One of the Republican National Convention’s first events is the Media Party, a chance for journalists to stop their headlong pursuit of political corruption and enjoy a little taste of it themselves.
Traditionally, a local news operation — often the biggest daily — sponsors the 15,000-person fete, providing the veneer that we’re being fed, liquored and entertained by one of own. But such is the joy of out-of-town ownership and a cratering ad climate: Neither the Star Tribune nor Pioneer Press forked over the dough to become the Minneapolis affair’s named sponsor.
(And yes, it really is Minneapolis this time: The Saturday, Aug. 30 event will be held along the riverfront near the Guthrie Theater and Mill City Museum.)
A tragedy? Hardly. It’d be a real outrage if the Strib ponied up weeks after cutting its newsroom budget 10 percent and trying to carve a similar amount from some workers’ paychecks. Ditto the PiPress, just as it’s skinnying up its Monday and Tuesday editions.
Explains a PiPress spokesperson, “Marketing and sponsorship decisions are made locally, with an emphasis on reaching and serving our local market. The national media event is not a good fit with these objectives.”
Hmm. PiPress owner Media News Group is co-sponsoring the 2008 Democratic National Convention media party, even though its Denver Post is a lot closer to failing than the local property. The difference? Media News is headquartered in Denver, not St. Paul.
The absentee publishers left locals scrambling to offload the media party obligation.
According to MSP 2008 Host Committee Communications director Teresa McFarland, a group of major local corporations accepted smaller chunks of the bill through their Minneapolis St. Paul More to Life campaign. If nothing else, the party serves the group’s goal of marketing the Twin Cities, to 15,000 influential, if cynical, folks.
Even though I do the Caesar’s Wife thing here at MinnPost, I’m not going to tell you that one star-dappled riverfront night will turn journalists into starry-eyed water-carriers, for our region or the GOP. Then again, they will taste the slow-cooked corruption that’s less about ribs-and-chicken at John McCain’s ranch than the clubby affinity — and legitimate public distrust — such soirees engender.
Even if some donors had to be begged, we’re taking a bribe and it’s good to know who’s giving it.
According to the group’s website, More to Life’s major sponsors are: Target, General Mills, Best Buy, Wells Fargo, Xcel Energy, Supervalu, HealthPartners, Cargill, Imation, 3M, Amerprise, US Bank and Hubbard Broadcasting.
McFarland also cites United HealthGroup, Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Pentair and Northwest Airlines. [Update: the Minnesota Private College Council also made a small contribution to the More to Life effort.]
McFarland wouldn’t disclose the media event’s tab, but $50 per person would equal a $750,000 affair. I’m told that because money had to be beaten out of donors with sticks, it will be a much, much less costly event (restaurants are being hit up, too), and perhaps something of a comedown for the national swells.
Remaining party costs will be paid from the convention’s $58 million general operating budget.
Who are the convention’s major donors? Corporations not listed above include: Anheuser-Busch, Astra Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, AT&T, Boston Scientific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Carlson Cos., CHS, Cisco, Comcast, Diageo, Ecolab, Fed Ex, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Koch Industries, Kraus-Anderson, Mall of America, Medtronic, Microsoft, Minnesota Private Colleges Council, Nash Finch, Securian Financial, St. Jude Medical, Target, Coca-Cola, Mosaic, Travelers, ThomsonWest, Thrivent Financial, UPS, Verizon, Waste Management, Inc. and West.
You can look at this list and say it’s so diffuse that no private entity obviously benefits.
Or you can say that list comprises entities we cover every day, and shouldn’t take succor from. After all, most journalists wouldn’t let the president of a corporation buy us a nice dinner and cocktails; why is it different when 50 of his or her pals pitch in?
You can glimpse some photos of the 2004 DNC media party — sponsored by the Boston Globe, replete with Little Richard and a Ferris wheel — here. The lead photo doesn’t exactly scream excitement, however.