R.I.P. Conventions

•  Hear, hear! . . how dull things were – already – 40 years ago

•  The pandemic’s silver lining: shrunken presidential nominating pageants

•  In 1980, everybody must have gotten stoned

Summertime, every four years. The speeches, the balloon drops, the protests. The boredom. National presidential nominating conventions can’t die soon enough. I could tally up the number of them I covered since my first in 1972, but I don’t care. A dozen or more is my guess.

They used to offer political drama. Smoke-filled rooms. Brokered outcomes. Riots outside and inside, with the whole world watching.

But by the time I covered both of the 1976 conventions for radio they were well on their way to being week-long political TV commercials.

I have had some fun, which you can see here: Unconventional Coverage.

In 1980 I was between radio news jobs, living in Philadelphia before joining WMET Chicago in ’81. With the help of some friends at NBC’s young adult radio network, The Source, I acquired press credentials for the DNC in New York.

I was able to scare up some FM rock stations who paid me a modest sum for reports from Madison Square Garden. There were demonstrations and protests. But instead of tear gas or pepper spray, I had to face clouds of marijuana smoke to interview this one guy:

Field report for WMET Chicago

(Another hat-tip to Dave Alpert, then WMET’s news director, who helped “underwrite” this assignment. I would soon succeed him in Chicago and later work together with him at ABC for many memorable years.)

In addition to an affiliate press credential (when I wasn’t with an affiliated station, just a freelancer), the good folks at NBC gave me this nifty souvenir ashtray.

. . . in case any roaches materialized

My fond hope is that the 2020 conventions, reduced by coronavirus threats to little more than Zoom meetings, will hasten the realization that these bloated, outdated extravaganzas, now mostly virtual, are virtually news-free.

With luck, they’ll be on the political ash heap by 2024. That’s my conventional wisdom.

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