DENVER--More than 15,000 journalists are expected to descend upon Denver this week for the Democratic National Convention, and lucky me, I'm one of them.
Just moments ago, the convention officially began when Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic Party, called it to order. Although I'm sitting in a trailer in the back parking lot of the Pepsi Center, I feel pretty far away from the convention buzz, and had to watch the opening ceremonies on a closed-circuit TV. Hopefully I'll soon be able to escape this high-security makeshift media-trailer-city to experience the convention festivities firsthand.
What I have been doing however, is attending the CBS News meetings as the team plans the day's broadcast content. As with every other day during this convention, producers, correspondents, and analysts gather at 9 a.m. in the double-wide News trailer to discuss the day's agenda, top speakers, and anticipated convention-related news.
Today, the chatter is all about whether Senator Ted Kennedy will make an in-person appearance, and whether Michelle Obama's keynote speech will help or hurt her husband's cause. The conclusions are: he will, and yes, it'll help.
As a fly on the wall, these meetings are absolutely fascinating to witness for a news producer and consumer. The executive producer of the CBS Evening News runs the show, calling on different people to present ideas and research for consideration in the broadcast. Today, Katie Couric, the show's anchor, chimed in from her cell phone about what she liked and disliked, as well as specific angles to be considered.
The space is tight, and there aren't enough chairs to accommodate everyone. I perched on the edge of a table, two spots over from CBS commentators Jeff Greenfield and Bob Schieffer and overlooking the notes of correspondent Byron Pitts.
After nearly an hour, the larger meeting wrapped up and about a dozen of us gathered to discuss the special Webcasts that Katie will be anchoring immediately after the special coverage broadcast concludes (11 p.m. EDT). The CBS News guys are extremely enthusiastic about the potential to reach a wider, younger, and more engaged audience through the Internet.
The structure of the Webcast will be loose, with Katie bouncing between journalists and analysts who lend their opinions and commentary on the night's events. Besides her usual sidekicks (Greenfield and Schieffer), tonight's Webcast will include Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign manager, and Dan Bartlett, a former counselor to President Bush. Tonight's special guests will be Valerie Jarrett, an Obama campaign adviser, and Susan Eisenhower, Ike's granddaughter and now an Obama supporter. It should be an fascinating mix of characters who will hopefully provide a colorful, candid dialog.
One of my jobs is to sort through the questions viewers have submitted to Katie through CBSNews.com. She'll be answering a handful every night on the Webcast, so please submit yours here. Stay tuned--the excitement has just begun!