Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What's news

Anybody remember when political conventions used to be the biggest events in politics? All the networks used to pre-empt their entire evening schedules for the duration of political conventions, and people watched the wall-to-wall coverage for hours every night. (We didn't have too many other channels to watch.) Even in those days, of course, there was often a lot of down time and boring speeches, and sometimes the reporters were hard-pressed to come up with actual news. But at least reporters were swarming all over the floor and the back rooms, trying to find stories. I remember watching as a child of 10 when John Chancellor was ejected from the floor of the Republican convention in 1964. The incident made Chancellor famous. And who can ever forget the drama of 1968 in Chicago, when reporters were swept up in the mayhem?

Times have changed, and conventions are not the events they used to be. Political conventions are now more like giant infomercials for the political parties, and therefore do not deserve the coverage that they once got. But sometimes actual news takes place at political conventions. And TV viewers are not well served merely by being given a bunch of political reporters sitting around in a studio and analyzing the speeches. Wouldn't it be nice if the news organizations made at least a token effort to get their reporters around a little more to dig out whatever real news is taking place?

And when there is an actual event, such as last night when some convention attendees apparently threw nuts at a black CNN camerawoman, telling her "this is how we feed animals," wouldn't you think that CNN, at least, would be highlighting a story involving one of its own people? Instead, they have given the story minimal coverage. I can understand how the parties want to cover up any unpleasantness at their respective conventions. They have learned from the past that scenes of confrontation do not reflect well on their brands, and damage their chances in the fall election. But why would the news media become complicit in this effort to cover up any conflicts or negativity?

Look at the clip in my earlier post showing Joe Scarborough and Tom Brokaw (and really, Tom Brokaw should know better) tut-tutting Chris Matthews' suggestion that the Romney campaign is making appeals to racism. It's almost as if they are afraid to offend the Republican party brass by making any impolite suggestions about what is going on within their party. And look at the restrained coverage of the huge fight that broke out yesterday over the seating of Ron Paul delegates. This is the kind of thing that used to get gigantic play in tv coverage of political conventions, especially during the Democratic conventions in the civil rights era, when there were enormous battles over the composition of delegations from Southern states.

There is a stereotyped view of the Republican party, that these are respectable people who manage their differences well, and get their message together in a harmonious way; as opposed to the fractious Democratic party, which always seems to air its differences in public. We ought to re-examine whether that stereotype has outlived its usefulness. We ought not to buy into Republican leaders' desire to minimize their differences, and pretend that prejudice and other forms of ugliness do not exist among the Republican party faithful. There are important battles and undercurrents going on in the Republican party right now. We don't need to sensationalize them. But we really shouldn't sweep them under the rug either.


  1. Joe, there's a really serious problem in America right now, and it has to do with demonizing the opposition.

    CNN likely didn't cover that story so much because they knew that there would be many liberals foaming from their mouths, just waiting to associate the actions of a few dimwits with the party as a whole.

    I know everyone wants to believe that their own party is right while the other one is "extreme," but the truth is that both parties are verging on extreme, and they're doing so because Americans don't have any viable alternatives.

    The Republican Party voted on their abortion platform, the "no exception" platform. It's extreme, and it's ridiculous. I know of a good number of Republicans who think the same as me, but they're going to vote Republican any way because they feel like they have no choice.

    The whole thing is one sad sham.

  2. I also miss the good old days. Last night Matthews and Maddow thought they were more important than the speakers. They talked right over the first half of the program. Thank goodness for PBS!

    They either knowingly and stupidly skipped over Senate candidate Ted Cruz, whose father was imprisoned and tortured in Cuba and nearly beaten nearly to death. “He fled to Texas in 1957, not speaking English, with $100 sewn into his underwear. He washed dishes making 50 cents an hour to pay his way through the University of Texas, and to start a small business in the oil and gas industry," Cruz said. And Mia Love, the 37-year old daughter of Haitian immigrants who is now mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, and is running for Congress; South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, the 40-year old daughter of Sikh immigrants from India; and of course Artur Davis, a former Democratic congressman from Alabama.

    I guess they don't fit the narrative of white racist Republicans that Matthews wants to project. Matthews is easy to fogure out but he is difficult to reconsile.

    1. In the good old days, they used to talk over most of the speakers also. Remember Walter Cronkite sitting up in the booth while the speakers were droning on in the background? But if you want to watch all the speeches unfiltered, you can always go to C-SPAN. Boring, but at least it is available.

      What is missing these days is what I was trying to get at in my post. They used to have lots of reporters all over the convention hall trying to uncover what was really going on in the delegations and in the back rooms, because that is where the real news was taking place. We don't seem to have much of that kind of reporting any more, partly because not as much is going on in the background, but also because we just don't have as many reporters doing real reporting. Instead we have talking heads pontificating about what the speakers said.

