It sounds like the day of watching the major networks to get any news coverage is gone. All that coverage for the Olympics and trying to get news of the convention from the ABC, NBC, or CBS was curtailed, and CNN and Fox showed their bias.
Dems, networks struggle over convention coverage
NEW YORK (AP) — National political conventions have become, in NBC's Brian Williams' words, "four-day infomercials." But it's not always clear the message is getting through.
The tension between convention planners and television news organizations who don't want to be seen as doing the politicians' bidding was obvious Monday during the first night of the Democratic meeting that will nominate Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for president.
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was addressing the convention, drawing a contrast between Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly was in a booth far above the delegates interviewing a pollster. O'Reilly waved in the direction of Pelosi on stage with a dismissive hand.
"Now we have Nancy Pelosi bloviating, and I say that in an affectionate way, behind us," O'Reilly said. "It doesn't seem like the crowd is on the edge of their seats."
Fox's viewers weren't allowed to judge for themselves. Same thing for CNN at the time, where Wolf Blitzer was holding court as Pelosi talked. Among the cable news networks, only MSNBC gave Pelosi's speech any real attention.
Three hours later, as CNN analysts were wrapping up the night, several talked about the absence of "red meat" attacks on the Republicans. But Democratic activist Hillary Rosen noted that Pelosi was doing some of that — only CNN wasn't really listening.
CBS was showing Katie Couric and Jeff Greenfield talking when Craig Robinson was onstage speaking about his sister, Michelle Obama. During a Jimmy Carter tribute, Fox was showing films of demonstrators outside the convention hall. There was little time spent on Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill.
On a night Obama's team clearly had set aside for assuring American voters that if they got to know the nation's first black major party-nominee better they would see similarities to themselves, most of the networks didn't bother listening to Obama's half-sister.
Several things may explain it. The networks paid to send much of their political talent to Denver, and want to show them off. They fear political speeches may turn off an audience that has, essentially, tuned in for political speeches. And they don't want to be sucked into an infomercial.
Viewers who want that message unfiltered were better off watching PBS or C-SPAN, which carried most of the action from the podium.
When the evening ended following Michelle O'Bama's speech about her husband, and some cute family unity with Barack Obama seen via satellite, commentators on both CNN and Fox judged that too little had happened on the first night.
"I thought it was a beautiful speech, beautifully done," said Fox's Chris Wallace. "But I can't help but feel after the first night of the convention that it was largely a wasted night."
Democratic strategist James Carville was mad that there weren't many attacks on McCain.
"They did a poor job explaining what the choices are," added CNN's David Gergen.
His colleague, John King, said that wasn't necessarily what Democrats were trying to do on the first night. "They are trying to race across the viability threshold before the Republicans can say that this man is not ready to be president," he said.
The action seemed better suited Monday for the broadcast networks. ABC, CBS and NBC are each devoting an hour each night to the convention coverage. They had originally mapped out an hour of prime-time for three of the four nights of the convention — as they all did four years ago. But strong interest in the campaign pushed the networks to add a fourth hour.
The slow moments earlier in the evening — so deadly to the cable pundits who craved more amusement — suited ABC, CBS and NBC perfectly. It enabled them to offer highlights of Sen. Edward Kennedy's emotional speech during the first half hour of their broadcasts, then segue directly into Michelle Obama's speech.
By 11 p.m. ET, the Obamas were gone.