their daily output is merely popular amusement.

  • Excellent post Jeff. We ( have been struggling on what the actual “story” of the DNCC/RNCC really is, given your points above. It’s been a difficult conversation since we’ve come to many of the same conclusions. We’re going to keep our cameras out of the actual convention halls as much as possible: hopefully there will be more news outside than in….

    …or maybe the story is this post – the fact that there are so many resources being expended on this as opposed to other things. Basically, this is payoff day.

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  • To second my colleague’s comments above, we (the uptake) have been much more interested in what’s happening outside than in – *and* to cover the main point of this post, the excessive focus and expense the legacy media is spending to cover a scripted story.

    When we started thinking about convention coverage, my two concerns have always been the actual reporting of “the story.” It seems to me that the legacy media has traditionally given the Party’s party gilded coverage while providing police footage of whatever protest might occur. They do this with excessive expense and over-the-top manufactured drama. Come on, we know what’s going to happen here. Granted, if we get a surprise, we’ll need a camera or two on it, but the story is pre-scripted.

    My criticism doesn’t end with the Legacy media. I’ve spoken with a few “new” media organizations who because of the lack of an anointed credential, they’ve decided to limit their presence. To me that is mimicking the mistake of their fading peers.

    I will disagree to a point. There *is* a story this year at the conventions, and it needs to be documented – it is an historical election. And, I think this post focuses on the other *real* story – the gluttonous nature of a bloated imperial media. Will they point their cameras on the protesters and really dig into why they are there? Will they reveal how much they are spending on this coverage? We hope to do both of those things.

    While the imperial media follows the script, the Huns are at the city walls, and we have cameras too.

  • Rick

    Good point, that the show is the meta-show about the coverage, not the content itself. You don’t watch TV to get news, do you? OTOH what is, and is not, “covered” is the information you can get from watching newshows.

  • Marcos

    duneview, I’m not the one crying about the state of journalism day in and day out, but thanks for the advice. BTW, I’d be happy to show you how to create a working hyperlink on the internet if you’d like.

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  • Dave

    “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.”

    So you feel there must be *some* coverage, at least? How much? If not 15,000 reporters, then how many? And should they be from AP, NYT, bloggers, CNN, or elsewhere?

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  • I’ve pretty well been ignoring the convention this week (and expect to do the same for the Republicans next week) for precisely the reasons outlined above. I’m old enough to remember when conventions WERE important, a chance to watch the political system in action. Not any more – it’s all marketing, spin, counter-spin, and the glorious irrelevancies of perhaps 14,900 of those 15,000 “journalists.” I used to be one of them; I’m relieved to be out of that rat-race.

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  • Guest

    “…AN waste”?

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