The 3,000

Here is a question worth asking at one of these big presidential debates: What the hell are 3000 journalists doing here?

Yes, 3000 journalists trooped out to Colorado for the first of the debates. No doubt a similar number have booked in for the others.

Why? How on earth can so many news outfits justify sending this army of journalists? To report on a debate that will be on television.

It is not as if there will be additional news to cover. The candidates don’t hold press conferences afterward. They don’t give stump speeches or interviews. Nobody sees them until they step onto the stage. In other words, 3000 news sleuths are not going to sniff up anything of value.

If you come up with a good answer for that question, you won’t have trouble answering this one: Why were 18,000 journalists at each of the political conventions? Three times as many journalists as there were delegates. Do you suppose any of them unearthed secrets that none of the other 17,999 did?



Here is my guess at the answer to the why-the-hell question: These media guys go to these events because they like to drink and eat and party. And chase after each other. Well, that makes it all right then. And they like to brag that they went to the events. For years, they can slip stuff into their cocktail conversations. “Yes, this is an excellent wine. Almost as good as the one I discovered in Colorado. During the presidential debate. I covered it, you know.”

Here is another question: Why in hell do we need celebrities to moderate the debates? Do suppose there are many viewers who tune in only because Jim Lehrer is moderating? “I never bother to vote in these stupid elections. But, hey, give me a chance to see Jim Lehrer…”

If you can answer that question you maybe can answer this one: Why in hell do we need celebrities to deliver network nightly news? It is obvious that they feel they are more important than the news they read. (And read is about all they do. You can’t really call them reporters.)

Celebrities are so important to these network news programs that their contracts require that their faces be featured so many minutes per newscast. Does not matter how compelling the footage is from tonight’s news events. The contract calls for the celebrity’s mug to be on your screen for 12 minutes, or whatever.

I can understand why the networks agree to such contracts. We, as viewers, worship the celebrities. We trust them. Why that is, I dunno. Viewers in other countries don’t worship such celebrities in the way we do. Most Brits have no clue who presented last night’s BBC news.

You don’t need me to remind you we go nuts over celebrities. We genuflect when a tv star tells us how we should run the country. I remember when the Senate brought in a movie star to testify about the farm problems of the day. Her only qualification was that she had starred in a movie about a farmer who went broke.

Years ago the Senate also took testimony from baseball slugger Mickey Mantle and his manager Casey Stengel. The testimony was about anti-trust issues. It took both of them to spell “anti-trust,” that’s how much they knew about it.

Maybe the Senate could call in Mike Tyson and OJ to help them write new laws about violence.

We have strayed far from Colorado and the 3000 media types at the debate. But as Casey said “There comes a time in every man’s life, and I’ve had plenty of them.”

That does not make much sense. But neither does, or do, 3000 journalists at a presidential debate. I suppose if this newspaper was willing to send me, expenses paid, I might change my mind.

From Tom ... as in Morgan.

For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows and new TV shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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