Denver Convention 2008: Show Time and Media Hype (Boorstin's IMAGE lives...)

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Rob's note: I've been sifting through a tremendous number of convention articles - this one seemed useful. Folks familiar with Daniel Boorstin's classic THE IMAGE would do well to re-read it right about now.

Convention stage is a show in itself
By David Bauder, Associated Press Wed Aug 27, (Via Yahoo News)

The stage of the Democratic National Convention is a mix of modern stagecraft and political consciousness.

Three plasma screens tower 103 feet above the stage. A video projection wall backs speakers with a sea of blue. The podium retracts when it's not being used.

Look closely, though, and you'll see dings and marks in the wood - most of it is made of recycled material.

Stairs painted neon blue step from the convention floor to the stage, which is backed by 8,000 square feet of video projection surfaces.

Speakers are dwarfed by their images in the background.

When Caroline Kennedy was introduced Monday night, her name was emblazoned on the video wall with a sea of blinking stars.

The band played Sweet Caroline, the song Neil Diamond was inspired to write about her.

Even for the delegates in the hall, it must seem like watching a giant television.

What's taking place on the stage is, in effect, a television show - and not just because the speakers are choreographed to tell a story.

Organizers were interested in using the screens frequently to show videos with the stories of average Americans, said Damon Jones, a convention spokesman.

"The theory behind the design was to try to bring the American people into the process," he said.

The stage does not replicate previous fortresslike stages employed by Democrats and tilts more to the more approachable look that Republicans have used. The 2000 Democratic convention was particularly noteworthy for its high podium that created a severe barrier between delegates and speakers.

Republicans, on the other hand, in recent conventions have been more fond of sweeping steps that connect the stage with the floor of the convention.

The wizardry carries a danger when it is used for a convention nominating Barack Obama, whose critics are taking shots at his celebrity status.

"It looks dazzling," said CBS News analyst Jeff Greenfield. "But it's an interesting question whether dazzling is what the Obama campaign needs right now."

Yet it's not even certain that Obama will set foot on the Pepsi Center stage. He has opted to accept his nomination Thursday at a larger venue - Invesco Field.

Whether that stage is scaled down to build up the speaker isn't known.

"We'll keep that under wraps until Thursday afternoon," Jones said.

Associated Press writer Jim Kuhnhenn in Denver contributed to this report.