Reporter's Notebook: Monday Matters

While any political reporter always eyes the presidential nominating conventions with a mix of excitement and dread, this year's four-day Democratic convention got off to a wild start for the team.

If conventions weren't planned around the idea of reaching the primetime television office, they were probably scheduled to start late in the day in order to give reporters time to make it to their work stations outside the heavily-fortified FleetCenter (search).


Like pretty much every other media representative in Boston, all the staff faced challenges in getting from the hotel to the convention site. Some faced hour-long waits for evidently-lost shuttle buses. Others, like reporter Peter Brownfeld, chose to cab it around Boston.

"It was a Ukrainian-born cab driver with whom I had my first conversation upon my arrival in Boston for the convention, and he touched on one of the campaign's key issues," Peter wrote. "I asked him for how long he had been driving a cab and he told me not long, but he was driving more now because he had just lost his job as a quality-control supervisor at a medical devices factory.

"The jobs, he told me, had left for Mexico and Ireland. He was now studying to become a refrigerator/air-conditioner repairman, and he said it was difficult for a man over 50 to find a job in the field." Despite his late career change, the gentleman wished Peter luck and encouraged him to enjoy the convention.

Hot and Cold

On Monday, after a brief pit stop at Faneuil Hall in order to buy a sweatshirt to endure the near-freezing temperatures in the workspace outside the FleetCenter, reporter Liza Porteus learned that the stadium itself gets considerably warmer when all 4,000-plus delegates are in attendance.

Working up in the FOX News-designated skybox, Liza endured extreme temperature changes while also learning that flip-flops in the FleetCenter don't refer to Kerry's policy positions but the preferred mode of footwear.

"Flip-flops and sneakers," she observed when asked how her heels were holding up after walking up and down the arena staircases.

This reporter also made a sweater stop at Faneuil Hall (search) before making her way over to the facility, which is only about a half mile away. But, with security barriers all around the building, getting into the FleetCenter parking lot was a much harder task than the walk.

At the first security gate, a long line of journalists and camera crews waited as a security guard let people in the gate two-by-two before they passed through the magnetometers. The non-uniformed guard at what is affectionately known as "Gate B" looked more like a nightclub bouncer trying to control a thirsty crowd than a trained law enforcement officer ready to pounce on a would-be threat.

You Work for Who?

Of course, with a line that was about 50 yards long, finding another route in was imperative. Walking an additional three-quarters of a mile — around a construction project and over a thoroughfare to get to "Gate C" —  where no line prevented access to the x-ray machines. Along the way during a stop for directions, Officer Ryan explained that his son Timothy is a die-hard fan of FOX News' Sean Hannity.

That was a rare treat for the team as other reporters had very different experiences around town. Veteran reporter Kelley Beaucar Vlahos probably faced the most hostile reception while trying to nail down her story on the Veterans Caucus, which on Monday enjoyed its inaugural meeting at a Democratic convention. From natives on the subway to a former senator, Vlahos was frequently questioned about the veracity of FOX News' "fair and balanced" mantra.

"Questions ranged from 'Do they ask if you are Republican before hiring you?' to former Sen. Max Cleland (search) of Georgia asking how FOX News was allowed into the line for media availability following the Veterans’ Caucus rally," she wrote. Cleland eventually consented to be interviewed and is quoted in entirety in a compilation piece Kelley did on Monday's convention theme.

Peter too faced a skeptical crowd as he sought sources at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Caucus for his story on the platform committee's refusal to include a pro-gay marriage plank.

"When I introduced myself as a reporter from, the reaction was not entirely positive. After an initial look of disgust and the comment, 'You are part of the problem,' the gay Democratic activists shared with me their opinions. The delegates were generally friendly and happy to talk, but it was clear FOX News was not one of their favorite news networks."

Peter said a variety of interest groups inundated the Sheraton Boston Hotel, which is the locus of activities for convention-goers outside of the FleetCenter. While he "politely declined" stickers from the GLBT Caucus, Planned Parenthood (search) and other abortion rights groups, he did accept material for a friend from one woman who was passing out voter information for returning Iraq War veterans.

Sign On

Peter said he also had a pleasant exchange with Veterans for Peace activists, who would prefer the Democratic Party take an anti-war stance in its platform, rather than its position of not condemning the war in Iraq and pledging to keep troops in theater until Iraq is secure.

Kelley reported that Boston's finest approached the Veterans for Peace advocates in front of the Veterans Caucus (search) rally at the Sheraton.

"They were told that their huge sign on which was emblazoned a supposed 1971 quote by John Kerry, then a veteran anti-war activist: 'How do you ask a soldier to be the last person to die for a lie?' needed to come down," Kelley wrote.

Police cited security concerns in their request for the sign to be removed, but some activists apparently didn't want to accept that explanation.

"Some veterans shouted: 'This is discrimination!' Others mumbled that the DNC, in the effort to create a 'love fest,' wanted no signs of dissent in the hallways and had ordered to the sign to be removed."

What's Next for the Resume?

Kelley did have a few other unexpected, though less contentious moments in her pursuits Monday. Running into talk show host Jerry Springer, a member of the Ohio delegation, she learned that Springer is mulling a run for Ohio governor. He told that if he does, he would shut down the Jerry Springer Show, what he called a sideline interest, for a year and a half in order to campaign.

In a separate conversation, reporter John Chappell told Kelley that in North Carolina, presumptive vice presidential nominee John Edwards is considered among Democrats to be the embodiment of Jimmy Stewart’s title character from the 1939 film "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington."

Chappell said plans are in the works to teleconference some hometown fans into Wednesday's prime time coverage honoring Edwards, who Chappell noted washes dishes after church suppers at the Baptist congregation where his parents go each week.