The Republican National Committee and the putative GOP standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, have ceded the National Association of Black Journalists convention to the Democrats, rejecting invitations to send speakers or panelists that the Democrats eagerly accepted.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. addressed the convention Wednesday on its opening night, delivering his campaign’s talking points. A Friday afternoon session, “A Working Journalist’s Guide: Obama Administration Insiders You Need to Know,” featured four press contacts in the Obama administration. Additionally, at least three representatives from the Obama reelection campaign were available to discuss the state of the campaign, also on Friday afternoon.
“We reached out consistently and vigorously to the Romney campaign asking that he appear,” Sonya Ross, a Washington editor at the Associated Press who chairs the NABJ’s Political Journalism Task Force, told Journal-isms.
“We also made overtures to the Republican National Committee. We wanted to make sure we reached both political parties to ask them to participate. The DNC,” she said, referring to the Democratic National Committee, “came to us and asked us, ‘Can we be there?’ . . . We got no such overtures from the Republican National Committee.
“If the Republican National Committee wants to come tonight or Saturday or Sunday, we would love to see them.”
The absence of Republican representatives, even as audience members, was evident in a Friday morning session, “Covering Race in the 2012 Elections,” moderated by Jesse Washington, Associated Press writer on race and ethnicity. Panelists were Kevin Merida, national editor at the Washington Post, and Michelle Jaconi, executive producer of CNN’s Cross Platform Programming Unit.
No one was present to articulate Romney or Republican views after Les Payne, a retired Newsday editor and columnist, asked whether in light of the media coverage of President Obama’s ties to his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, journalists should be exploring Romney’s views about Mormon tenets on race.
“Mitt Romney has not been pushed to do that,” Washington told Payne. Merida agreed that the media have a responsibility to explore the issue. “You want to try to explain these people,” Merida said of the candidates, “and give people everything that might help in their decision making.” Audience members agreed, but none was the Republican operative who would have been expected to monitor such a panel had the party been at the convention.