I recently read an article in the Washington Post in which it was claimed that there were about 5,000 delegates at the Democratic National Convention, while there were about 15,000 media credentials awarded. Other sites have been able to confirm these approximate numbers. Meanwhile, the number roughly reflects the delegate to media balance at the Republican National Convention (available on the RNC's official site), which was held in its entirety last week.
While there are more party operatives involved in conventions than just the delegates, including staffers and pols from up and down the national relevance scale, there does seem to be something a little off about having that much media in attendance compared to the people who are there to do actual work. While one could argue that, of course, the media members are there to 'do work' as well, the evidence suggests much to the contrary.
Indeed, in the Post article, written by Dana Milbank, there was a strong undercurrent of mockery at the level of pampering available at the DNC for the author as a member of the media. Based on how many parties Milbank mentioned, and to the extent that anyone would consider me to be 'media', it seems as if I have a better chance of absorbing and forming thoughts on conventions from my armchair than I would from their floors.
There are other risks handing out that many media passes as well. I spoke to someone who attended the RNC last week and he mentioned that there had been a few cases of media members giving up their press passes, for which they had to pass background checks, to protesters just to see what would happen (predictably, a disturbance followed by a removal). While I appreciate the strong right we have to protest here, I think the media's responsibility to the masses to report actual news is stronger than its interest in making stuff happen to write an 'amusing' story.
It is perhaps another example of how the media has declined in both status and prestige in recent years. If so, it is one I find discouraging and, in some ways, sad. How can we hope to have a neutral, informative media, and as a result an informed electorate, when more time is spent being feted and causing problems than researching and writing stories? Maybe it is naive to think that is still a possibility in the days of the internet, the slam blog and the 24 hour, partisan-driven news cycle. However, I have to think that there are some people out there who share my feelings about this, and if so, we should all be a little more vocal about our disappointment.