Defending the Conventions

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 28 2012 12:26 PM

Defending the Conventions

Jack Shafer makes his best attempt at it. This is the part that rings out to me.

A notebook filled with quotations from Governor Chris Christie or Governor Andrew Cuomo might not be newsworthy now, but the reportorial investment in two political comers will likely pay future dividends. Political reporters benefit from meeting campaign operatives and state and county political chairmen in the flesh and snatching up their business cards and Twitter handles, and this is the place to collect the complete set. Convention veteran Walter Shapiro argues this point adamantly today in CJR, maintaining that "there is no place better than a convention to begin to forge these bonds of mutual trust."
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No matter how many reporters are credentialed for the convention, this never stops being true. That "15,000 media" number you hear includes a bunch of cameramen (who the print reporters aren't competing with), a bunch of talking heads for cable news (who aren't competing for anything bigger than a waiter's attention at the CNN Grill), and foreign press that can file some "ha, ha, wacky Americans and their hats!" stories and call it a week. There's definitely a familiar, Povlanian phenomenon on display in which a celebrity (Jon Voight, just now) apppears in a room, some guy with a flipcam runs up to interview him, and other people with flipcams run up to interview him, and then people with real cameras interview him. The journalism produced by these gatherings are basically crap. But nobody's forcing anybody to join them!

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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