Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Media crowds convention

Dana Milbank

CHARLOTTE – The Democratic National Convention is just getting under way, but already I’ve been given the treatment. Lots of treatments, actually.

I’ve had my deltoids massaged in candlelight by a licensed therapist; had a foaming pore cleanser and mask applied to my face by an aesthetician; been instructed in the Warrior, Half-Sun Salute and Dancer poses by a yoga instructor; and crawled into a hanging cocoon for a “meditative snooze.” I worked up quite an appetite doing all this, so I ordered vegan corn chowder and gluten-free chicken chile verde washed down with Fiji water all courtesy of the Huffington Post.

Ostensibly, the Huffington Post Oasis offers these spa services gratis to convention delegates as well as to media types. But in practice, said Brendan McDonald, whose LYFE Kitchen serves the Oasis’ healthy fare, “I’ve only seen the likes of you.”

Do not be deceived by all that talk of delegates and floor speeches: This is a convention of the media, by the media and for the media. There are some 15,000 representatives of the media here for the convention, about three times the number of delegates. This mathematical imbalance means most journalists spend their time with other journalists at events sponsored by corporations and hosted by media organizations for the purpose of entertaining advertisers and promoting themselves to each other.

There’s the Politico Hub (Ketel One Martini bar!), the Bloomberg Link (hot breakfast and goodie bags!), the CNN Grill, the MSNBC Experience and many more. The Atlantic, National Journal and CBS started offering mimosas at 9:30 a.m., and the Hill had a full bar open at 10:30 a.m. in its hospitality suite atop the Charlotte City Club. I attended these events for five hours straight on Tuesday and could not identify a single delegate.

Last week’s storm-shortened Republican convention in Tampa, visited by a similar media mob, produced no bounce in the polls for Mitt Romney. The situation in Charlotte – thousands of idle journalists and not a serious news story in sight – is one more reason to consign political conventions to the dustbin of history.

My Tuesday began at the Politico Hub, where Mike Allen was interviewing President Obama’s confidant Valerie Jarrett.

“He’s a human being, and he likes to laugh,” Jarrett disclosed.

Allen asked if it’s true that “they’re incredible parents.”

“They’re absolutely amazing,” Jarrett confirmed.

The dozens of reporters in the crowd, NBC’s Mike Isikoff and the Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove among them, munched on scones and fruit (sponsor: Bank of America). Nearby were other pieces of the Hub to be used later in the day: a bar (sponsored by BAE Systems and others) and a Coca-Cola “Refresh Station.”

An hour later, the Bloomberg Link held its breakfast event – also featuring Jarrett. Attendees, including Time’s Mark Halperin, BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith and three from the Washington Post’s editorial page, got purple Bloomberg beachbags containing sunglasses and water bottles. The Bloomberg hosts were pleased with their glitzy digs, two floors above the plaza with MSNBC’s set. “It’s like spring break out there, and this is like the cool party everybody wants to get into,” one Bloomberg guy explained to a guest.

In the plaza, a whiteboard listed MSNBC’s scheduled festivities, including a pizza party at noon, “Rev. Al’s Blueberry Pie Cafe” at 6 p.m., and viewing parties throughout the day. This was much like the offering at the nearby CNN Grill, which sent out updates with the political and media stars “sighted” at the grill, including Charlie Rose, Dave Barry, Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper.

From there, I hurried to the National Journal-CBS Breakfast (sponsors include United Technologies, Volkswagen and Pfizer), which featured Obama pollster Joel Benenson informing a roomful of journalists that the president’s crowds have been getting bigger.

There was little time to process this wisdom, because I was late for a breakfast done by the Hill (sponsors include Tyco, Allstate and lobbying firm Holland & Knight), where Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., announced that Obama’s advisers have been “astonishingly successful.” By then I was behind for the Yahoo-ABC News event, so I missed Obama campaign manager Jim Messina telling the roomful of reporters that “the president is building an economy built to last.”

There were a dozen media events to go to, including munching Asian-fusion food at Politico, Politics and Pints trivia with the Post’s Chris Cillizza, and a RealClearPolitics party. But if I went to the late-night BuzzFeed party at a children’s museum, I wondered, could I still make it to Wednesday’s breakfast sponsored by Bloomberg and the Post?

Possibly – but I’d need a nap at the Huffington Post.

Dana Milbank is a columnist for the Washington Post. His email address is