There are apparently 15,000 journalists attending the Democratic National Convention. Here is what some of them are doing:
14,000 are wearing terrible suits.
7,500 aren’t doing much at all. This isn’t surprising. Only a small number of reporters actually have a reason to be here. The rest are conventioneering—seeing old friends, eating Democratic-themed menu items (“Barack Obama’s Turkey Chili”) in pandering local restaurants, brandishing their press passes at all comers, looking for free things, and spending about 14 percent of their time trying to rustle up enough stories to justify their presence to their editors. These reporters are the ones mostly writing about themselves, or their friends, or their experiences exploring Denver with their friends (“I was enjoying some turkey chili with David Broder yesterday…”). At least they’re open about the fact that they’re enjoying themselves.
4,021 are smugly bad-mouthing the convention and its participants in their story ledes (“There is no reason for so many journalists to be here”). Oh, you truth-telling rebels! These dismissals invariably ring false. If they really didn’t want to be here, they wouldn’t have come.
2,294 are bitching about only having perimeter press passes. The press corps is divided into four levels of access—perimeter, arena, hall, and floor. Arena, hall, and floor passes are allowed to enter the Pepsi Center. Those with perimeter passes are restricted to the parking lot. Some of these are mournfully wandering around like Diogenes, looking for stories, or perhaps discarded arena and hall passes, but only finding sunburn. Others have tried to sneak into the Pepsi Center, only to be rebuffed by the robustly efficient Young Dem Robot security staffers. The rest are crammed into four or five huge white tents scattered across the parking lot. The tents house the remote operations of most of the news operations. In Pavilion Four, there is free Coors and free Swedish meatballs and a kiosk where media members can have campaign buttons made featuring their own names. There are also several comfortable leather chairs and flat screen televisions. During Hillary Clinton’s speech, several women clap when Clinton thanks the “sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits.” One of these women is wearing a button that reads “Vote Jeanne President.”
1,026 are drunk. This is as it should be.
500 don’t have credentials, but are trying desperately to get them. The credentialing process occurs in a Hampton Inn about a forty-minute walk from the Pepsi Center. Each morning, reporters have to come and claim their credentials for that particular day. The media members are separated by medium—newspaper reporters on one floor, magazine reporters on another, multimedia reporters on another. CJR’s credentials are issued from the leftovers pile (third floor). It’s Denver’s answer to the Island of Misfit Toys—bloggers, activists, eighteen-year-olds, men wearing giveaway T-shirts, men complaining about having to pay eleven dollars for parking. One intrepid credentialee is so devoted to his job that he is videotaping the room, like a tourist. A DemBot hustles over and stops him. “There is a lot of sensitive material in this room,” he says. There is most definitely not.