Press members expected to outnumber delegates by 3-to-1 ratio
This article was updated at 8:02 p.m.
BOSTON — Though broadcast networks may be scaling back coverage of the Democratic National Convention, media presence is so vast it may all but smother the proceedings.
For the first time, members of the press are expected to outnumber delegates by a ratio of 3-to-1.
Show, opening today at Boston’s Fleet Center, will be covered by a hybrid band of Internet blogs, broadcast and cable TV news nets, foreign media outlets, local news departments and even a new ABC News digital subchannel, which bows today at noon.
Of roughly 35,000 people attending the Dem confab, 15,000 are members of the media; there are 4,353 delegates and 611 alternates.
Event is also expected to attract a large contingent from Hollywood, including a familiar group of Democratic fund-raisers: Creative Coalition co-chairmen Tony Goldwyn and Joe Pantoliano, Ben Affleck, Bianca Jagger, Billy Baldwin, Wes Craven, Janeane Garofalo, Joe Piscopo, Susan Sarandon, Anna Deavere Smith, Christina Ricci and Harvey Weinstein.
Many TV critics have bemoaned the fact that the broadcast networks will devote only three hours of primetime programming to convention coverage this week. But net execs say primetime coverage is only one platform among many.
For cable news nets, the landscape has changed dramatically since 2000, when CNN ruled the day. Now, Fox News Channel leads in the ratings. And, for the first time, Arab satcaster Al-Jazeera will cover a U.S. political convention, renting a Fleet Center skybox. There will be no primetime coverage Tuesday of the convention by the broadcast networks, but Al Jazeera will have four hours of live coverage.
Big names at big event
Just about every top name in the news biz will be roaming the Fleet Center and its environs.
“I don’t think any of us would have ever imagined that terrorism and security would be one of the main issues hanging over a political convention,” said ABC News “Nightline” exec producer Leroy Sievers. “Politics has changed, and as a result there will be much more to cover than just what’s happening on the convention floor.”
“Nightline” will broadcast live this week from the Dem convention, with longtime host Ted Koppel anchoring. In 1996, Koppel walked off the floor of the Republican National Convention in protest, saying it was ridiculous to cover an event that had become little more than an infomercial for the political parties. Today, he agrees there is much at stake in this year’s presidential race.
All the news nets have elaborate scheduling grids, particularly NBC News, which also has cable news net MSNBC to feed.
On the broadcast side, coverage begins with the morning shows. There also will be extensive coverage on the evening newscasts, which will be anchored from Boston by Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather.
Competition for interview subjects within the Fleet Center is fierce. On Sunday, NBC News rushed off a press release noting Brokaw had snagged an extensive and exclusive interview with Bill Clinton that will air tonight on “Nightly News.”
There’s also interest in the conventions on the entertainment side of television, thanks in large part to the popularity of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” which will be on site in Boston.
Late last week, the FBI office in Boston warned TV networks of a “credible” threat targeting media vehicles. Feds stressed the fact that the threat came from a domestic source, not Al Qaeda or another foreign terrorist group.
Hollywood’s leading men in Washington will reverse their usual roles.
Before going Hollywood, Recording Industry Assn. of America topper Mitch Bainwol’s sole job as exec director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee was getting Republicans elected to the Senate. This week, he enters the lion’s den of his political enemies to attend his first Democratic convention.
Meanwhile, Jack Valenti, a lifelong Democrat and the movie industry’s top political player for nearly four decades, had planned to sit this convention out. Valenti, who exits his MPAA job Sept. 1, plans to attend the Republican national confab this year to receive a lifetime achievement award at a party sponsored by several GOP lawmakers. Late last week, however, Valenti was rethinking that decision and could make a surprise appearance at the Dem bash.
Beantown is the home turf of incoming MPAA topper Dan Glickman. For the last few years, the former Democratic congressman from Kansas and agriculture secretary under Clinton has headed Harvard’s prestigious Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Glickman would not miss his party’s political pep rally, although he will be acting in his academic capacity, not his new Hollywood role.
There are more than 500 parties and events scattered across the calendar this week.
The Boston Globe hosted the first big media bash Saturday night at Boston’s Convention & Exhibition Center. Attendees included Vanessa and Alexandra Kerry, Helen Thomas, Fox anchor Greta Van Susteren and some 10,000 members of the international press. Entertainment included a drum and bugle corps, an indoor Ferris wheel and a concert by Little Richard.
At a Sunday evening reception for the new york state democratic party at the Park Plaza Hotel, party honchos like Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, Al Sharpton and Charles Schuman congregated in an ornate ballroom below crystal chandoliers as lower rung part officials cast about for tickets to the greatest show in town: the rubber match of the Yankees-Red Sox serries at Fenway Park.
The Creative Coalition is hosting a half-dozen events, culminating in a star-studded Thursday gala — co-hosted with the RIAA, Esquire and Volkswagen — with entertainment by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Throughout the week, group will hold VIP events including a luncheon hosted with CNBC, a party honoring Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) and a “celebration of the arts” forum and reception with a panel discussion featuring Andrew Cuomo, Mary Stuart Masterson, Arianna Huffington and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.).
Rock the Vote and MTV will bring a Rock the Vote Bus, which is traveling the country registering voters and trying to motivate young people to get involved in the political process.
Group held its “Jump Off” event Sunday night at the Avalon nightclub. Among the crowd: Bill and Hillary, Al Sharpton, Jon Stewart, Natalie Portman, Jerry Springer and musical guests X-Ecutioners and Biz Markie.
On Tuesday night, Black-Eyed Peas and Gavin DeGraw perform at a Rock the Vote party co-hosted by the RIAA; on Wednesday, Carole King will try to motivate the “chick vote” by co-hosting a bash with Lifetime Television.
(Jonathan Bing contributed to this report.)