My post last week on why Religion News Service covered the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia but not the Republican National Convention in Cleveland generated a fair amount of response both in the comments section and on social media.
I pretty much accepted RNS editor in chief Jeremy Socolovsky's explanation for the decision:
The reason we did not have someone at the GOP convention is that we weren't able to get accreditation.
But a number of folks thought I was too easy on RNS.
For example, reader Mikehorn commented:
This is so lame I hardly know where to begin. Was the Internet broken? Was Cleveland under quarantine? Did your computers disappear and you had no typewriters or pencils?
Twitter responses to the post were similar:
Meanwhile, our own Terry Mattingly asked:
Question from a veteran reporter, about RNS and RNC: Wait a minute, wasn't every single moment of the GOP convention on C-SPAN?
I would add: I am sure that RNS veterans have thick files of contact info for leaders in various wings of the GOP, correct?
And fellow GetReligionista Ira Rifkin made this point:
Back in 1996, when I worked for RNS, I was sent to San Diego to cover the GOP convention as part of the Newhouse News Service reporting team (NNS no longer exists and Newhouse, of course, no longer owns RNS). I was not, nor was anyone else, sent to the Democratic convention that year.
The reasoning was that there'd be plenty of religion news at the GOP convention, as there was, this was the Christian right's heyday, while the Demo convention would be devoid of religion-related news. Which it was only because their was no one there to pay attention.
That said, RNS should have made clear to its subscribers (perhaps it did in someway I'm unaware of) why it offered no onsite Republican convention coverage.
In response to the comments, I noted that I agree with the criticism to an extent. But I added:
On the other hand, RNS is a wire service with a certain target audience. That audience includes news organizations that subscribe to RNS. My question on whether to cover via TV: Do those news organizations have other options, such as wire services that were credentialed to cover the convention, for on-scene convention news? Or if those organizations are content with stories produced from one's couch, couldn't they produce their own?
I'd love to know more on RNS' thinking. I'll point out to their editor the comments on this thread.
Here is what RNS' Socolovsky had to say in response to the questions:
These are valid points. Ultimately it was a budgetary decision. Was it worth the money to send someone who would not be able to access the convention floor? I thought not. But yes we did watch the televised feeds and RNS staff worked overtime providing live coverage on social media and in the form of explainers and analyses.
Explainers and analyses, but not the kind of in-depth stories that were devoted to the Democratic convention.
In retrospect, was I too easy on RNS? Perhaps.
I'm a journalist by profession — a blogger/media critic on the side — and I'm predisposed to listening to all sides and considering the points raised. I'm less inclined to take a hard stand in a case, such as this one, where I do not have all the facts or know everything possible about the circumstances.
Also, I try to avoid — emphasis on try — posts that simply bash the news media or a news organization with all the luxury of a Monday morning quarterback and no sympathy or seeming understanding of the challenges (such as budgetary constraints and 24/7 competition for clicks and eyeballs) that face journalists in the real word.
All in all, I still feel good about giving RNS the benefit of the doubt. But I'm open, as always, to opposing viewpoints.