I challenge every journalist in Tampa for the Republican convention -- every one of the 15-16,000 of you -- to answer this:
- Why are you there?
- What will we learn from you?
- What actual reporting can you possibly do that delivers anything of value more than the infomercial -- light on the info, heavy on the 'mercial -- that the conventions have become?
- Would you be better off back at home covering voters and their issues?
- Can we in the strapped news business afford this luxury?
Figure that those 15k journos spend $300 a night each on a hotel room times five nights, plus $500 for transportation. That's $2,000. And I'm figuring they'll be slurping up free meals and drinks. So $2,000 is probably (pardon me) conservative. That's $30,000,000. Now multiply that times two conventions. That's $60,000,000.
Why? For what?
Note that even while newspapers and news organizations have shrunken drastically, we are sending the same number of journalists to the conventions that we sent in 2008 and 2004.
Why? Editorial ego: It's fun to be there, in the pack. It's fun for a paper or station to say, "We have our man/woman in Tampa/Charlotte." Well goody for you.
It's a waste.
Take that $60,000,000 and divide it by a fully loaded labor cost of, say, $100,000 per head and it would pay for 600 reporters for a year. At $50,000 for a hyperlocal reporter, we'd get 1,200 towns covered -- more than Patch! What could they do versus what you will do in Tampa and Charlotte transcribing marketing messages and horrid memes?
At least 3,775 newspaper jobs were lost last year; 39,806 since mid-2007; one in three newsroom jobs have been eliminated since 1989. How's that make you feel, convention press corps?
We can see whatever we want to see on C-SPAN (and I don't begrudge the networks for giving us America's Got Talent instead of the conventions since at least AGT has surprises; the conventions are scripted).
Commentary? There'll be more than we can possibly use this year on Twitter and Google+ and blogs and everywhere. We don't need to pundits' palaver. Citizens will comment this year.
So enjoy yourself, hacks. You're living off the last dollars of your business. And for what? Tradition? Where has that gotten us?
Please prove me wrong. In a week, show me the amazing reporting we couldn't have gotten if you weren't there.
Follow Jeff Jarvis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeffjarvis