The conventions are much better on TV if you want to hear the speeches, see the speakers’ faces. If you want to feel how speeches work with the audience, then it’s very helpful to be in the room — to feel the difference between Ted Kennedy and Barack Obama. There was a lot of affection for Ted Kennedy in that hall, but his speech didn’t strike a lot of chords, it didn’t really energize the room. Barack Obama, for whom there was a lot of expectation, there was real surge, there was an excitement. And if you’re at home watching you can say wow, that was a really good speech, but you don’t quite feel that unless you’re there. And that’s the sort of thing I’m trying to get, to tune into how it’s all fitting together for pieces on other subjects. …
I might write from the [Republican] convention as well, to look at the two together, to get a sense of the texture of the party, who are the party activists, how does the party kind of identify itself. That’s something you get by wandering around these things and looking at the schedule of all the bizarre side breakfasts and parties and dinners. I don’t go to these things because you can’t do anything. They’re deafeningly loud, you’re crushed in with other people. You wander around [instead], you get a sense of who’s here, why are they here, what are they thinking, all of that’s very useful.
There’s obviously too much press on this thing … I’ve heard different statistics, but three or four reporters to every one delegate or any other kind of attendee. That’s crazy to me. But of course it’s a big gigantic television show. I think it’s much better on television because you are on a TV set. The entire FleetCenter is — and this is nothing new — a gigantic TV set being made to reach people in the hall but also to somehow broadcast to the world or whoever may be paying attention. …
The candidacy of the challenger is a strange thing because it’s very much limited to words. He can’t do anything. He can’t go out and implement the policy or go hold some talks with North Korea. So what he’s got is a speech. And a show … A lot matters right there in terms of the kind of momentum and energy and satisfaction that the Democratic party is going to find coming out of the convention. Even as [the press] stands around and say[s], well, nothing’s going on, something is going on.
LCB: What is the most absurd/surprising/memorable thing you’ve witnessed at the Democratic Convention thus far, ideally involving a member of the press?
PG: There was an extremely blonde, busty and sort of got-up young lady in one of the front rows of one of delegations’ sections on the floor. And she seemed to be getting an enormous amount of interviews. She had the sort of cheerleader look. It’s kind of hilarious how you could probably scan that audience and pick out 15 people who are going to get interviewed more than anyone else. It’s because they’re visually arresting in one way or another, whether they arrest the male reporters or they are wearing a funny hat or they have 378 different lapel buttons pasted all over them or something like that. They are going to be the person who everyone wants to stop and get on their local camera.
I do think the single most bizarre thing here is the idea that there’s no news here so it will not be on the networks. And the whole thing is designed in a network versus cable program. You can tell where the juice is because it’s set up to go on for the right time for the network hour. And that creates this sense of several separate levels of the convention itself. You can feel that in the hall, it’s sort of like, you’re the warm up act and now it’s show time.