Last week on Midday, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak discussed the value of next week's Republican National Convention in promoting the Twin Cities on the national stage. For that, they'll have to impress the thousands of journalists who'll be arriving in town, most of them by way of Denver. And they'll be comparing this city (Denver) with the Twin Cities.
We're starting now. This (above) is Theresa who was one of the volunteers at the giant media party thrown at an amusement park next to Pepsi Center tonight. Her job? She was assigned to stand next to a large trash bin, in which trash was being thrown into three receptacles. The city is pushing for a zero-waste convention, and reporters aren't particularly bright, apparently, when it comes to determining whether the half-eaten shredded pork is recyclable nor not.
She's originally from the Seattle area and then moved to the Mojave Desert with her husband to work for a mining company. She was in the human resources department and was given the task of recruiting people to work for the company. When she found the Mojave Desert a tough sell, they moved to Salt Lake City, and then to the Denver area.
She, like all the volunteers I met, was nothing if not enthusiastic and outgoing. It'll be a challenge for Minnesotans. Outgoing isn't in our state motto. We'll be delighted to welcome visitors, as long as they talk to us first.
As of last month, the Twin Cities organizers were still 1,000 volunteers shy of the goal. One of the problems with this sort of thing, of course, is you never know where you'll be assigned. I talked to one volunteer who had hoped to get some bartending work at the media party. She was clearing our dirty plates instead. No matter, she said. Her husband is involved in logistics for several events this week and she's expecting to pitch in. As it turns out, she's a social worker in Denver who handles problems with Section 8 housing.
The media party
It's the largest party during the convention. An estimated 9,000 media types showed up at an amusement park next to Pepsi Center for free music, booze, food, rides and fireworks. MediaNews, the same company that runs the St. Paul Pioneer Press, blew a reported $1.5 million on the affair to put a happy face on the people who are going to write about the company's hometown (it owns the Denver Post).
Traditionally, the dominant media in a convention city hosts this party. But this year the cash outlay raised eyebrows because publisher Dean Singleton's company is in free fall, just sold its Connecticut newspaper operation to raise cash, and is expected to undergo "restructuring" soon now that its bond rating has been reduced again.
Neither the Star Tribune nor Pioneer Press decided to sponsor the media party in Minneapolis next Saturday night. It'll be held along the riverfront near the Guthrie. My colleague, Kerri Miller, suggests it'll be far more elegant, but we'll see whether media folks craving free food and free beer will judge elegant to be better than a free ride on the bungee jump.
Media watcher David Brauer raises the key point of all of this. Should the media be taking something for nothing? Is this any different from the politicians getting freebies and food from major corporations?
(Photo by Nikki Tundel)
If, the next time the Pioneer Press lays off a generous portion of its staff, you see the local media pulling its punches on the story, you'll have the answer.
As you might expect, those cameras that have sprouted on light poles around downtown St. Paul, are all over downtown Denver as well. No one seems to be complaining. Tonight the head of a group of lawyers that's in town to make sure people's civil rights aren't violated, said the cameras will be useful in documenting any incidents.
Media interviewing media
The Uptake's Chuck Olsen has the most fascinating setup. You see something interesting, you fire up your phone-gizmo (it's technical talk!), record your interview, press a gizmo that sends it back to... wherever... and somehow it ends up on The Uptake's Web site some seconds later.
The lengths to which some people will go to get their stuff embedded on News Cut!
Chuck and I had a spirited conversation some weeks ago on News Cut, We disagree on a few things about the media, but agree on many, many more. He's a good man and a very talented documentary producer. It was a pleasure to run into him and even more so to have a half hour or so to sit and chat about how he does what he does.(3 Comments)
What was a man from Canada doing in a Denver hotel room with a pound of cyanide? As the Democratic National Convention opens, nobody seems to have a clue and the story has been reduced to a few paragraphs buried in the papers.
Saleman Abdirahman Dirie, 29, of Ottawa, Canada, was found dead about two weeks ago. The local coroner ruled that he committed suicide. Family members said Dirie had schizophrenia, which may have led to his suicide.
The Somali Justice Center in St. Paul cautioned people not to jump to the conclusion that people had already jumped to.
"We're done with the investigation now that we've got the coroner's results," said Det. Sharon Hahn. But she would not release any of the details of the finding.(1 Comments)
Where the state delegations are assigned to sit is very much a reflection on how the party bosses view the relative importance of a state in the general election. Thanks to John Nicholson of MPR's End User Computing department, here's the first look -- stage left (or is that right?).
Pretty good seats; not particularly great; not on the floor, not like Illinois, which is front and center, and not like Delaware which -- after Joe Biden was added to the ticket -- got their seats moved to the front. They had been back near red-state Texas at the back of the hall. But the location at least suggests that Minnesota is again a swing state, although, perhaps, not as swingy as 2004 in Boston.
This is the view the delegation had back then:
Where does Minnesota fit in the big scheme of things, then? There are no "A List" (and frankly no "B" List types either) politicians who've been dispatched to speak to the caucus during the week. And the latest MPR poll has Obama up by 10 points in the state.
Contrast that with four years ago when there was real concern the state was about to turn a bright shade of red.
A couple of other shots from the floor today:
Are these two CNN anchors "texting" each other?
And someone had something to say about the security perimeter...
It means "goodbye" and it's fitting now that the Olympics are over, for one last slideshow and diary from MPR's Melody Ng, who's been on vacation in China and providing us with a street-level view of the Olympics.
8-22-08 Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park. I have no idea what watching paddling is like on days that aren't hot and sunny, but it's wacky today. The less expensive tickets (80 RMB - < $12) give spectators access to bleachers facing the afternoon sun, and there's absolutely no shade in the stands. So anytime athletes aren't paddling, pretty much everyone (most people in my section are Chinese) abandons his or her seat for the grass outside the stadium, where the bleachers to their west provide some filtered shade. Almost no one watches the medal ceremonies from our side of the paddling course. (The other side of the water, presumably where the important people sit, faces east, away from the sun. Moreover, their bleachers are covered. Those people stay in their seats throughout the time we're there.)
We're late for the start of the competition - finals for men's and women's canoe and kayak. We didn't allot enough time for the half hour subway ride and nearly 50-minute express bus ride up to the venue, 30 km east of the Olympic Green. This means we spend more than 2.5 hours in travel for a total of about 5 minutes of sitting in the bleachers watching some of the best paddlers in the world vie for the gold. I choose to stay in the stands for the medal ceremonies and most of the breaks in between events because I want to make the most of my time there. My family retreats to the other side of the bleachers with everyone else.
My effort is worth it because I end up sitting (at least whenever an event is going on) just in front of several rows of grade school children. The races we watch are 1000 m long, and we're the first set of bleachers the canoes and kayaks pass. Each time the paddlers approach our section, some adult calls out: "Jia you!" ("Go, go, go!!!"), and the kids scream in response, "Zhong Guo Dui!" ("Team China"). This continues until the paddlers are way out of range to hear. Even at their closest, the boats are far enough away that I can't really make out which team is which. But if the Chinese paddlers can hear these kids, I'm sure it gives them a boost.
Minutes after the final event finishes, and well before the medal ceremonies begin, the bleachers on our side are empty of everyone but the cleaning people and the Olympic volunteers. But some people congregate in the entrance area, taking photos with a group of men who are decked out in China red and gold and waving huge Chinese flags. College student volunteers in their blue jerseys stand together singing chorus after chorus. Today's the final day of competitions at this venue, and the final day of their work here, until the Paralympics rowing begins on 9 Sept. They look beat, but happy, enjoying the satisfaction of a job well done.