Taking His Camera and Going Home

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Taking His Camera and Going Home SAN DIEGO: For Ted Koppel, even the chance to rub shoulders with Newt, Bob and Jack isn't worth sticking it out at the Republican convention any longer. The Nightline host is heading home, claiming that amid the puffery and made-for-TV grandstanding, there just isn't any news to cover at the GOP pow-wow. Koppel is taking most of his crew along, and says he won't bother even showing up at the Democratic Convention. "This convention is more of an infomercial than a news event," Koppel said at the end of his broadcast Tuesday night. "Nothing surprising has happened. Nothing surprising is anticipated." ABC News is continuing to cover the convention, but some irritation is beginning to show at the other networks as well. NBC anchor Tom Brokaw called the events "the network news version of a Kabuki dance," while one of the CBS lead anchors appeared at night in a helmet cam. The real action is in the conversations with delegates and politicians outside the convention hall. Those conversations are still happening, but not much is being said. "This is most closely controlled, intensely choreographed media event I have ever seen," says TIME's Janice Castro. "It's as tense as a family reunion. Even in off-the-record interviews, talking about people they are feuding with in the party, the politicians are talking in the same sound bites the speakers are using on stage. No one is saying anything the control-obsessed managers of this convention would find objectionable." On the floor, notes Castro, the action is not much more interesting until prime time rolls around and the network cameras go on. "The delegates are comatose until 7pm Pacific time. Then, floor managers rush a group of young ethnically diverse kids over to wherever the TV cameras are focused. The television audience sees what appear to be animated delegates waving signs and shouting, but they are really watching the trained puppies of the Republican Party putting on a show. There's not an ounce of room for spontaneity in the whole operation." Janice Castro