9:07 am Aug. 27, 2012
The Lineup collects the media stories, big and small, that are on our radar each day.
After quickly gaveling in today, the Republican convention will go on hiatus tomorrow and pick up again, running through the end of the week but with only three full days of scheduled events.
The prospect of distracting Tampa's emergency and administrative functioning would seem to be the point, as Hurricane Isaac makes its way into U.S. territory. But with the hurricane likely to pass well to the west of Tampa, it's probably more likely that the visual of a big Republican party as 100-plus-mile-per-hour winds threaten New Orleans is the disaster scenario for this convention. Organizers have said they plan to be "nimble."
Still, the estimated 16,000 journalists are descending today, tweeting their way through airline cancellations and delays, but mostly, it seems, getting off the ground OK.
Why are they going at all? It's a question Jeff Jarvis, relentless critic of mainstream media, posed over the weekend in terms of the current malaise in American newspapers and television news.
By the numbers:
Figure that those 15k journos spend $300 a night each on a hotel room times five nights, plus $500 for transportion. That’s $2,000. And I’m figuring they’ll be slurping up free meals and drinks. So $2,000 is probably (pardon me) conservative. That’s $30,000,000. Now multiply that times two conventions. That’s $60,000,000.
Since, as everyone admits, little news actually happens at the conventions, and what does is usually streamed live into millions of households across the country, even questions like how successful Chris Christie's keynote speech benefits little from "being there."
So why does everybody do it?
"It’s fun to be there, in the pack," is how Jarvis describes the media's motives. "It’s fun for a paper or station to say, 'We have our man/woman in Tampa/Charlotte.' Well goody for you."
He goes on to list the many services journalism could provide readers with those dollars, but to my mind misses one essential point: Would advertisers put the same dollars toward the 600 hyperlocal reporters' salaries for a year that Jarvis calculates the media's convention budgets could cover?
Whether advertisers are supporting the conventions is another question: What are the conventions besides a media business of their own, and a flagging one at that? David Carr takes up that theme in his Monday column:
Both parties know they have a problem on their hands—they are making a television show that networks are reluctant to broadcast and viewers are reluctant to watch—and they have responded in different ways.
The Democrats are going small, compressing the program into three days in the hopes of delivering a more consistently interesting experience; Republicans are going big, trying to make it as glitzy as possible, and have hired former network news producers to glam things up for TV viewers—though the Hurricane Isaac chaos may be forcing them to make something that's the best of both worlds.
We need to give the media what we call nutritional value. They’ve got to have the ability to write good things about Tampa while they’re here, and not talk about hurricanes, let’s say. We want to keep them on message about something other than that. We want to give them good content. Happy media write good stories, so we like to take care of our media friends.
All of which strikes us as a much more B-to-B consideration: Maybe Tampa will be on the map for planners of other conventions and events if they can run things smoothly. We're doubting that they expect travelogue-style coverage from the political journos flocking to town, who will probably not see too much beyond whatever the equivalent of the Heartland Brewery that's closest to the convention perimeter happens to be. But the language is scary-sounding enough to any responsible journalist to feel a little dirty for going, no?
Full disclosure: We're planning to run dispatches from our friends who are down there, including Glynnis MacNicol, who will be reporting for us on the massive media operation being brought to bear on the conventions.
Murdoch takes the gloves off
One running theme of the Leveson Inquiry, the parliamentary proceedings investigating the practices of the British press in the wake of the tabloid phone-hacking scandal, has been the testimony of tabloid editors warning that all this sententious stuff about the serious mission of the press could just give cover to state censorship.
It's always been a curious point of contrast between American and British media that with far fewer restrictions, our most popular newspapers and magazines are nevertheless not nearly as lurid or gossipy as the British tabloids.
The pictures of Prince Harry naked during a game of strip billiards widely published last week on the web in the United States were the subject of a palace statement reminding British newspaper publishers of the standards set by the Press Complaints Commission, the British press' self-regulating semi-official membership organization established to set national standards for journalistic ethics.
That was enough to keep British newspapers from publishing the story, though The Sun jokingly "recreated" the photos on their front pages using their own reporters.
An angry Rupert Murdoch ordered The Sun to publish pictures of a naked Prince Harry against the wishes of the Royal Family because he wanted to send a warning shot to Lord Justice Leveson, sources said yesterday.
The owner of the red-top phoned the News International chief executive Tom Mockridge from New York on Thursday amid suggestions that The Sun and other papers did not carry the photos for fear of recriminations in the Leveson report.
Around the web:
More on the Times Company's sale of About.com: Barry Diller Shows Up Late, Gets What He Wants: IAC to Buy About.com From New York Times for $300 Million [Peter Kafka]
And: IAC Buys About.com From NY Times Co. For $300 Million [Jeff Bercovici]
CNN is trying to glean some of HBO's programming magic [Amy Chozick/NYT]
Do metered sites have to do less "pageview-whoring?" Here's the pro argument. [Melanie Coulson]
Here's the con. [Matthew Ingram/GigaOm]
In his last column, Times ombudsman Arthur Brisbane broadly accuses the paper of a liberal bias; executive editor Jill Abramson rebuts the charge. [Dylan Byers]