What's a Colorado journalist to do when, for the first time in a century, the Democratic National Convention comes to your state? The first impulse of the newshound: Go to Denver, of course, and get yourself a scoop (not to mention free food). Then comes that slightly bitter aftertaste when you realize that there are going to be 15,000 journalists there; the whole damned thing is going to be broadcast, livestreamed and blogged on dozens of other media outlets 24/7; and everyone knows that not a lick of news actually happens at the conventions.
That aftertaste was enough for our top political reporter, Ray Ring, to decline my invitation to attend: "I try to avoid huge crowds of journalists." He figures it's a waste to go. Ed Quillen, our political columnist, said: "I don't like crowds." Period. Makes a lot of sense, really, so why not just boycott the whole spectacle?
I must admit, I considered doing just that. Who really wants to compete with the likes of CNN and Al Jazeera to find the one nugget of news -- or interview the one "real person" -- that actually comes out of the convention? And if the convention is really as meaningless as critics say, what meaning can a Denver convention have for the West?
But here's the thing: The convention itself is just a sideshow. The real stuff is happening everywhere else: protests, roundtables, interesting delegates visiting Denver landmarks, politicians trying to look "Western," and the general effort by the Democrats to appeal to the West, and by Denver to present the West to the world. And here at HCN, we've dug up enough interesting angles beforehand that we think we'll be able to give you some fresh, maybe even surprising, coverage. So we'll let about 1,000 of those other journalists bring you the conventional convention coverage via the little widget that you see at the bottom of this post (it will show up on our Web site soon); that will free us up to give you unconventional convention coverage, from a Western angle that you can get only from High Country News.
On Aug. 25, Andrea Appleton, Rob Inglis, Emily Steinmetz and I will load our reporters' notebooks, laptops, cameras, recorders and video cameras into the company car and head over the Great Divide to Denver. We'll scoff at all those journalists on $3,000 junkets; we'll be loading the trunk with ramen and peanut butter, sleeping on a friends' floor, and sticking to the meagre HCN expense account. Call it reporting under the radar.
Check out www.hcn.org Aug. 25-28, and see what we dig up.