Now it’s convention time, a two-week stretch when TV is consumed by politics.
Well … semi-consumed. On Aug. 17-20, the big networks still have plenty of time for “Holey Moley,” “Tough as Nails,” “Ellen’s Game of Games” and five hours of Gordon Ramsay reruns.
Clearly, this is far from the era when the Cronkite/Brokaw teams covered every convention detail.
“I lean in favor of covering more,” Judy Woodruff (shown here), in her 12th round of convention coverage, told the Television Critics Association recently.
She’s at PBS, the only broadcast network that will use all of prime time for the conventions. That will include plenty of background and analysis, she said; PBS won’t just “turn it into an infomercial.”
That wasn’t a problem in the past, when conventions included verbal brawls. Then both parties began to control and tidy things; networks backed away. Plans (Monday through Thursday) are:
– Heavy, all-day coverage by the news channels, including CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, C-SPAN and the online arms of ABC and CBS.
– Three hours (8-11 p.m. ET) on PBS.
– Others jumping in at 10 p.m. ET. ABC was the first to say it will be there; CBS and NBC are expected to.
This won’t be like the old days, when “there was actually some suspense,” Woodruff said.
Her first convention, in 1976, came when Gerald Ford wasn’t sure of getting the nomination … or of his vice-presidential choice. He picked Bob Dole during the convention.
Four years later, there were more V-P questions. “Ronald Reagan … kept us all guessing. At one point, there was speculation that he would go with Gerald Ford” as vice-president.
He chose George H.W. Bush. “That has to be my favorite convention.” Woodruff said, “because I was so young and dazzled by the whole thing.”
She was 33; now, 40 years later, she anchors a “PBS NewsHour” crew that spans generations.
“We are not a place just about:’What happened?’” said Yamiche Alcindor, 33, the White House correspondent. “It’s about why it happened and all the context.”
Added Lisa Desjardins, 48, the Capitol Hill correspondent: “We are kind of all a bunch of nerds, … trying to get information and tell stories; We are not trying to get caught up in personal drama.”
There may not be much to get caught in, with speakers carefully parceled out to speak the party line.
The Republicans plan to have their formal speakers from 8:30-11 p.m. ET Aug.24-27, culminating with Donald Trump; specifics are pending. The Democrats plan 9-11 p.m. ET each night; the current plan, subject to change, is in this order:
–Monday: Amy Klobuchar, Catherine Cortez Masto, Andrew Cuomo, Gretchen Whitmer, Jim Clyburn, Bennie Thompson (the convention chairman), Gwen Moore, Doug Jones, Bernie Sanders, Michelle Obama.
– Tuesday: Keynote speaker; also, Sally Yates, Chuck Schumer, John Kerry, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Bill Clinton, the roll call, Jill Biden.
– Wednesday: Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Tony Evers, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Gabrielle Giffords, Kamala Harris, Barack Obama.
– Thursday: Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Gavin Newsom, Kesha Lance Bottoms, Tammy Baldwin, Tammy Duckworth, Chris Coons, the Biden family, Joe Biden.