Dem Convention Press Briefing Attended by 500 Journos Kept Strictly Off-the-Record; Why the Secrecy?

So the Democratic National Committee (DNC) gave a walk-through Wednesday for network journalists planning on covering the party's nominating convention this summer in Charlotte.

But while the DNC is trumpeting the convention as "the most open and accessible in history," the Charlotte Observer's Mark Washburn complained that the briefing, attended by some 500 journalists, was kept strictly off-the-record. What's more, Washburn notes, when he complained about what he saw as ludicrous ground rules for the briefing, the convention's chief operating officer, Theodore LeCompte snipped that Washburn was "perfectly welcome not to attend":


[T]he details of the day, everything from the location of the 36 media suites to where the bathrooms could be found, would be hush-hush.

I rose and squawked. I don't like off-the-record. I prefer in-the-newspaper.

Silly me thinks that if you gather hundreds of media people in a city-owned building to discuss how much their suites are going to cost, it's unseemly to order them to keep it on the down-low.

Silly me thinks if you're spinning "the most open and accessible in history," then you should skip the stealth stuff.

Theodore LeCompte, chief operating officer for the convention committee, stood up and set me straight.

"If there are issues with the ground rules, you are perfectly welcome not to attend this session," he said.

Silly me stuck around.

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It gets better, folks. Apparently the Dems wanted such a water-tight briefing that they chewed out a reporter over an allegedly errant tweet:

By lunchtime, Chris Miller, morning news reporter on WBT-AM (1110) and one of the journalists in town you probably don't want to push around, had been pulled aside by a convention press aide. She was concerned about a tweet he had sent that began, "DNC official just announced everything is now off-the-record." He says she reminded him everything was off the record.

Even going off the record, I guess.

Washburn also notes that he seems to be the only reporter who talked to who was ticked off by the strict confidentiality about a briefing on exceedingly boring, inside-baseball stuff anyway:

Despite the bubble of confidentiality, those attending the walk-through were chatty about the details. Media suites were going for about $18,600 to $19,100, depending on size. After customization, the cost would come to around $25,000. They went for about $30,000 at past conventions.

Not everything is a bargain. Thirsty media people will have to order through the arena's vendor. Budweiser, the King of Beers, will be offered for $31.50 per six-pack.

Such are the details "the most open and accessible convention in history" would apparently prefer to keep to itself.

Pretty mundane stuff, overall, not much public interest here. So why does the committee care?

"Why do they have to make a meeting about cable lengths off the record?" said Miller, the WBT reporter. "These are not the nuclear secrets."

Silly me agrees. But only clandestinely.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters