Covering the Totally Predictable Conventions

Friday, September 07, 2012


Political conventions used to be places where decisions were made and delegates truly participated. Now, they are just a series of scripted speeches covered by the media as though they are breaking news stories. Bob reflects on the last two weeks of this modern convention style.

Hosted by:

Bob Garfield

Comments [13]

John Hogan

Why shouldn't the networks offer some free air time to the parties? The networks use the people's airwaves. Shouldn't the candidates be able to reach the public sometimes without going through the media's filter or having to pay for air time? So much of the money in politics is used to buy ads and then the media complain about money in politics. Bob even complains that the conventions aren't newsworthy. What would he complain about if the conventions were newsworthy by selecting a candidate in a backroom closed to the press?

Sep. 11 2012 03:47 PM
Kathleen Hawkins

I must disagree with the statements that the convention does not change minds or opinions.After my daughter, who has always been apathetic about politics and the importance of voting, listened to Pres. Obama's speech
has become energised about this election and is a LOUD suportor of Pres.
Obama...and will vote in this election.

Sep. 10 2012 03:32 PM
elaine norstein from Maplewood, NJ

I love your program, but I was astounded by the convention coverage. To mention Michele Obama's lack of spontaneity and not Mitt Romney's stilted attempt to convey his humanity was such a glaring omission. And to mention no difference between the two events was to miss the KEY contrast - when the camera cut-aways to the audience revealed an absolutely stunning contrast in those two audiences. It amounted to negating who their supporters are, and the value of visual media coverage!

Sep. 10 2012 11:58 AM
Nancy from California

I listened on NPR to both campaigns and to all the speeches. I prefer the radio. I find having no visual experience far superior, allowing less distraction. I did not find Michelle Obabama's remarks over the top. She informed us about her feelings about her husband as Ann Romney did a week earlier.
Why did you only discuss the Democratic convention? Having the TNR reporter only speak of one convention would seem to invalidate his remarks.

Sep. 09 2012 10:31 PM
Michelle Cadarette from Grand Rapids, MI

Re: CNN's Image coverage at the DNC

During Hillary Clinton's interview at the DNC, I noticed something disturbing about CNN's coverage.

When Hillary spoke, CNN put a large banner under her head so it "severed" her neck, right under the chin. This took place during most of the interview. I couldn't believe it, so I rewound the DVR, and measured the banner and compared to CNN's commentators, and indeed the banner was smaller and the commentators were not "severed" at the neck. They put Hillary at the worst camera angle and made the banner larger than the other under-banners.

CNN featured DNC speakers in a very tiny box on the left side of the screen while they interviewed VIP's...but scanned the DNC crowd and gave them a large screen...emphasizing sometimes goofy delegates rather than the Dem speakers.

Sound - CNN used loud drums, much like one would hear at the OK Corral during a gun fight which overshadowed the actual music or sounds of the convention.

I haven't heard any of these comments in the media, and the broadcast of CNN's coverage of the DNC should be compared to other TV coverage. I think CNN made a mockery of the DNC. Did anyone else notice this?

Sep. 09 2012 07:33 PM
Sil from Idaho

I couldn't believe the tone of Walter Kern's snarky remarks!I was a delegate to the DNC, and I choked when Kern said Michelle Obama's speech was scripted. He said he knew this because it appeared simultaneously on the crawl as she spoke. While it was probably scripted (whose wasn't--except Eastwood's), there was a noticeable delay along with asides and the audience's responses as well as misspellings. (For example,the Cayman Islands appeared as "Kay Man" until someone corrected the typist.) He made a big whoop over nothing!

Sep. 09 2012 06:35 PM
Dianne from Coastside California

I completely agree with Linh. I felt that this commentators remarks about Michelle Obama's speech were unnecessary and out of line. I wonder how many speeches he has ever given? If speech giving was a part of his own experiences I would think that he would be able to understand that her emotions might be authentic. Again, Linh was exactly right.

In addition Michelle Obama is an incredibly competent, well educated professional in her own right and clearly capable of giving a speech that authentically expresses those issues and life experiences that are part of who is she and that she would authentically feel (emotional) strongly about.

I really am getting tired of the 'so-called' experts telling the rest of us how we should react and analyze our own experiences of events and speeches. I can think for myself.

