Suppose there were political conventions and the media were nowhere to be found. It may look like that in Denver and the Twin Cities late this summer.
Severe cutbacks and buyouts at newspapers, large and small, and similar budget woes at the networks are forcing media organizations to scale back their coverage.
This comes at a time when conventions are largely scripted affairs anyway. There is little in the way of unpredictable events or surprises. The vice presidential nominees, once selected during the conventions, will be revealed ahead of the meetings. No floor fights are predicted.
Consider some evidence of the falloff this year in media presence:
- A sizable West Coast daily is sending no one. Another is assigning one reporter where five have gone before.
- A daily on the East Coast, once a paper with many foreign bureaus, is sending only two writers.
- Cable TV outlets will have fairly large contingents with their minute-by-minute, but the networks have good reason to scale back this time around. C-Span may be the only way to watch the entire convention, if anyone is interested.
Barring a controversy of any size, the only real news will be the acceptance speeches of Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama.
At the Democratic convention, die-hard delegates supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton might kick up a fuss, but Obama's forces will have the strength to put it down. At the GOP meeting, the backers of Rep. Ron Paul are staging a big separate rally in what could be an embarrassment to McCain.
On the subject of costs, there are reports that airfares to Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul and hotel rates have risen. Those are other reasons for number crunchers at media organizations to pare back manpower.
The bottom line here is that conventions in the future may center on New York City rather than sites in other sections of the country. The major TV organizations are based there, and there is always ample hotel space in the New York City area.
Horace Greeley may have advised folks to "go west", but it may be too expensive in coming years.