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Lure a jillion reporters to town offering nothing newsworthy to cover and what happens? They cover each other – or anything else that moves, like a hurricane. And the party message goes to the back burner.
The buzziest stories so far in Tampa are all about the news media talking about themselves:
On Monday Chris Matthews gets into a verbal tussle hurling racism charges at the GOP chairman, who later calls the MSNBC host a big “jerk” with just “ten viewers.” We jawboned that one for the rest of the day.
On Tuesday we don’t really know what happened between a CNN camera operator and Republicans on the convention floor because so far no one who actually knows is talking. Something about peanuts and racial slurs. Still, opposing sides formed battle lines and another evidence-free debate ensues.
Today, ABC/Yahoo news fired its Washington bureau chief after he was caught unawares on an open mic suggesting that the Romneys are partying while “black people drown” – an apparent reference to Hurricane Isaac. The inevitable media hand-wringing begins about the justice of his punishment.
Perhaps Mitt Romney should have waited to pick a running mate. Anymore, that’s the only news left for conventions that can keep reporters covering the party’s agenda. Having deprived themselves of that option Romney aides are instead teasing the press with talk of a “mystery speaker” to come. Pitiful.
No-news conventions might be worth it if the media played along without distraction, but today’s press corps and blogosphere is too competitive to be satisfied with talking points.
What is the point of spending nearly $200 million on a convention with no guarantee that the coverage will do your party any good? Surely that money would be better spent on the campaign. With broadcast networks down to airing one hour a night it would be cheaper to just buy that time.
But so long as Congress votes to heavily subsidize these charades (this year, $68 million to each party), Democrats and Republicans have little incentive to change.
My guess is that if the federal government stopped bankrolling conventions they would end, or at least as we know them, because the parties would rather not drain donor dollars away from campaign budgets to pay for all of the cost — and fund what have basically become news media conventions.
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