Shame on us, the media, for thinking the Republican National Convention would pale in comparison to the Democrats’ show in Denver last week. For bloggers on both sides of the aisle here in St. Paul, what the RNC has lacked in strawberry-lemonade smoothies, it has more than made up for with juicy stories.
While Hurricane Gustav may have stopped the convention activities on Monday, it didn’t put a halt to the protests — more than 15,000 strong by most counts — that filled downtown St. Paul and continued in fits and starts throughout the week. The biggest bump for bloggers came from TheUptake.com, whose bloggers used Qik video streaming technology to broadcast live, while wearing shirts saying “I Am The Media.”
Inside the Xcel Energy Center, Internet video is still treated as something most attendees aren’t all that comfortable with. At the YouTube booth, set up so delegates could share their thoughts on the RNC directly with the YouChoose08 channel, there have been fewer videos submitted than at a similar setup in Denver. People working the booth said they are seeing some interest, but that there are about 60 to 70 videos coming in each night, compared with more than 100 at the DNC.
Blogging Conditions vs. DNC
While there was not a separate bloggers’ tent at the RNC the way there was at the DNC in Denver, bloggers were encouraged to apply for credentials through the “special press” gallery, and when granted credentials, they were given the same limited access at the Xcel Center (all but the convention floor) that regular press were granted. On their site, the RNC notes, “We have a great appreciation for bloggers and the ever-increasing role new media has in providing real-time information and shaping public opinion.”
But bloggers who attended were not thrilled with their workplace at the convention. Rick Moran, a conservative blogger who is a Pajamas Media editor, said the treatment of bloggers was really disrespectful to them:
The dungeon that the GOP has put bloggers in this time around would be familiar to Torquemada and his buddies who made the Spanish Inquisition such a great party. And the labyrinth one has to navigate to find the darn place would tax the abilities of a carrier pigeon. I honestly felt like leaving a trail of bread crumbs when I went out for a quick smoke. Not that it would do any good. The food on our level is so bad that I have no doubt some ravenously hungry media type would have preferred the bread crumbs to the greasy, tasteless crud they were serving at the kiosks. If I wanted the same stuff they serve at a hockey game, I would go to the Libertarian convention down the way.
While bloggers aren’t getting the workspace that larger media organizations (like PBS) pay for, the areas I saw for daily press and bloggers were comparable to each other — you can watch the action, but that’s about it. Internet access was spotty and the seating area was to the side of the stage. The DNC went above and beyond in terms of having a special filing center for bloggers and a large media space, but on the other hand made actual access to the convention more challenging, with different passes for the arena, hall, and floor.
Coming to Palin’s Defense
But really, the blog story (and every other story) of the week has been about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, celebrated hockey mom and John McCain’s pick for vice president. A quick Google blog search found over 62,000 mentions just in the past day! To counteract the reports about Palin’s personal life from Daily Kos and the Huffington Post, some younger, right-leaning blogs got into the rebuttal act.
Hip-hop Republican Ryan Anderson noted:
Sarah Palin herself is going to sway dismayed Hillary voters that Obama threw to the curb…She’s a very strong feminist role model…she rallies the base.”
And Young Voices blogger Tamika Thompson found a number of younger voters who were all for the Palin pick, including Stephanie Hitt, a first-time delegate and blogger at Hitt to Right. Hitt said Palin “sealed her support in the Republican party and has demonstrated she can cross partisan lines.”
Today, the Xcel Center will be quiet, but the arrested protesters will still be locked up, and Palin still has nine weeks for us to learn much more about her before the general election. And I’ll head back to DC, ready to take a break from uncomfortable folding chairs and free Diet Coke.
Laura Hertzfeld is the producer for PBS’ elections sites online, including PBS Vote 2008. She is credentialed as media through PBS to cover the conventions reported for MediaShift from both confabs. All photos here were taken by her; you can see all of them via her RNC Flickr set.