Media descend on US Kerry convention

Boston – known as the home of the bean, the cod and the Kennedys – was awash with journalists from all over the world this week for the first of the US political conventions.

TV crews and newsmen from Europe, Asia, Africa and South America were there to cover the official nomination of Senator John Kerry as the Democratic Party’s contender for President in the November elections.

In addition US journalists represented virtually every big newspaper, magazine, television, radio and cable network in the country .

A record 15,000 media representatives saw journalists outnumbering delegates by three to one. Many political writers said they had never seen such a turn out. Al Jazeera, the Arabiclanguage news channel was there along with a team from Al Arabiya, a satellite TV channel based in Dubai.

The BBC sent 15 members of its Washington bureau, augmented by a contingent from London. Washington bureau chief Martin Turner said that there has never been such a “pitch of intensity” in an American election for years. Agence France-Presse sent a multi-lingual team of English, French, Spanish and German speaking reporters. Nippon TV broadcast many of the sessions live to Japan.

For the first time press passes were issued to “bloggers” – the new breed of semi-journalists who produce news letters on the web. Thirty were accredited although more than 200 applied.

One underlying concern was that the convention might be disrupted by terrorists. Some news organisations provided pre-conference courses on what to do if the worst happened.

The New York Times provided its staff with what were described as “escape hoods” – special masks designed to protect against biological or chemical attack, as well as fires.

To carry the masks Times” staff were provided with boxes reminiscent of the cardboard cartons that British gas masks came in during the Second World War, only in this case coloured a bright orange. They were an offbeat contrast to the laptops most journalists carried to the convention.

By Jeffrey Blyth in New York

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