A Taste Of Denver: Press Corps Get Convention Preview

    They came for the logistics, and they also highlighted food, free speech – and golf carts. An estimated 400 journalists arrived at Denver’s Pepsi Center on Tuesday for a test run through the site of next year’s Democratic National Convention and to hear their leader Howard Dean talk about the veritable Yellow Brick Road to the White House.The morning-long prelim started with fruit, pastries and some coffee.

    Then a phalanx of Democratic officials with titles like “director of technology” and “deputy coordinator of operations” took the podium to talk about how they’re going to pull off satisfying something like 15,000 journalists and bloggers and talking heads and producers and editors during the convention next Aug. 25-28. They vowed that “systems will be in place to meet your editorial needs,” and “we want to understand what is most important to you about the spaces that you occupy in this building” and “we have a great hotel package and we’re really proud of it.”

    They guaranteed their commitment to traditional print and broadcast media and to bloggers and online news organizations and to free speech and freedom of the press and the American Way. They are still working with the Secret Service and with the City of Denver on security, namely involving protesters from the right and from the left. Specifically, the group Recreate68 was mentioned.

    By far the best promise of the morning: “There will be golf carts allowed in the perimeter.”

    The perimeter being the Pepsi Center’s surrounding parking lots, which will be transformed into tents filled with the media, broadcasting the events of the Democratic convention to the world. On Tuesday, one on-air head expressed a good deal of concern about the possibility that one of Denver’s summer afternoon rainshowers might ruin his hairdo: Can we possibly arrange a covered walkway between the stadium and his media tent?

    We’ll check into that, came the reply.

    Another reporter asked what to expect at the convention, gastronomically speaking. Apparently, he found the choices at the last Democratic shindig, shall we say, limited. As in, Dunkin’ Donuts. Not like the Republicans, he pointed out, who – sniggers here –  provided a far superior spread.

    Leah Daughtry chief executive officer for the convention, took that question. She smiled. “Look, we like to eat; we like to have a good time. So don’t worry about that.”

    Next question…

    Later, Daughtry’s promise was delivered. Fresh green salad, tasty pasta salad, fruit trays, not-soggy sub sandwiches — and veggie-and-chicken wraps whose merits one prominent editor of a Denver alternative newspaper convincingly sold as “the bomb” (the editor was right). Napkin-lined baskets of kettle-fried potato chips – served with silver tongs. Cookies and brownies.

    And then Democratic National Committee Chairman Dean gave a 10-minute speech highlighting what he called “clear differences” between Republicans and Democrats – on everything from health care to morals. (He didn’t say anything about Idaho Sen. Larry Craig.) He praised Denver, a city he termed is the center of the New West – and which has not seen a Democratic convention for 100 years.

    Now, five of the eight states in the Rocky Mountain interior are led by Democrats – a marked difference from the red swath that carved its way through the Rockies just a few short years ago. In 2008, Dean said, the road through the West leads to the White House.

    “We believe we can reach out to all Americans, and we believe that starts in the West,” he said.

    Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at cdegette@coloradoconfidential.com