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Opinion: Attention on conventions

Opinion: Attention on conventions

September 4th, 2012 by Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, via The AP in News

Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald on national political conventions, from Aug. 27, 2012:

OK, so it's been a while since there was any real drama at a national political convention.

Back when, the Democrats could brawl for 16 days and 103 ballots (New York, 1924) in picking their nominee. Republicans (Chicago, 1912) could watch a slugfest between an incumbent president, William Howard Taft, and a former president, Theodore Roosevelt, that would leave the loser running anyway as a "Bull Moose."

But lately? Modern conventions pretty much are scripted coronations for nominees chosen months earlier in primaries and caucuses. Even the announcement of a vice presidential choice comes well before the convention opens.

So the major television networks, which once aired the events almost gavel-to-gavel, have pulled back. ABC, CBS and NBC are promising only three hours of coverage spread over the four nights of each convention - Republicans in Tampa, Fla. and Democrats in Charlotte, N.C.

But despite network TV's shrinking interest, the 2012 conventions may be more accessible to interested voters than ever. Newspapers will report on the events in detail, and there will be a new wave of live coverage utilizing the Internet, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, tablet computers and smartphones.

These conventions are an institution going back to the 1830s, yet many 21st-century Americans are still paying attention. For three convention nights over two weeks in 2008, more than 40 million people watched the speeches of Barack Obama, John McCain and Sarah Palin on television.

While it's easy to poke fun, these quadrennial pep rallies remain more than a place to see donkey jewelry and elephant hats. ...