Political conventions get wired, too
- By Judi Hasson
- Mar 05, 2000
Forget about watching a recap of this year's political conventions on the
11 p.m. news.
This year, you can watch the gatherings of delegates to select a presidential
candidate for the Democratic and Republican tickets in real time on your
Want to talk to a delegate? Easy — send them an e-mail message. Want
to see an event not carried by the television networks? No problem — watch
The Democratic and Republican parties plan to put on a political show
like no other. For the first time, both parties will be spreading their
messages using technology, providing online chats, an online process for
committees to build party platforms and other interactive means.
"During the convention, the Internet will allow us to highlight the
spirit, unity and principles of the Democratic Party to more Americans and
the entire world," said Lydia Camarillo, chief executive officer of the
Democratic National Convention Committee.
Every four years, Republican and Democratic delegates gather to pick
their presidential candidates, an event chronicled by the TV networks. But
the political ritual has become increasingly sophisticated since television
first broadcast the GOP convention live in 1948 — ironically from Philadelphia,
where the party will meet again this year, July 31 to Aug. 4. The Democrats
meet in Los Angeles Aug. 14 to Aug. 17.
In 1996, the GOP convention in San Diego featured "Internet Row" — a
single line of computers with access to the Internet. The Democratic Party — in Chicago that year — Webcast the entire convention, but few Americans
had the technology to capture the broadcasts.
This year, technology has leapt into people's homes. Although the outcomes
of the conventions tend to be predictable, the political dramas of the week
have yet to play out. This year, those dramas will be shown on the World
Wide Web, on video and on television.
"At the last convention, [America Online] showed up with a laptop, looking
for an extra chair," said RNC spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick. "This time, they
are applying for a sky box and media credentials for a whole team of people
[who] will be providing original news for the first time."
Both parties plan to provide high-definition TV broadcast programming
to 6 million Americans overseas. The parties will have Web sites for the
conventions and Webcasts and interactive chat rooms for voters interested
in making their opinions known.
Both parties plan to unveil revised Web sites soon. The Republicans
plan to launch a new voice-over-Internet service with Net2Phone Inc.'s "Click2Talk,"
incorporating voice technology into its Web site.
Not to be outdone, the Democrats are planning their state-of-the-art
"E-Convention," which will give voters a chance to be heard. Recently, the
Democratic National Committee announced that SBC Communications Inc. would
provide local, toll and wireless services to the convention.
The committee also has enlisted Event411.com, an online planning provider,
for the convention. Delegates, staff members, volunteers and delegates will
be able to book their accommodations and communicate with each other online.
Convention planners also are discussing other ideas to make this year's
convention more technology-friendly than any in history, including:
* Providing palmtop computers to every delegate so that they can keep
up to date with what's happening on the convention floor,
* Setting up tiny video cameras that follow delegates and capture their
every move and deliberation.
* Providing chat rooms with candidates, former candidates and party
officials to give the public a bird's eye view of what is happening.