Jeff Jarvis asks a question that may seem shocking at first, but I think he has a point: Should the media even bother to cover the two major party conventions? They’re great entertainment for political junkies who still retain some measure of idealism, but they’re really just 4-day infomercials.
Jarvis calculates that the press spends something on the order of $60 million to cover the two conventions. And for what? Almost nothing is reported that is of real value, nothing that brings real, useful information to voters. And for what?
Editorial ego: It’s fun to be there, in the pack. It’s fun for a paper or station to say, “We have our man/woman in Tampa/Charlotte.” Well goody for you.
It’s a waste.
Take that $60,000,000 and divide it by a fully loaded labor cost of, say, $100,000 per head and it would pay for 600 reporters for a year. At $50,000 for a hyperlocal reporter, we’d get 1,200 towns covered — more than Patch! What could they do versus what you will do in Tampa and Charlotte transcribing marketing messages and horrid memes?…At least 3,775 newspaper jobs were lost last year; 39,806 since mid-2007; one in three newsroom jobs have been eliminated since 1989. How’s that make you feel, convention press corps?
It makes them feel like they’re part of the game, playing a very important role in American democracy. But they’re not. They’re just transcribing the endless litany of cliches, platitudes and focus group-tested catchphrases. Jarvis is right that he could easily be proven wrong. At the end of the two conventions, simply point to the important stories that came out of the conventions. Good luck with that.