I used to think that claims of a “slow” summer news cycle were something of a myth. But the past several weeks have had me rethinking that position as I search for interesting and engaging news stories and photographs. Apparently the NYT is having a similar problem. Consider, for example, this photograph, which was featured on the front page of the NYT website for a short period of time yesterday afternoon:
What could the topic be? If you look close enough you might be able to tell that it is Invesco Field, the home of the Denver Broncos. But professional football is still several months away, and why would the NYT be featuring the Broncos in any event? Perhaps it has something to do with the high cost of sport tickets making it difficult for average Americans to attend professional sporting events. Or maybe it concerns the environmental impact of releasing thousands of balloons into the crisp, clean atmosphere of Mile High, Colorado.
All of these guesses would be wrong. Instead the article that this photograph anchors concerns the story—“rumored for days”—that the Democratic National Committee has announced that Senator Barrack Obama will accept his party’s nomination for the presidency at Invesco Field rather than at the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver. The reason, apparently, is that Invesco Field is a bigger “stage” that can host 75,000 people, whereas the Pepsi Center can only host 21,000. In short, moving the coronation of the party’s leader enables a much larger public spectacle—something, say, on the order of the Super Bowl … only one where “regular” Americans get to attend.
One might think that such a move would be welcomed by the networks who are always looking for ways to dramatize news events by making them larger than life, but in this case the network executives seem to be upset because they will have to “reconfigure plans long in the making,” changing venues and working outside. After all, and notwithstanding all of the sports metaphors used to describe the presidential campaigns, this isn’t really the Super Bowl; and besides, how can we expect the major news networks to adapt to the constraints of reporting on an event taking place in an NFL arena … it would be unheard of. (Maybe they should bring in ESPN to cover the acceptance speech.)
I really have to admit that my first thought upon reading this article was that someone from the Onion had hacked the NYT website and inserted one of their brilliant political parodies. The photograph, then, would be a sardonic comment on the political ritual of convention spectacles as little more than bread and circuses, or perhaps the journalistic impulse to anchor stories with photographs that only bear the most general and passing relevance to the facts being reported. But this is the NYT, right? And surely the “paper of record” has safeguards against such security breaches, right? And yet, truth to tell, after reading the last line of the NYT story I’m not so sure: “For its part, the Republican National Convention Committee released a statement dismissing the venue change as favoring style over substance. ‘Senator Obama and his fellow Democrats are more focused on stagecraft and theatrics than providing real solutions to the challenges facing our nation,’ the statement said.” And in case you don’t get the joke, click here.
Photo Credits: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images