I prefer not to mix politics with business but after watching the coverage of the final evening of the Republican National Convention, I decided to make an exception.
As a former journalist for both newspapers and a national news magazine, I covered plenty of campaigns and elections. Whenever these things occur, especially for the Presidential campaigns, the news staffs always gear up and pull everyone from their usual “beat” in order to cover the event.
While working for a Phoenix newspaper, I was tossed from my usual assignment as an arts editor into the election night flurry at the Westward Ho hotel where the Republican party candidates gathered to await the voting results. There was plenty of “drama” to write about, to be sure, with then Senator Barry Goldwater in the spotlight but it wasn’t the usual stuff that I did for my weekly arts and entertainment section.
As a medical reporter for TIME Magazine, I was recruited from the Los Angeles bureau, along with everyone else, to keep watch on election night and file the results, reactions and interviews to New York way into the wee hours of the morning. On the night of President Reagan’s second election, I found myself on the floor of the Century City Hotel, where the President was to give his victory speech, surrounded by thousands of noisy supporters and an army of media.
The excitement escalated as the evening went on, with everyone anticipating Reagan’s arrival. The hubbub became so loud that it was next to impossible to understand what my assigned interview subject–then Senator Pete Wilson–was saying in answer to my questions. And finally, the man himself stepped onto the stage. The music boomed, the balloons fell and the crowd cheered as the President and his family waved and celebrated their victory.
I didn’t necessarily share their enthusiasm, but it was infectious. However, as a reporter, I prided myself in providing an objective interpretation and look at the event in my coverage and set aside personal preferences and opinions in order to provide my editors and readers with the accurate material they needed.
Watching last night’s televised coverage, I was reminded of my long nights covering elections. It is one of the major events of a journalist’s career. Yet I find most of the television coverage today lacking. I have my own theories as to why this is, due, in part to the disappearance of the Fairness Doctrine which required journalists to give equal weight and time to both sides of a story.
I regret that much of the post-convention commentary has focused on actor Clint Eastwood’s speech. While he’s a tremendous thespian and director, his was not supposed to be the climax of the night in this arena. His controversial appearance stole the thunder that should be reserved for the candidates themselves, especially at a Presidential convention. Regardless of how you may feel about his presence there, as a former journalist, I hope that everyone, the media included, will get back on track in time for the upcoming Democratic National Convention.