Andrea Mitchell almost drowned in balloons when she covered the 2008 Republican National Convention, and was forced to swat them away as she tried to tell MSNBC viewers what was taking place on the ground.
In 2020, the longtime NBC News and MSNBC correspondent will have plenty of air.
Fewer TV journalists will be on the ground at either the Milwaukee site previously selected for the Democratic National Convention or the Jacksonville or Charlotte venues Republicans had chosen to televise their selection process. Mitchell realizes the viewing public is likely to miss some spectacle – and so will the journalists, who were often put through their paces in various arenas and amphitheaters before the TV cameras went on. Mitchell recalls having to get hold of a seating chart and do the equivalent of sprints around the areas reserved for various state delegations so she could practice getting from one place to another while talking to TV audiences. This year, such stuff will be less in demand, as neither President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden will travel to a convention site to accept his nomination.
Mitchell and a legion of election veterans will have to test other techniques. NBC News, CBS News and ABC News will offer far more of their coverage via streaming video than they will by linear TV, a sign of how quickly even news aficionados are changing the way they consume news and information. “It’s almost like a breaking-news election,” says Cherie Grzech, vice president of the Washington Bureau and politics at Fox News Channel, of the shifting convention conditions and news viewers desire to keep up on the latest developments.
ABC News will kick off early coverage each convention night at 7 p.m. on its live-streaming service ABC News Live, where Linsey Davis will anchor proceedings with Tom LLamas, Rick Klein and Mary Alice Parks. among others. George Stephanopoulos will also join streaming coverage by taking to ABC News Live at 9 p.m. before moving to traditional primetime TV at 10 p.m. on ABC, where he will be joined by David Muir and Davis, along with a broader team of TV correspondents and analysts. “It will look different and won’t have the spectacle of past years, in many ways it’s even more important than what we’ve done in the past,” notes Marc Burstein, the ABC News senior executive producer who oversees special-events coverage.
To cover the Democratic National Convention between August 17 and August 20, NBC News will offer an hour between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. led by Lester Holt and Savannah Guthrie, who will be joined by Chuck Todd and Mitchell. But Todd will also debut streaming coverage on NBC News Now at 8 p.m with Kasie Hunt. And MSNBC will feature coverage between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m., with Rachel Maddow, Joy Reid and Nicolle Wallace anchoring coverage starting at 9 p.m., followed by Brian Williams at 11 p.m. and Ari Melber at 1 a.m.
CBS News plans a 10 p.m. primetime hour anchored by Norah O’Donnell, who will be joined by John Dickerson and CBS News contributors María Elena Salinas, Jamal Simmons and Leslie Sanchez. CBSN, the company’s live-streaming effort, will start convention coverage at 5 p.m., leading with “Red & Blue,” a politics-focused program anchored by Elaine Quijano. She will continue to anchor coverage until 8:30 p.m. each evening.
Fox News Channel plans to start coverage the night before the DNC commences. On Sunday, August 16, the cable-news outlet will feature a “Convention Kickoff” anchored by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum at 10 p.m. The duo will continue to co-anchor live coverage each weeknight at 10 p.m., and will be joined by a rotating array of contributors including Chris Wallace, Brit Hume, Dana Perino and Juan Williams. During that week, Laura Ingraham’s regular primetime show, “The Ingraham Angle,” will move to 11 p.m., followed at midnight by Shannon Bream’s “Fox News @ Night.”
The key, says Rashida Jones, the NBC News and MSNBC senior vice president who is in charge of special events coverage, is having something at the ready at just the right moment. “We just want to make sure we are there when people are looking for stuff. How do we reinforce to the audience that we are a destination when it comes to news?”