Update 7:30 p.m.
New York Times op-ed columnist Andrew Rosenthal jokingly referred to the meandering walk between AT&T Station and the Wells Fargo Center as the Bataan Death March.
“Some of the delegates are old,” Rosenthal said. “They’re going to die in the heat.”
Set up this week for the DNC, the trek takes longer than what you’d experience for a Sixers or Flyers game. There are curves to follow through stages and other obstacles and then outdoor security, not to mention dozens of other people walking slowly in front of you. Given those complications, it’s about a 30-minute walk and not the most pleasant experience in near-100-degree temperatures. (More than 100 with the heat index.)
In the grand scheme of things, the comfort of media and a few thousand delegates isn’t Philadelphia’s biggest problem. But complaints about that walk, WiFi, terrible air conditioning in the media tent and Port-a-potties are affecting the perceptions of the city by the people who are going to be writing and broadcasting about the event to the world. As Mark Halperin, Bloomberg’s managing editor, put it on Twitter, “reporters unhappy w/logistics are less likely to write positive stories. Philly is lovely but.”
Rosenthal has been to numerous Democratic and Republican conventions. The logistics for this one so far aren’t just bad compared to Cleveland. They’re bad compared to every other convention he’s covered.
“This,” he said, “is the worst I’ve ever seen.”
Yet somehow it got worse a little after 7 p.m. Because of a massive storm in the area, media were advised to evacuate the media tent.
For Wall Street Journal reporters, the inconveniences began on the ride to the Wells Fargo Center. They took a shuttle bus from Trevose, Pa., in Bucks County, and got ensnared in the I-95 traffic jam caused by the screening of every truck. The trip took them over 90 minutes. Paul Gigot, the editorial page editor and vice president of the The Wall Street Journal, said he had never experienced such bad traffic in 28 years of covering presidential conventions.
“Maybe it’s one day,” Gigot said, adding he wasn’t complaining but stating facts. “Maybe they’ll get their act together.”
For the RNC, The Wall Street Journal’s team was situated in Akron, and traffic getting to Quicken Loans Arena wasn’t an issue aside from typical city traffic. Cleveland, in general, had few logistical problems. As one New York Times staffer put it, the RNC was “smooth like a gin and tonic.”
There, media and delegates could take cabs within about 50 yards of the entrance to the arena. At past conventions, people have been able to take golf carts or other forms of transportation and avoid long walks in the heat. Lynn Sweet, Washington D.C. bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times, said long walks to and from the Wells Fargo Center could affect reporters’ deadlines, too.
In Cleveland, the press area was kept so cool reporters were wearing sweaters. That’s been the opposite here, where it’s easy to spot beads of sweat trailing down reporters’ faces.
“We expected the air conditioning in our workspace to be adequate,” said Michael Barbaro, a politics reporter for The New York Times. “It is not.”
The good news for Philadelphia is none of this may matter, even if reporters and delegates continue to deal with discomfort. Rosenthal said the public’s perception means far more, and they won’t be able to feel the lack of air conditioning or make the long walk to the Wells Fargo Center.
“The convention that matters,” he said, “is the one that’s on television.”