Inside Fox’s St. Paul GOP ‘Experience’

Sep 3, 2008  •  Post A Comment

A 150×132 foot tent, which boasts a 27×20 foot TV, may be St. Paul, Minnesota’s newest tourist attraction, with delegates to the Republican National Convention lining up for tours. Inside, it’s all business for Fox News Channel.
Fox News Tent
The tent is situated right where delegates emerge from their buses and walk to the Excel Energy Center, home of the GOP convention. The temporary structure serves as both offices and studio facilities for most of Fox News Channel’s programming during the day. It also is the hub from which the cable news network’s streaming Web video emerges.
Two TV studio sets inside and one on the outside of the tent serve as settings for much of the day’s convention programming. Only in prime time does Fox switch to a smaller studio inside the center.
On Monday, on one of the inside sets, the election graphics got temporarily replaced with weather related graphics as Fox headquartered some of its Hurricane Gustav coverage from St. Paul.
The tent here serves the same function for Fox News Channel as a restaurant did in Denver, where staffers covering the Democratic National convention numbered 350. But the layout here and the better location allow Fox to also offer a small lane for delegates to come and watch the action in the cavernous tent where producers have to sometimes crank up the volume to hear.
Fox hands out plastic convention hats to those who come to watch and some Fox anchors swing by to mingle and autograph items for delegates.
Fox News JumboTron TV
Inside, Fox VP-News Editorial Product Jay Wallace says covering the convention this time has been very different than four years ago.
Not only is there less star power—four years ago Fox host Bill O’Reilly interviewed Michael Moore inside the Democratic National Convention in Boston—but the back-to-back conventions have increased costs.
“It’s very expensive. Usually you can build a newsroom in one spot and you have a week or two to break it down and move it to the next city,” he said. “This time we have to build exact duplicates, one in Denver and one here.”
When you add in the coverage cost of the Democrats holding nominee Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at Invesco Field and then Hurricane Gustav, it’s been an expensive couple of weeks, Mr. Wallace said.
The JumboTron TV screen sits just outside the tent, giving delegates a view of Fox programming as they leave the convention center.
Fox News Channel has skirted controversy during this year’s conventions.
It was NBC and CNN, not Fox, which raised some eyebrows by interviewing former New York Gov. Rudy Giuliani inside the Pepsi Center convention hall in Denver.
Mr. Wallace said there was no plan or decision involved, and instead that Fox simply focuses on its regular panel of analysts (rather than guest analysts) during prime-time convention coverage.
Mr. O’Reilly may not have Michael Moore this year, but he is slated on Thursday night to have Mr. Obama, though the interview won’t be done from St. Paul.
The Washington Post reported the interview came about after a meeting between Mr. Obama and News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch and Fox news boss Roger Ailes several months ago.
(Editor: Baumann)


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