By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Beyond convention wisdom

Jack Shafer of Slate and Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine are both arguing that the media ought to stop covering the national political conventions.

Their reasons are obvious. The nominees have been chosen entirely through the primaries since the 1970s, so there is literally no news coming out of them except for the acceptance speeches of the vice presidential and presidential candidates. I understand the point. But I would make two counterarguments.

First, what better place is there for the three cable news networks to be? The prime-time line-ups of Fox News, CNN and MSNBC consist mainly of talk shows with a heavy political bent. The conventions give them a chance to do what they do, only at a higher level and with a larger audience. Nothing wrong with that.

Second, the conventions are filled with interesting stories, though very few of them take place inside the hall. Yes, I’d agree that having 15,000 reporters on hand to cover the same thing is nuts, but that’s not what they ought to be doing. Maybe 10,000 of them ought to go home (perhaps I don’t disagree with Shafer and Jarvis after all), but the other 5,000 ought to get outside and look for stories.

In 2000, I was at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, on assignment for the Boston Phoenix, when similar complaints arose about the news-free nature of the event. I wrote about what the media should have been covering rather than whining about the dullness of the proceedings. I’d say the same thing today.

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  1. Tony

    I wish, as I have said before, that political reporters would actually go out and cover some political news around public policy and the plans of all the presidential candidates instead of wasting their time trying to get the latest “gotcha” blog post. We have bloggers for that now! The public needs real news. The fact that there are no real muckraking hard news investigators anymore out there, like Barlett and Steele, for example, is killing the business and dumbing down the nation.

  2. Don, American

    It’s only a word; nothing to be afraid of.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Don: Feel free to use those words on your own blog to your heart’s content.

  4. Don, American

    Gee, it’s good enough for the REVEREND Jesse Jackson. We’ll never get rid of racism, if we’re afraid to talk about it.

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