DNC: Young Reporter's Notebook

Through the eyes of youth journalists from Children’s PressLine, the headlines from the Democratic National Convention of the convention floor isn’t about what Teresa Heinz Kerry said or where her husband’s photo op will be. The team of four reporters and two journalists are spending a week at the Fleet Center in Boston sneaking in, eavesdropping and suspicious of everything adult.



Crashing the Party


Today we crashed a party at the Wang Theater in Boston for young delegates from Kansas, Louisiana and Nebraska. It was great to be there, even though we expected them to throw us out. Though invited to cover the event as journalists, in the morning a call came from the Democratic planning committee essentially uninviting us. Too young! Too young! They repeated. Too young for a party for young delegates? Or too young to be press? Either way, it didn’t make sense.

Anyway, upon arrival, we found out that nobody really knew that we were “too young.”

A volunteer let us wait inside the theater. A few moments later very nice security guard got us into the party. He said, “Hey, how are you doing?” instead of, “Hey, what are you doing here?”


Vanishing Lt. Governor


On a theater balcony, we asked Lt. Governor John E. Moore of Kansas, “What kids issues are important to you?” He was very vague. He just kept saying, “education, education, education.” That’s what politicians always say to kids. When we went in for the follow-up, a big band came on the stage and these dancers came out going “HEY! HEY! HEY!” Moore was like, “Nice talking to you,” and walked away. We looked around for him for a long time, but he was gone.


Delegate Dunces


Sitting on the seventh floor of the Fleet Center listening to the kids of delegates in white shirts and khakis rehearse, “This Land is Your Land” for five hours straight was a bad use of time. It was in this huge auditorium with lots of different levels and red, white and blue balloons on the ceiling that will drop on Thursday when Sen. John Kerry is nominated for president. We are reporters. Not singers. But it was decided that the only way to get backstage access to the nine women senators who were going to be there is to be here.

The chaperones were yelling at five-year-olds, kindergartners. “Put your hands at your side! Keep yours eyes straight.” They had no patience, treating the children like non-intelligent aliens. Conveniently, they had nothing planned to occupy 100 kids for five hours.

To fill up the time, we tried interviewing some kids of delegates. One didn’t know who the president is. Another one didn’t know what the word “delegate” meant.

After the first few hours, the kids got a little feisty. Shoes were thrown off the balcony. Security was called in. “Let me speak to the kid who threw the shoe,” we heard the armed men say.

During a brief, yet panicky, separation from the cameraman and field producer, a nearby woman was no help. We said we were reporters and she asked for ages. She said, “Okay, sweetheart,” and walked away and never came back.

Bobble Heads
According to a 19-year-old delegate from Kansas, the delegate’s main job is to clap when Kerry Speaks and “not act like dufuses or pick our noses on national television.”

The delegate, Barbara Meyer is from Manhattan, Kansas. A skinny woman with long, blond hair, Meyer defected from the Republican Party on September 11, 2001.

Where Me At?
Talk about optimism. Cocktail party chatter at the convention went way beyond delegates talking about favorable poll numbers. Some were already debating who would be Kerry’s pick for the big, important post of Secretary of Agriculture.

All around town, Bush-bashing became major convention sport. Some delegates wore buttons that declared: “Liberate Texas Next. They’ve Got Oil, too.” Passionate Democrats called Bush “the real terrorist.” And feminist icon Gloria Steinem got a big laugh at a pro-choice reception, when, complaining about Bush’s environmental policy and his opposition to stem cell research, she declared: “Bush causes cancer.”

There was so much political talk at the convention that at least one delegate seemed to forget where she was. Walking out of a boisterous party, she chatted on her cell phone, saying: “I’m here at this convention in Washington.”

Pretty in Pink
So, why did that 13-year-old girl get to gavel the convention to order earlier this week?

She’s got no political connection, that’s for sure. Kristen Turner, of Boston, won the convention committee’s “Gavel In the Future” essay contest, beating out more than 400 other kids for the honor.

In a hotel hallway jammed with delegates and reporters, Kristen didn’t warm up to the media spotlight, offering short answers to just a few questions. She was wearing a homemade pink t-shirt with “Krissy” written all over the front. A copy of her 16-sentence essay was taped to her back.

“I’m not old enough to vote yet, but I am old enough to form opinions about what I see,” she wrote in her essay. “I’m not too young to share my passion for a cause... I’m not too young to be part of the political process. I am old enough to know my heart and to follow it.”

Asked why she thought she won the contest, which was judged by the public casting votes on a website, she said it wasn’t just the message that pushed her over the top. “I had a lot of people from my family and friends vote for me.”


Pander alert. Pander alert.
Asked by teen reporters to name the most important issues to her, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi responded: “Our three most important issues are our children, our children, our children...The Democrats care and John Kerry cares.... The issues that affect children affect our whole society. Whether children’s parents have jobs and can provide for them, whether the air they breathe and the water they drink is clean, it makes the environment a children’s issue. The economy because jobs is a children’s issue...What issues do you think are children’s issues that you don’t hear about?”

Pelosi posed with one teen reporter for a picture and asked if she could have a copy of it. The reporters thought she was kidding. But after the interview, her press secretary reminded the kids that the congresswoman wanted the picture.

Honesty Counts

At least he was honest. When asked for an interview by teen reporters, a Moveon.org speaker declined, saying he was not allowed to go "off-message" and he couldn’t find the person who could tell him what he could say.

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