Convention Coverage, another view

(Originally published in Greater Democracy)

In Convention Coverage is a Failed Regime and Bloggers Have Their Credentials, Jay Rosen writes: As far as I know, no one has a convincing notion of what a political convention is , anymore, or why 15,000 people are there to cover it.

He goes on to talk about the convention as either a news event or a media event. This feeds into the discussion going on about how journalistic the bloggers will or should be.

Kos writes: For Jerome and me, this will be our second convention coverage, as the California Democratic Party took the risk of giving us both creds for their 2003 convention . . . Jerome talks about our experience here, including links to our coverage of the event

Jerome writes, “We were not objective reporters by any sense of the word . . . cheering from the press bleachers during Dean's speech . . . But we played the blogger-reporter role as well”

I have not been to as large a convention as the California Democratic Party that Kos and Jerome were at, but I have been to two smaller conventions and my experiences there greatly effect my thoughts on what blogging the convention will be about.

The first convention I went to was the nominating convention for Diane Farrell. Diane is running for U.S. Congress in the 4th Congressional District in Connecticut. The convention was a couple of hours long. It took place in a school auditorium. It all went according to carefully laid out rules following Robert’s Rules of Order. It was a time for party activists to talk with one another. At the podium, there was the standard tedium of motions, seconds, appointments of chairpeople and secretaries. There were the nominating speeches, the vote, and the acceptance speech. For my two year old daughter, who was there with me, it was another chance to see the inner workings of democracy.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of all these formal rules and procedures, yet I know they are necessary. What was important was the chance for people to get together hear about Diane and to talk about what they could do to help Diane win.

The second convention I attended was for my wife, Kim Hynes, who is running for State Representative in the 149th Assembly District in Connecticut. This was an even smaller and shorter event, but was even more significant to us. Again, there were the Robert’s Rules of Order with the motions, seconds, and votes. There were the speeches. Yet for Kim and I it was an especially moving experience. Neither of us had been involved in politics before the Dean campaign. It had all the weight and significance of a First Communion. We wanted this special event as well documented and publicized as possible. Neither convention had any suspense or surprises and I think it is a misunderstanding of the democratic process and conventions to expect big surprises. Surprises make great news but they don’t reflect the real political process.

The problem with the national convention is that for at least the coverage I’ve experienced of previous conventions both the tedium of the motions and votes and the authentic excitement are carefully edited out.

The goals of this blog are to explore the roots, goals, and intentions of democratic governance, to look critically at governance structures, and to consider how new communications technologies support democracy. My access to the floor will be a press credential, yet I view that not as being a journalist, but as giving my the access and authority to be on the floor and to ask the questions that the main stream media has forgotten about, which is how do we get citizens active in their democracy again. It fits well with the goals of this blog and the discussions about post broadcast politics.

It may not be journalistic. It may not even be pretty or exciting. But it will be authentic and I think that is pretty exciting. I also think that it gets to what I hope will be one of the key components of the Democratic message: Democracy is too important to be left to elite cronies. It requires the participation of all Americans, and bloggers are a great example of average Americans getting involved in the discourse.