The microphone this week was turned over largely to panelist Jonathan Ahl, who explained what it's like to cover one of the major political conventions.
Ahl was on hand for the Republican National Convention in New York City in 2004. At the time he was news director of Peoria Public Radio and his reporting was done in conjunction with Illinois Public Radio and Bill Wheelhouse, who was IPR’s statehouse bureau chief.
Ahl said their angle was to provide the “Illinois story” to the audience so the two of them spent the week following the state’s delegation. He said the typical day started with a delegation breakfast that featured a speaker. After that the delegation spent the day engaged in some type of event – for example, one day they helped repaint an activity room at a boys and girls club in the city, another day they took a cruise of New York harbor.
He said security was “intense” and it took a long time to get in and out of Madison Square Garden, which is where the convention took place.
Ahl said unlike this year’s conventions, there was little national drama at the 2004 Republican convention because President George W. Bush clearly was going to be re-nominated. But there was some drama at the state level as Illinois Republicans tried to find someone to run against Democrat Barack Obama for the U.S. Senate.
Panelist Rich Egger questioned the value of the conventions beyond being made-for-TV events. Panelist Jasmine Crighton agreed they’re designed for TV but she feels conventions are still important and provide a chance to talk about issues.
Ahl said it was worth covering the 2004 convention because they brought listeners a lot of important information about what the state party was doing.