Dems Cater To Talk Show Hosts

Political conventions are not what they used to be

I covered my first national convention in Chicago when Adlai Stevenson was nominated in 1952. It was a brokered convention, and the job of a reporter was to scurry around and look for leaks from the secret meetings in hotel rooms or trailers in which the party bosses negotiated the deals on the ticket and the platform.

The world has changed. The nominee is picked in caucuses and primaries. And, while speeches and spectacular visual effects in the convention hall are used to project the candidates and the party’s image to the nation, there’s a new emphasis on wooing the bloggers and the radio talk show hosts.

Much space has been set aside for the newest phenomenon—the blogger. There may be thousands here.

But what was most intriguing for an old political junkie was to witness the intensity with which the Democratic National Committee is pursuing an influential segment of the new media: the talk show hosts on radio and TV.

In a room on the main floor of the convention center a team of twenty volunteers was being briefed by a veteran of old Democratic wars, Kandy Stroud, a public relations executive from Washington. These young people will have one job during the convention—to meet the guests who come to be interviewed by radio and TV hosts and insure they are delivered to the right microphone.

Ms. Stroud outlined a system for tracking the procession of officials, politicians, and experts who will be coming to what’s called “Radio Row”—where radio and TV interviewers await the guests. Arrangements are also made for Internet conversations. The microphone is provided here and satellite connections to an interviewer in another part of the country. There’s also easy access a few feet away to computers that will provide Internet access. So, conceivably, one guest can appear on radio, TV, and the Internet in what might be called one-stop political shopping.

As Ms. Stroud talked earnestly to the young volunteers, their eyes shone with great interest. “Make sure you’re very gracious to the people who come here. You want to make them as comfortable as possible,” she said.

The talk show hosts, Ms. Stroud said, run the gamut from liberal to conservative. “There are tons of radio and TV shows around the country and, of course, many national shows,” she said. “Many liberal and conservative hosts broadcast from the same, large rooms.”

“Is it like the Tower of Babel?” she asked. “No. Despite their political differences, they generally get along.”

One volunteer, Tom Beach, a production coordinator for television from Los Angeles, came here at his own expense.

“It’s inspiring to be here, to be part of history and to meet other kids who share my passion for politics,” said the Obama fan.

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Gabe Pressman is the senior correspondent for New York City's WNBC-TV. He has been a journalist for over sixty years, and has won eight Emmys.