My Visit to the RNC

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C-SPAN camera operator Jon Kelley got what the network said was the first reaction shot of Michael Moore at the Republican National Convention last Monday night — assisted by a tip from a visitor from Bresnan Communications.

As C-SPAN’s Peter Kiley explained it the next night, in the network’s skybox booth at Madison Square Garden, one of the visitors Monday from that particular affiliate was scanning an embargoed copy of McCain’s speech and exclaimed when she spotted the part calling the Fahrenheit 9/11 auteur a “disingenuous filmmaker” with warped ideas about Saddam Hussein.

(Kiley said later that C-SPAN producers had already spotted the reference — but I’m loath to spoil a great anecdote.)

Kelley kept an eye out for Moore (down and to the right of the booth) and panned over when McCain got to that part of the speech. Moore more than obliged by laughing, making the “L” sign back at the crowd and replying to “Four more years!” with “Two more months!”

At this GOP fest, Kelley and other C-SPAN camera operators weren’t providing the central feed of the podium that all the networks share in “pool” fashion. CNN had that assignment this time — unlike in 2000, when Kelley and his peers provided the pool feed at both parties’ conventions. Kelley’s focus, instead, was on scanning the crowd for good visuals.

C-SPAN’s skybox, facing the left side of the rostrum (nice side angles of Laura Bush bending her leg behind the podium Tuesday), was a prime location from which to peer into the VIP boxes and scan the crowd.

Visitors to the C-SPAN booth Tuesday night mostly were from Comcast, and a fine night it was for them. Comcasters had earlier hosted a reception for the Pennsylvania delegates and elected officials, and the Keystone (Swing) State played a prominent role Tuesday, casting the votes to put President Bush’s nomination over the top.

C-SPAN, as always, delivered fine entertainment to booth visitors and to viewers at home.

A Google scan produced encomiums galore. I liked Noel Holston’s piece in Newsday that ended: “C-SPAN’s coverage is the closest we get to being there. It respects our critical faculties. And we don’t have to go through metal detectors.”

We passed through a few metal detectors Tuesday, but Kiley knew the best way to weave through the press area across Eighth Avenue, over a temporary bridge and up the Garden escalators in rapid fashion.

Up on skybox row, he was a little disappointed in the star quality of media and political types walking the narrow passageway (ask him sometime about the times Cher and Michael Moore stopped by a C-SPAN convention booth). But I got a kick out of seeing Democratic honcho Terry McAuliffe in the hallway across from the booth slapping shoulders with NBC’s Tim Russert and Tom Brokaw — and, absurdly, The Sopranos actor Steve “Bobby Bacala” Schirripa, there on Jay Leno’s behalf.

Moore wasn’t in the press box Tuesday night, so we missed a rerun of that spectacle. But we were with the real star, anyway.

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