By: MARK FITZGERALD
IF THEY WERE attending a Chicago Bulls game rather than the Democratic National Convention, print journalists would be paying $75 face value ? and perhaps several hundred more from a scalper ? for their best assigned seats at the United Center.
As it is, the seats are free ? but like a smart scalper, the Democrats are severely restricting the number of good seats available.
In fact, print reporters will be getting just half of the coveted seats with countertops that were available in past conventions, some 250 print journalists from more than 80 news organizations learned during a recent media inspection tour of press arrangements for the convention Aug. 26-29 in Chicago’s United Center.
Print journalists face the same restricted countertop space at the Republican National Convention being held two weeks earlier in San Diego, said Thayer V. Illsley, superintendent of the House Daily Press Gallery, one of the organizations credentialing journalists.
“We face severe reductions in both places in [countertop] seats,” Illsley said during the walk-through. “We’ve always had at least 1,000 seats, never less than 1,000. But this time around we will have under 500.”
Nevertheless, with regular seats at higher levels of the stadium, seats set aside in the sports press box and areas for news organizations not assigned a specific seat inside United Center, there will be sufficient space for print journalists, Illsley said.
“I think the arrangements here are going to work very well,” Illsley said.
The prime seats for the so-called “writing press,” as convention organizers call print journalists, will flank both sides of the podium.
Democrats say they will be using essentially the same podium design they used at the 1992 nominating convention in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. There were complaints then that print reporters were close to the podium ? but that their access to, and view of, podium speakers was blocked by a high wall. That is expected to be the case again this year.
For journalists, the main working area will be in what is now a parking lot. Several giant nylon tents will be erected for a “media pavilion” that will be air-conditioned and carpeted.
“I saw the tents in [an inspection in] Las Vegas, and they should work very well,” Illsley said.
Credentialed journalists will be able to ride the shuttles delegates will use between downtown hotels and the United Center, located on the West Side of the city. Newspapers hoping to dump copies of their paper at the United Center will be out of luck, said Walt Podrazik, director of media logistics.
“Can you come in and just drop a load of papers at the United Center? The answer is no. That has nothing to do with the labor situation. We’re trying to limit the number of stuff that is coming into the building,” Podrazik said.
Print reporters lose half of prime seats at Democratic Convention, but media reps satisified with arrangements
?(PETER J. SCHULZ/CITY OF CHICAGO) [Caption]
?(Despite the fact that the Democratic Convention will be held in the expansive, new United Center (left), home of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks, print reporters will be getting just half of the coveted seats with countertops that were available at the convention in New York City’s
Madison Square Garden, a smaller facility, in 1992.) [Photo & Caption]