Sep. 09 2012 05:42 PM

I was moved to tears by Michelle Obama's speech, praising her parents and our parents and ourselves for working hard through difficulties and persevering, and mentioning Martin Luther King as the real history and heroism in our country instead of those who make giant financial wealth. By contrast, Ann Romney's claims of her and her husband eating on an ironing table in their salad days living off of stock dividends was blatantly manipulative and dishonest.

You can find any cynical reporter, especially the New Republic, a longtime fake liberal magazine that no progressive believes in, with a bias against a speech. How does that shed any light? Seems like Brook and Bob phoned it in this week. You and your interviewees completely ignore the messages that both conventions gave, and belly ache over reporters unable to do their jobs, unwilling to investigate or shed light on facts, and then blame others for their failings.

Sep. 09 2012 05:34 PM
Andrew M from Santa Rosa, CA

Gosh Brook & Bob, there's something called CSPAN, Huffington Post, and the internet, where you can stream both entire conventions without the filtering and biased commentary of cable and network media. Isn't that amazing! Perhaps in another ten years, your team could look into this new and strange phenomenon, and interview some reporter who doesn't like it. That would be so informative!

Sep. 09 2012 05:27 PM
rudy dodd from san francisco

I have never wanted to punch the media on the nose quite as much as I did while listening to the first two segments. First we had to listen to the whining of the Politico guy about how unhappy reporters are covering the Presidential election. I think the conversation speaks for itself. Yipes!

The extraordinarily lofty observations from the the New Republic guy is the height of condescension. I think he actually said that he was seeing what was going on in a way that no one else seem to have seen...AND poor Brooke, you had to keep on talking to him after that.

I mean really, to raise yourself to your full height in observing that a speech (a speech anywhere) at a political convention was "artificial" is the very definition of intellectual choux pastry.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Sep. 09 2012 04:05 PM
Ramesh from Long Isalnd

Coming from India I am surprised at following: 'talk of family value' and 'pre and post speech analysis'.

I think letting voters know how much candidates love their spouse, mom and dog is a distraction. These popcornish nice fuzzy feeling information dilutes the serious issues. We know Hitler had girl friend and a dog too; Saddam had a family; and none of these made them any sane. In India word 'first lady' is not used. In fact one of our (rare honest) Prime minister Mr. Vajapeyee was a bachelor. I wonder whether bachelor has a chance of making it to White house?

I think speech analysis is a bubble of historians, media experts and the media. They reciprocate each other. NPR spends at least an hour just talking about speeches given in State of union, convention, acceptance, race related(Obama v/s Kennedy), anti-violence(Obama's in AZ after Gabrielle shooting), etc... In fact NPR has two segments, one about 'what he may talk' and 'what he eventually spoke'. In general, too many historians leads to over analysis. You can see this in Art, there are N number of books on 'renaissance painters', so called masters. I know this because I paint.

Yes, I really liked the speeches of Michele Obama and Bill Clinton as a form of art but they do not help in real world.

Last week 'BBC World Service' host chuckled at the use of metaphors like 'distant horizon', 'Providence' by Obama in 2012 DNC convention. Going by the example set by other western democracies, yes we CAN succeed without these frills.

Sep. 09 2012 01:50 PM

i think it is so judgemental to say that Michelle Obama is acting in her speech. Have you ever written an emotional journal entry and when you re-read it, you feel that all the emotions coming back? or , have you ever cried watching a movie?

Sep. 09 2012 11:47 AM
mercedes from cortlandt Manor NY

Just a comment about Mr. Crumb's (New REpublic)criterion for indicting Michele Obama for her 'on-cue' tears. Please don't be so judgemental, Mr. Crumb (?sp--I only heard his name and have not read it), I pften develop tears just be I speak the emotion. It IS characteritic of an emotion and necessarily staged as you suggest. Howqever, I too wanted more from all the convention speakers--more about the issues. Now that being said, remember that the GOP had a tent with media (very near the Den's convention) ready to respond to all that was said. Perhaps the Democrats did not want to reveal some things until Clinton, Biden and Obama spoke?? I have a bigger problem with Hilary Clinton not being there, She has been hugely instrunmental in creating a better foreign policy for this administration. Should we be talking more about gender politics here? And why not talk more about congress? Now there's an enemy.

Sep. 09 2012 10:47 AM

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