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Forbes is reporting that there will be 15,000 journalists at each of the two upcoming political conventions.
At a time when news budgets are being slashed because of declining revenue, how can a news organization possibly justify sending a raft of people to the conventions? (I suspect the numbers for the Olympics are about the same–and just as ridiculous.)
The Los Angeles Times is sending 15 people to the conventions, Forbes says. And that doesn't count journalists from other Tribune Co. papers that will be helping out. With what? Apparently, the Zellot cost-cutters missed this line item. Too bad. USA Today plans to send 34 reporters to each convention; Dow Jones is sending 23 to each. The New York Times and Washington Post aren't disclosing their numbers, but you can believe they're similarly inflated. The good news is that many organizations say they're cutting back from previous convention coverage–but it's still too much.
Sorry, but in most cases, there's really no (legitimate) excuse for a single news organization to send a large number of journalists to the convention. What stories are they going to get that the AP can't supply? Hijinks of the local delegates? Inside info about what the candidates hope to do for the economy back home? Local color on Denver and St. Paul? It's really hard to understand the need for this kind of bulk coverage.
Unless, of course, you understand that the conventions serve as gala social events for journalists, as well. It isn't just political reporters that go to big events like these–it's editors, managing editors and publishers who get to go along for the expense-account ride (in expensive style, no doubt). That puffs up those numbers of attendees. It's a way of showing the flag, of hanging out with old friends, of doing some (much-needed these days) job networking.
But that doesn't make it right. In fact, at a time when coverage is being cut back and newspapers and broadcasters really need to be devoting more resources to local coverage and other journalism that readers truly care about, this sort of boondoggle is just plain wrong.