To cover the convention, avoid the convention

Xcel Center, waiting for RepublicansJeff Jarvis is a bright guy. His thoughts on the changing media business — where it’s stuck and where it needs to go — are usually interesting and often truly brilliant. But Jarvis misses the point with his recent rant about what he calls an ego-driven wastefulness of sending 15,000 journalists to cover this summer’s political conventions.

He’s not far off when he says the conventions are staged and no real news happens. He has his sights set on an important issue when he says it’s irresponsible to use so many resources for such a non-newsy event. But he adds:

Those reporters would be far better used in their local markets doing real reporting there. Don’t go to the convention and ask the same old question and get the same old answer about health care; instead, go ask patients and doctors in your market what is happening. Don’t go getting locker room sound bites from local pols at the convention; spend the time at home to analyze their expense accounts and donor reports. You want to know what issues matter in November? Ask the voters in your backyard.

Yes, ask the voters in your backyard. But not during the conventions. You reporters have months to do some great reporting back home. Go to the conventions at take a hint from MPR’s Bob Collins:

…far too many mainstream journalists — and even more in the blogosphere — believe that convention coverage involves sitting in a darkened hall somewhere and waiting for someone to deliver a tinkle of news. But why would they? It’s a rehearsed infommercial, and this isn’t 1968.

So what’s a reporter to do? Leave. Look for a better location to learn the real stories behind the script from which the Dems and Republicans want the media to read. Eventually, they reveal their true selves and deliver a far better story.

Denver and St. Paul, during their respective conventions, are going to be absolutely crawling with thousands of local and national politicians, delegates, lobbyists, donors, supporters, detractors, Ron Pauls and all sorts of politically minded folk. Many of them will have journalistic gold, waiting for the mining. Oh, and did I mention Ron Paul will be here?

So please, do send your reporters. But don’t send them to the Xcel Center. Send them to Payless to get some comfortable shoes, and have them hit the streets.

Photo courtesy of tboard on Flickr