This article was updated at 8:55 p.m.
BOSTON — The Democratic National Convention was the site of a vast media scrum Monday as some 15,000 members of the press descended on downtown Boston.
Though the convention has been relegated to an hour of prepackaged nightly coverage by the broadcast nets, the DNC is receiving saturation coverage from a bewildering array of other outlets — ranging from cable and radio nets to Internet bloggers, broadband news channels and even cell phone broadcasts.
There are still some traditional trappings.
Monday evening, ABC News, CBS News and Fox News all carried one hour of primetime convention coverage, commencing at 10 p.m. ET, starting just in time for Bill Clinton’s opening-night speech. The cable newsies carried most of the primetime speeches, although Fox News Channel decided to skip that of Al Gore, in which he criticized President Bush.
If there is a media watchword for the 2004 confab, it is “multiplatforming,” as TV news nets unveil distribution pathways to reach a fragmented, channel-surfing electorate.
Indeed, one of the fresh media headlines of the day was the launch of ABC News Now, a 24/7 digital subchannel that will remain in operation through the November election.
Bowing at noon ET, the tiny channel looked more like cabler C-SPAN than a traditional news network, with the camera informally following Alphabet news anchor Peter Jennings around the convention floor and into a tiny studio ABC News is using for interviews.
ABC News Now is being offered to all ABC affiliates, with several dozen rushing to pick up the service Monday. The Alphabet’s 10 owned-and-operated stations, including KABC in L.A. and WABC in Gotham, also are offering ABC News Now.
If stations have cable carriage agreements for secondary channels — as KABC and WABC do — viewers in those communities will be able to receive ABC News Now. Otherwise, viewers need a digital TV set to pick up the signal.
ABC News Now saw one of the quickest launches in TV history, with ABC News prexy David Westin announcing the channel just two weeks ago. Jennings will anchor several hours each day, lessening the blow of not having a sister cable news net to provide gavel-to-gavel coverage.
“We are all very energized and we are learning every step of the way,” said ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider. “This is something very different and distinct, and it’s unlike anything that has come before it.”
The competish scoffed at the significance of ABC News Now, saying it won’t be seen by more than a few million people. Channel won’t be counted by Nielsen Media Research; nor will it have any advertising to offset costs.
At a pre-convention panel Sunday, NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw sniffed that Jennings probably didn’t even understand the mechanics of the channel.
Peacock via cell phone
NBC News exec Bill Wheatley announced the Peacock’s wireless initiative Monday. Anchors on the broadcast net, as well as on MSNBC, will host brief newscasts available via cell phone. Sprint already has signed up for the service, called NBC Mobile.
NBC and its subsids — MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo — have allocated 140 hours to the convention to be broadcast from three studios inside Boston’s Fleet Center, as well as an outdoor location at Faneuil Hall, the open-air tourist Mecca a few blocks away.
“We have a lot of places to put our journalists,” said Mark Lukasiewicz, exec producer of NBC News’ Decision 2004 political coverage. Lukasiewicz was coordinating the multitiered coverage from an NBC newsroom in a trailer parked behind the Fleet Center.
PBS, the only network providing gavel-to-gavel primetime coverage of the event, is headquartered on the other side of the convention hall in a pavilion that also houses major print outlets such as the New York Times and Boston Globe.
Meanwhile, individual correspondents like Chris Matthews tried their hand for the first time at writing Internet blogs on the convention.
Filmmaker Michael Moore, roaming the floor of the Fleet Center, had some fighting words for the U.S. TV networks, which he accuses of being patsies for the Bush administration’s war in Iraq.
“A lot of our kids are dead because those fuckers haven’t done their job,” said Moore after stopping by CNN’s anchor desk and giving morning anchor Bill Hemmer a hard time.
But Moore had few reservations about appearing Thursday on NBC’s “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” which is broadcasting segments from Boston throughout the week. It’s the first time in a decade that Moore has agreed to sit down with Leno.
The press corps was riven by some of the same partisan strains as the electorate.
Late Sunday, Teresa Heinz Kerry told a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter to “shove it” after accusing the reporter of being conservative.
And conservative commentator Ann Coulter came out swinging Monday after USA Today “summarily rejected” her first convention column.
The paper had commissioned a daily column from Coulter throughout the four-day event. USA will publish conservative pundit Jonah Goldberg’s dispatches from the DNC instead.
Moore will cover the Republican convention for the paper.
“Apparently,” said Coulter, “USA Today doesn’t like my ‘tone,’ humor, sarcasm, etc., etc., which raises the intriguing question of why they hired me to write for them in the first place. Perhaps they thought they were getting Catherine Coulter.”
Inside the Fleet Center, radio outlets were arrayed along “Talk Show Row,” a first-floor corridor jammed with interview kiosks. Bloomberg Radio and Larry Elder were on one end, Air America and KPCC on the other.
At one point, actor Fred Willard, taping segments to air this week for “The Tonight Show,” drifted past in a star-spangled tie.
“I’m thinking of throwing my hat in the ring,” he said. “But I’m not a registered voter. I don’t know if that’s a problem.”