Should Journalists Stay Home This Year?

| 8/15/2008 9:22:56 AM

Over at Slate, Jack Shafer wonders why news outlets are sending 15,000 reporters to this year’s Republican and Democratic conventions. “[T]hese political gatherings tend to produce very little real news,” Shafer writes. “Yet the networks, the newspapers, the magazines, and the Web sites continue to insist on sending battalions of reporters to sift for itsy specks of information.”

It’d be one thing if that were, say, 15,000 news outlets each sending one reporter. But it’s not. Even Slate, Shafer says, is sending eight reporters to Denver and six to St. Paul.

In a year of blistering cost-cutting and layoffs, and with remaining reporters spread ever more thinly, is this really the best use of newspapers’ dollars? Might many of those 15,000 reporters not be better utilized to, say, cover local news during the two weeks of the conventions?

“As news organizations dwindle,” writes Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine, “this is an irresponsible use of resources and it only shows how the industry’s leaders are tied to doing things the way they always did them. That’s what will be the death of journalism.”

It’s probably fair to say that what happens inside convention walls is thoroughly rehearsed, uninspiring, and un-newsworthy. But what’s surprising about that? Most reporters worth their salt know that, as with any well-orchestrated media circus, the good stories lie well beyond convention parameters. Minnesota Public Radio’s Bob Collins urges journalists to take a few detours: “Look for a better location to learn the real stories behind the script from which the Dems and Republicans want the media to read.” 

(Thanks, Romenesko.)

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