      And the other thing that is different is that the media, or at least CNN in this case, seem to be more afraid nowadays to ruffle anybody's feathers. Instead we have MSNBC and Fox supporting their side's version and attacking the other side. What we are missing is the old-fashioned skeptical kind of journalists who would be questioning the official version from everybody.

    2. You and I couldn't agree more about what is missing.

      I was responding to the last paragraph of your article. After reading it I wonder why you are not upset that so many women and minorities representing Republicans that might ease your concerns, spoke on stage but were hidden by MSNBC? It seems to me that if you believe what you wrote in that last paragraph you would be willing to listen more closely to be sure you avoided sounding misinformed. It is almost ironic.

      Maybe Matthews will recognize a shot across his bow in David Chalian's dismissal.

    3. You can't sugarcoat the message that you are planning to take away people's health insurance, cut back on college grants and loans, restrict access to abortion and contraception, deny citizenship to dreamers, and make the poor pay more so that the rich can pay less, by trotting out Nikki Haley or Marco Rubio or Bobby Jindal or Condaleeza Rice any other minority conservatives to deliver the message. People are too smart to be fooled by those tricks.

      I actually think people would trust the Republicans more if they just had people like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan deliver the message, instead of trying to pretend they are something they are not.

  3. << I actually think people would trust the Republicans more if they just had people like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan deliver the message, instead of trying to pretend they are something they are not. >>

    I think Ryan delivered a pretty strong message tonight. I see you posted minutes before he spoke. Still time to edit your comment before Romney speaks.

  4. Lots more interesting comments on Daily Kos, where I cross-posted this piece.

    1. Thanks. I took some time and read all the comments Joe. What is the name of the camerawoman who had nuts thrown at her? What is the name of the woman who hurled the nuts and was ejected? Initially I thought David Schuster was an eye witness. Instead, he tweeted out something repeated by someone. Who were the CNN people that he "knows".

      He said "The background of this, is that I used to work at CNN for many years and I know a lot of their technical staff, crew staff and all sorts of people. I heard from one of our own people about the incident with the CNN camerawoman."

      Read more:

    2. We don't know their names, and we don't know why CNN is choosing not to report more details. That's the mystery.

      Anyway, cheers to you for wading into the den of loony liberals.

  5. Of course, we always take these types of claims seriously. Until they shouldn't be. David Schuster said in the interview I shared above that he tweeted it out hoping other journalists would pick up on it. He clearly did not have details. Why isn't anyone directly involved speaking out? Something is not adding up. My guess is that CNN is being very careful with a thorough investigation.

    1. Her name is Patricia Carroll, and she decided to give an interview to Maynard Institute. Don't know much about them.

      So evidently she is not interested in making a federal case of this, but did not mind identifying herself and making a statement. Still you would think CNN itself, maybe without emphasizing her personal details or putting her on camera, so as to protect her privacy, would have made a bigger story themselves. For example, it could have been interesting to do a whole bunch of interviews with delegates and other people attending the convention to try to get an idea of people's attitudes. Ask them questions like, why do they think that, according to the latest polls, 0% of blacks surveyed said they planned to vote for Mitt Romney. Why not do that kind of story, I wonder.

    2. Thanks for sharing Patricia's story. Too bad we don't have the name of the woman who accosted her. Incredibly disappointing situation.

  6. From Huffington:

    The CNN camerawoman who was pelted with peanuts by attendees at the Republican National Convention said that the incident was disheartening, and that it should serve as a wake-up call to black people.

    "I hate that it happened, but I'm not surprised at all," Patricia Carroll said to Journal-isms. "This is Florida, and I'm from the Deep South. You come to places like this, you can count the black people on your hand. They see us doing things they don't think I should do."

    On Tuesday, two attendees were removed from the arena after they threw peanuts at Carroll, while saying to her, "This is how we feed the animals."

    The convention's organizers condemned the incident, saying, "Two attendees tonight exhibited deplorable behavior. Their conduct was inexcusable and unacceptable. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated."

    The incident was first made public by Current TV's David Shuster in a tweet Tuesday night.

    Carroll went on:

    "I can't change these people's hearts and minds," Carroll added. "No, it doesn't feel good. But I know who I am. I'm a proud black woman. A lot of black people are upset. This should be a wake-up call to black people. ... People were living in euphoria for a while. People think we're gone further than we have."

    Michael Steele, the former chair of the Republican National Committee, told The Huffington Post on Thursday that in 2008, there were only 36 black delegates of the 2,000 in attendance, and that the GOP needed to do a better job of welcoming people of color.

    "The proof is in the numbers," Steele said.