You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

Covering DNC is organized bedlam

- The Washington Times - Monday, July 26, 2004

The din of an estimated 15,000 reporters, correspondents and pundits will resonate through the Democratic convention in Boston this week, amid fancy technology and security so tight most reporters and photographers could not even get inside yesterday.

Reporters will blog, and bloggers will believe they are reporters -- if just for a few days.

Colorful credentials for every stage of the elaborate security system were distributed with great ceremony at 10 a.m. and bluntly turned away from the gates yesterday by guards who pointed out they bear the official convention dates of July 26 through July 29.

Only a few still carrying "pre-convention" passes -- handed out last week solely for logistics and setup purposes -- passed the guarded bastions while hundreds of others waited for two hours or more for officials to clear the confusion.

Democratic Party workers insisted last week this would not happen. When it did happen yesterday, one party official said, "The security chiefs know, but can't get the word out," and said she feared she wasn't being strict enough in rationing the few passes she had left.

"I've covered 10 conventions," Los Angeles Times correspondent Mark Barabak told the Boston Globe. "It doesn't seem like anyone knows what's going on."

Fear of terrorism, though, is at a minimum, according to CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

"This is the first convention since September 11, and I've never seen security precautions like this. There is some slight apprehension hovering in the back of all of our minds, I think," noted Mr. Blitzer, speaking by phone from the network's new "ringside set," which features hidden microphones and wireless technology.

"But apprehension -- that just can't get in the way. Everyone here is a professional; you just move beyond fear and get to work. I was more nervous during the Iraq war when we were being issued gas masks, bulletproof vests and atropine, in case of chemical attack," Mr. Blitzer said.

CNN alone has 30 correspondents and 30 cameras around the FleetCenter, including four behind-the-scenes "delegate cams" manned by Democratic conventioneers.

"Sure, we all have a tendency to think the convention is totally choreographed -- and it is. But the political ramifications this year are enormous, deserving close coverage," Mr. Blitzer added.

There is bound to be blogging overload, if not blogging confusion during the convention, however.

Networks and newspapers alike boast that star correspondents will also function as "bloggers" -- short for "Web loggers." Hopeful editors envision them as nimble scribes filing real-time dispatches and saucy chitchat from the convention, funneled immediately to the Internet for online readers.

Newsweek's "Howard Fineman will blog from his PDA -- whether he's on TV or on the floor, he'll be blogging when news happens," MSNBC noted.

But some 35 officially "credentialed bloggers" -- strictly Internet-based writers with strong ideology, irreverence and occasional insight -- also will ply their trade. Already, critics wonder if they qualify as journalists, or are a new press hybrid.

And will media bias surface? Some are sure of it.

The conservative Alexandria-based Media Research Center will monitor press reports from the convention twice daily, scanning for those that favor liberals by "disguising Democrats' liberal agenda," asking "questions from a liberal script" or "hyping Republican controversy," according to analyst Rich Noyes.

Fox News, meanwhile, is offering a total of 50 hours of live convention coverage with 31 correspondents; MSNBC is offering 50 hours as well, including an "after-hours" segment with Ron Reagan, who will also offer a prime-time speech on stem-cell research for the Democrats.

The son of former President Ronald Reagan came under criticism for flaunting his liberal ideas so soon after his father's funeral.

C-SPAN will broadcast live from Boston beginning at 7 a.m. daily with "Washington Journal," resuming again at 3 p.m. for a "pregame" show and live, commentary-free fare until midnight.

CBS, ABC and NBC will devote a single hour each night to the Democrats' doings from 10 to 11 p.m., though the networks hope to lend the appearance of gavel-to-gavel coverage with enhanced Web sites, plus companion radio and Internet broadcasts.

Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.