Here’s Some Free Advice to Cable News As It Fails to Educate Viewers on Open Convention Process


delegates-convention-e1458325042925-650x366If Mr. Trump doesn’t win on the first ballot

Delegates aren’t ghosts, they’re human beings

But on the 2nd ballot, Rubio and Kasich delegates could elect Ted Cruz

On the 5th or 6th ballot, Paul Ryan or

If there is no winner on the first ballot, that’s when floor fights occur and back-room deals are cut

The lines above are just a paraphrased summary of what we’ve been hearing on cable news following last night’s 13-point victory for Ted Cruz in Wisconsin, thereby almost assuring a contested/open convention will be held this summer in what will be dubbed five billion times between now and then as The Chaos in Cleveland. “Christmas in July” is how Joe Scarborough characterized the juicy prospects of such an event on Morning Joe today, and if you’ve been mesmerized by this campaign season for all the right and wrong reasons over the past year… all of the insanity up until now will only look like the appetizer when all is said and done in the Sixth City.

But there’s always these moments when cable news anchors/hosts/pundits/producers forget they’re living in the bubble… that they’re immersed in the political process almost every waking moment. Consequently, almost all don’t realize when painting scenarios around open conventions, un-pledged/not beholden/released delegates, first and second and fifth and sixth ballots and why it’s crucial Donald Trump wins on the first ballot or how Paul Ryan could potentially walk out with the nomination, that the audience — those outside the bubble and/or those who have never witnessed an open/contested convention — mostly have NO IDEA WHAT THE HELL THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT. If you don’t agree, ask someone you know who is a casual political observer how a contested convention is going to work: Eligibility of candidates, ballots, delegates, back room deal-making, floor fights… everything we’ve been hearing about particularly over the past 24 hours. See how that works out for you…

CAPS are hardly ever used in this space, but are absolutely warranted to get the attention of those inside the industry bubble to allow me to share the following humble advice: When doing a segment on open conventions, a 30-60 second tutorial should be packaged and presented often when walking through what the nominating process will look like. Pop-up bubbles — like from the old VH-1 days — should be relied on heavily. Educate but make it compelling, even amusing for viewers to absorb and understand.

Otherwise… you’re going to get blank stares from those watching as pundits go deep into the delegate weeds while only a fraction at home have a clue around what it all means. Example: When talking about floor fights or back room deals being made, please elaborate. Who’s making these deals? The candidates? Campaign managers? Party power brokers? Who ultimately has the most influence? Who’s fighting on the floor? What is the fight about exactly? When you say a delegate can be bribed or bought, what does that mean? Bribed with what?

Of the coverage seen yesterday and today, Judge Andrew Napolitano and Shep Smith were one of the few stop and slowly explain the back-room process, but this kind of diligence was fleeting:

We’ve seen this movie before around other impossible-to-understand-when-everyone-is-talking-so-fast-during-a-six-minute-multi-guest-segment topics like the debt defaults and ceilings and legal statutes around court cases (Pet peeve: many lawyers are notorious for drifting into legal parlance while oblivious to who’s listening). We’ve also seen it during every major story to emerge from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where quick review classes of that situation are also warranted. And what may be familiar and easily digested for the few who live and breathe this stuff every hour (the aforementioned on-air talent and producers) is completely foreign to those who only catch the news for a limited amount of time due to work and family obligations. The recommendation here isn’t to dumb down the topic altogether, of course… but simply to not jump so far ahead and deep to the point viewers exit a segment more confused than before they started watching.

In the end, know this: The Chaos in Cleveland will absolutely dwarf the record-breaking 24 million and 23 million viewers generated by Fox News and CNN during the first round of the debates last summer. How big? Try 70-75 million. It will be that closely watched. Context: 30.3 million and 35.7 million tuned in four years ago for a ho-hum infomercials that were the Republican and Democratic Conventions, respectively, in 2012. No drama in any capacity existed (nominees were obviously decided long before) while Clint Eastwood and Bill Clinton were the highlights. So if you think the drama of this year’s Republican convention isn’t going to easily double that 30 million, you haven’t been paying attention to the kinds of numbers we’ve been seeing during this election cycle.

But viewers need to understand the floor nomination process, and that education needs to start, like… now.

Because the powers that be in cable news may not know it, but almost all of your viewers aren’t understanding all of this talk in the weeds around delegates, ballots, floor fights and smokey back room deals.

They really don’t.

— —

Follow Joe Concha on Twitter @JoeConchaTV

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

Filed Under: