Ed Driscoll

The Conventions They Kept To Themselves

The MSM spends much of their working days making sure that any negative news involving their favorite Democratic candidates is kept carefully wraps, but Jack Shafer of Slate suggests that the legacy media goes one step further, and boycotts the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions:

With just one exception over the last three decades, the two major parties have known the identity of their likely presidential candidate weeks or even months before gaveling their national political conventions open. For that reason, one way to improve coverage of the four-day, quadrennial conventions of Republicans and Democrats would be for the TV networks to assign sportscasters like Bob Costas, Joe Morgan, and John Madden instead of political journalists to report on the gatherings. They know how to make a game with a foregone conclusion seem entertaining.

That last suggestion brings to mind a quote from Tom Wolfe back in 1980:

Just try to think of the last major scoop, to use that old term, that was broken on television. I’m sure there have been some. But what story during Watergate? During Watergate there were new stories coming out every day. None were on television, except when television simply broadcast the hearings. The can do a set event. And that’s what television is actually best at. In fact, it’d be a service to the country if television news operations were shut down totally and they only broadcast hearings, press conferences and hockey games. That would be television news. At least the public would not have the false impression that it’s getting news coverage.

Rather than the MSM trucking in so much video gear to the convention halls that their collective carbon footprint is almost as big as Al Gore’s, Shafer suggests dumping the whole thing to C-Span:

A still better way to improve convention coverage would be to withdraw all reporters and force the curious to rely on a C-SPAN feed: Unless a brokered convention threatens to break out, these political gatherings tend to produce very little real news. Yet the networks, the newspapers, the magazines, and the Web sites continue to insist on sending battalions of reporters to sift for itsy specks of information.

I made the same suggestion four and a half years ago, but safe to say it’s never going to happen: convention coverage is the one thing that the legacy media of television gets right, because it’s fixed and static, like a sports broadcast; and for new media, it’s a chance to see and be seen.