National Press Corps Gets DNC Party Preview

Media members planning to cover the Democratic convention have big questions for Howard Dean and his crew. Like, what about the food?

The economic challenges facing journalism are grave, but they haven't managed to kill one of the industry's most venerated traditions: the all-expenses-paid trip of dubious news value. Despite planned remarks by Democratic National Committee chairman (and recovering screamer) Howard Dean, the 2008 Democratic National Convention's Fall Media Walk-Through, staged on November 13 at the Pepsi Center, didn't promise to generate significant headlines. Nevertheless, representatives of media organizations planning to cover next August's bash flocked to Denver by the hundreds. Most of them learned next to nothing, but they ate very well.

Granted, the walk-through's breakfast spread could have been more diverse. Pepsi Center nosheries such as the Nutty Bavarian were closed, and even though the food tables sat next to displays of cotton candy and Dippin' Dots, the menu was dominated by bagels and pastries. Still, the journos seemed satisfied as they took seats along one side of the arena while images of natural wonder — mountains, streams, Denver Broncos cheerleaders — played on the overhead JumboTron. I wound up next to several representatives from the New York Times, which makes sense, since seemingly every third person at the venue wore a name tag stamped with the paper's name. (Who at the Times was forced to remain back east? A couple of interns, maybe?) The Times scribe nearest me asked a colleague, "You're staying tonight, right?" Upon receiving an affirmative answer, he proclaimed, "Party at Elway's!"

Shortly thereafter, Leah Daughtry, the convention's CEO, greeted the assembled masses and pointed out the event's primary prop: a blue balloon, affixed to a folding chair, that signified the main podium. Then, after platitudes (and precious few specifics) from a handful of other convention execs, press reps toured the facility prior to engaging in a Q&A that touched on several important matters. For instance, a WNYC radio employee complained that "the food choices in Boston," where the 2004 confab took place, "were limited to Dunkin' Donuts only," adding that "the Republicans fed us pretty well."

Howard Dean saluted the press at a pre-convention walk-through.
Sean Cronin
Howard Dean saluted the press at a pre-convention walk-through.

"Oh, that's a low blow," Daughtry joked before asserting that Dems "have a reputation for throwing better parties.... We like to eat and have a good time. So don't worry about the food."

Attendees at subsequent breakout sessions generally had more work-related concerns — especially those at the get-together targeting bloggers. The majority of people there smiled when one of their number blurted out, "All you people need to get jobs!" But things got frostier during the presentation that followed. Joe Shea of American Reporter, an online newspaper, expressed fear that everyone present would be "relegated to a blogger ghetto" as they were Boston, where blogging types wound up in nosebleed seats with little work space.

In response, Jason Rosenberg, the convention's director of online communications, emphasized the high regard planners have for blogosphere mavens. But he also made it plain that space for fully credentialed bloggers is at a premium. Folks can apply for entry as general bloggers or one of 56 designated for each state, Washington, D.C., and five U.S. territories. Slots will be awarded on the basis of hits as calculated by and evidence of influence, including — betcha they hated this one — mentions in traditional media.

Fortunately, those who crap out will have an option. Jen Caltrider announced that during the convention, her organization, ProgressNow, is putting on ProgressCon, an event to be staged in conjunction with the Daily Kos's Markos Moulitsas. Based at the Alliance Center, near the Pepsi Center, ProgressCon will provide facilities for uncredentialed bloggers so that, in Caltrider's words, they "won't be sitting on the sidewalk trying to hack into somebody else's wi-fi."

From there, media members headed to the club level for another free feed — lots of sandwiches, salad and fruit (and no Rocky Mountain oysters). Amid the ingesting, Dean delivered remarks that could hardly have been blander; he repeatedly noted that Denver exemplifies "the new West," as he's done every time he's touched Colorado soil this year. Minutes later, he wrapped up and rushed to the opposite end of the room, where several children representing assorted genders and ethnicities waited to pose for a photo with him.

Dean smiled, cameras flashed, and no news was made. That's working those expense accounts, old school.

Behind the numbers: Radio ratings might seem simple, but they're far from it. Although Arbitron Inc., which tracks the habits of radio consumers, releases some general information, the service closely guards the majority of its digits, including those pertaining to individual day parts. However, a radio source provided yours truly with the recent Summer 2007 report about listenership among folks ages twelve and over between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. Monday through Friday — the so-called morning-drive period. The results are fascinating for what they reveal about the audiences clicking to assorted outlets even as they show how misleading the roster of top stations can be.

According to Arbitron, Denver's number-one outlet in the twelve-plus category as a whole was KS-107.5, trailed immediately by news-talker KOA and KXPK-FM, which features a Spanish-language format. But in the morning-drive slot, KXPK looks even better, ranking number one thanks to its syndicated star, Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo. Moreover, KHOW, the eleventh-place finisher overall, holds second place due to the popularity of yakker Peter Boyles. That leaves KOA's vaunted Colorado Morning News with the bronze.

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