The inaugural Shadow Convention, the cross-town alternative to the much larger Republican gathering in South Philadelphia, closed up shop Thursday with a look at how the media has been covering the week's big events.
And, in keeping with the Shadow's contrarian habits, the reviews were not good.
While the major television networks have drawn criticism for cutting back their convention coverage, the most common complaint heard at the Shadow's Thursday afternoon panel on politics and the media was that news organizations were paying too much attention.
Jonathan Alter, a columnist for Newsweek magazine, said it was "sad to see so many resources being spent at an event where there's so little real news."
Jacob Weisberg, a political writer for Slate.com, went further, saying the carefully scripted GOP convention, which he called "pretty close to mindless," was unworthy of front-page coverage.
"How should the media react to a deliberate infliction of a media event on the media?"
More journalists, he said, should be reacting with their feet, and walking away from the convention.
Alter said the problem is too many reporters chasing too few stories. Mark Lloyd, head of People for Better TV, concurred.
"There's news all over the place," Lloyd said. "But the journalists are too busy chasing each other."
Lewis Lapham, long-time editor of Harper's magazine, said the role of the modern journalist had become one of easing the public's mind and promoting "the myths that the society deems most sacred - that's what the press is supposed to do."
Lapham pointed out how "the closer Bush gets to Philadelphia, the wiser he becomes." So that if he does get elected president, the country will be convinced it's in safe hands.
The air of dissent was in keeping with the tone of the four-day Shadow Convention, which sought to draw attention to issues organizers charge are not being addressed by the major political parties; including campaign finance reform, the persistence of poverty in America and the failed war on drugs.
The convention featured appearances by a diverse lineup of notables including Sen. John McCain, who opened the proceedings at the University of Pennsylvania Sunday morning, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, comedian Al Franken and rapper Chuck D.
Shadow organizer Arianna Huffington, the syndicated columnist and television commentator, said she was pleased with how the event turned out. It was "an amazing experience," she said, "very moving and inspirational."
Huffington said the Shadow Convention "is filling the vacuum left by the other convention."
A similar gathering is planned to run concurrently with the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles on Aug. 14-17.
By Joel Roberts