Monday, August 27, 2012


       With apologies if I start sounding like an old goat, but the political conventions today are nothing like they used to be.
        Coming of age as a journalist when I did gave me a chance to cover conventions with things like floor fights, battles over credentials, platform debates and open challenges.  A generation before me there was actual suspense about who'd get the nomination and on what ballot. I saw that at the state level, but the drama at the national conventions was about issues. At least when I started.  
       The last national convention I covered was the start of what they have now become, staged, public relations spectacles.  I remember grousing about it with Larry King and Peter Jennings as we took hallway breaks outside the "Skyboxes".   Our body clocks must have been on the same time zone because we headed to the men's room about the same time. "Here we go again," King would intone.
         At my first convention I had pretty much free access to the convention floor and all of the delegations for the whole week.  By the time of the last "coronation" as they were called, the media was kept in a building a block away, allowed only timed and limited access to the floor, and moved in sequestered zones. 
        In the early days we could see and hear protest demonstrators.  By the last convention they had been moved so far out of sight none of the candidates or delegates might even know they were around.  These events have become managed to the point it is a sham to call them a convention.
        At one of the mid 70 conventions, it might have been the issues convention in 75 or the New York gathering that nominated Jimmy Carter in 76, there was a lot of speculation about the intentions of the Black Caucus headed by Ron Dellums and a feminist contingent headed by Bella Abzug.  The question was about what they would vote on a particular plank.  Delegates and the media were speculating about what Dellums and Abzug would do.  I was walking through the lobby of the hotel where a meeting was scheduled. I spotted a delegate credential, on a chain,  laying on the floor.  I picked up the credential and started toward the desk where I intended to turn it in.  However on the way through the lobby I spotted Dellums, Abzug and others marching into a salon meeting room.  I squeezed into the pack, holding the delegate credential in the air, while trying to cover my own media credential. The caucus was "closed" to delegates only.  
      I stood there listening, and was obvious about making notes on my reporters notebook.  No one seemed to take offense. They decided they would be united on the issue and that both would have a chance to speak.  The caucus adjourned.
      I almost sprinted back to the working news center-in those days almost all of the media was housed in the same large working space, with little warrens of feed centers and edit spaces off to the side in cubicles. I was reporting for a group of radio stations and I filed my report into a special phone line.  I remember Jack Nelson, who went on to win a Pulitzer, asking me  "Where'd you get that?"
       I told him the circumstances.  By this time Walter Mears, also now a Pulitzer winner, seemed interested. In those days, for many of us, the story didn't really register with our headquarters until it appeared on the AP wire with a Walter Mears by-line. His putting it on the wire gave an event a kind of sanction with editors and producers miles away and out of touch.  Nelson asked me to repeat how I got it.  I did.  He and Mears smiled.  They were the big boys, I was just a kid, but I beat 'em that day.
       Chance of that sort of thing occurring again?  Nada.  The Republicans wont even let one of their own, Ron Paul, address the convention.  Despite winning about 8-10% of the Republican Primary votes, he's being shut out.  That wouldn't have happened, back in the good old days, when conventions were really conventions!
     A few of you have asked about the bees.  They appear to be prospering with their new young queen.  When Michael did his last check of the frames he spotted the queen's chamber.  It looks a bit like a thrown earthen ware vase or jug.

    Now that our bee keepers have found the queen and are pleased with the latest inspection, your reporter is waiting for the honey to appear!
      See you down the trail.


  1. Oh I see. Your daughter and her mother (in her orthopedic sneaker) are out there with no protection. Meantime, you're hiding behind a fence. Maybe you need a beekeeper credential. :)

    By the way, Ron Paul was given the chance to speak at the convention but turned it down because he would have had to toe the party line and endorse Romney unconditionally. He said I won't do that because I DON'T endorse Romney unconditionally!

    1. A) I'm allergic to bee stings.
      B) But I did get close. Enough so to get the shot of the chamber.
      C) Paul won the right to speak by getting a percentage of delegates.

  2. Ah, Walter Mears, a true brush with greatness!

  3. Ditto your comment on the bees.

    I attended the '76 GOP convention in Kansas City. It was clearly a media show, no doubt about it, but it was perhaps the last convention whee there was some intrigue; after all, Ford didn't have it sewn up according to the rules and the Reagan Republicans were doing everything they could to derail Ford. Quite the scene for a sophomore to junior poli sci ajor from Berkeley!

    1. That was an interesting convention. In 4 years it was Reagan in Detroit, which I always thought was just plain odd.

    2. Good story...brought back some similar memories about the Good Ole Days in 1972 and 1976. Too bad the reality of Mears-AP has been replaced by Twitter.

  4. How about a book instead of a blog? More Mears stories!

    Larry Landis