Stanek column: Are minimalist party conventions the way of the future?

Heather Stanek

Democrats and Republicans are buzzing about Biden cancelling his visit to the 2020 DNC in Milwaukee.

Dems are touting it as a safety precaution while Republicans see it as a slight to Wisconsin.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that it’s going to be a slim convention, with limits on spectators and all speakers making virtual appearances.

When it was scheduled, an estimated 50,000 people were expected to travel to Milwaukee, the Journal Sentinel reported.

Opinions are mixed. One positive is that the convention will reach more people than ever before due to it being online. The downside pertains to tourism and spending, the people who stay, eat and shop during the convention.

It’s certainly a different kind of convention; no one denies it. But might it signal what we can expect from political parties and candidates going forward?

More and more is being done online, from schooling to meetings to entertaining. Ask kids about their favorite celebrities and they likely won’t mention any traditional Hollywood actors or actresses. Instead, you’ll hear names like Pewdiepie, James Charles and JoJo Siwa. Kids are going to YouTube, Twitch and TikTok for entertainment.

It isn’t just future voters. Current voters are also ditching the tube in favor of web media. I’m a Millennial and I’ve been watching Markiplier, Cinema Snob and Nostalgia Critic for years. A lot of people my age are the same way.

Even my mother, who is a Baby Boomer, increasingly pulls out her laptop and watches web videos because “there’s nothing on TV.”

Perhaps this is a test run for political conventions. As stated before, the upside is the ability to reach a larger number of people.

But a new challenge arises: Getting viewers interested in clicking. One critic I read said, “Who’s going to watch five-plus hours a day of a livestreamed convention?” He has a point. The web offers new opportunities but also a lot more competition.

Perhaps that’s where news reports can make a difference. Journalists are tasked with taking the most pertinent information from events and meetings and arranging it in an easily digestible, unbiased manner. Another problem with the web is far too many outlets are releasing clearly biased videos. There’s a lot of spin and favoritism, which is frustrating for viewers who just want the facts. Seemingly anyone can call themselves a “news” source now.

Who knows what will happen. Maybe the DNC will be just a fluke and tradition will return in the future. Maybe we’ll see a combination of live action and virtual. Or maybe it’ll all go online eventually.

We can only wait and see.

Heather Stanek is editor of the Reedsburg Independent. Contact her at


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