Press pool preps for Dem convention

Fox News steps up to plate as coverage organizer

NEW YORK -- It's been a long and surprising road for the network pool tasked to cover next week's Democratic National Convention in Denver, but things are coming together a few days before the opening.

Miles of wire and cable are being lined and cameras set up to capture the events inside downtown Denver's Pepsi Center, where the first three nights of the convention will be held. But it won't be until the weekend when the Fox News Channel-led pool will be able to do the same thing at Invesco Field, where Barack Obama will accept his party's nomination for president on Thursday night.

"It's like organized chaos right now," FNC political director Marty Ryan said from Denver. "We have a lot of work to do, but things are coming into place."

During big events like the quadrennial political conventions, the presidential debates and January's inauguration, the broadcast and cable networks cooperate on coverage. They fund a pool, led by one network per event, to set up cameras and coordinate the bulk of the video. Fox News Channel drew the DNC; NBC News is organizing the pool for the Republican National Convention.

Being the pool network for a convention is a huge responsibility, and one that takes a lot of planning and effort even when everything goes right. Because Fox News is responsible for its own coverage as well, it hires a whole new behind-the-scenes team for the pool.

"The pool has to be a kind of standalone operation," Ryan said. He likens it to a giant jigsaw puzzle because the cameras have to be set up so that everyone gets the same shots of the podium and the venue while making sure the lines go to each network, which are scattered in and around the Pepsi Center.

The pool has a workspace adjacent to the Pepsi Center, with a control truck next door. Fox News, for example, has its base of operations set up at Braun's Bar & Grill across the street from the Pepsi Center. It's where the network will televise a lot of its programming as well as streaming channels.

Things are a little less settled right now for Thursday, the last night of the convention. In early July, the Democrats threw a wrench into the networks' planning by announcing that Obama would accept the nomination at the 74,000-seat Invesco Field instead of the Pepsi Center where months of preparation had taken place. That meant that the networks would have to pony up an estimated $1 million or so to set up for coverage there.

Not only is it going to be more expensive, but because of football games this weekend and next, the production company putting on the show and the networks covering it won't have much time to set up and take down.

"Nobody gets into Invesco until the weekend, and that's when Ricky Kirshner and the DNC go in first," CNN executive vp David Bohrman said. "We probably won't get in until Monday."

Bohrman said that some of the cameras that had been marked for Pepsi Center were going to be moved to Invesco.

"The pool is really working hard to figure out how to cover both venues with fundamentally a very similar budget," Bohrman said last week. "They had all the people in the (pool) truck. They need to figure out how to stage (it)."

After that, the networks will have to quickly take down everything to get ready for the football game Saturday. Beginning to end, it's a tighter schedule than the nets would have liked. But Ryan said it will all go well.

"That's not great for us, and it's a little bit unfortunate for us, but it is what it is," Ryan said.