Cleveland Stations Ready for Republican National Convention

By Kevin Eck 

In a little less than a month, the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland will be the focus for everything politics as the city hosts the 2016 Republican National Convention from July 18-21.

Crain’s Cleveland Business asked the local stations how they were planning to cover the event as it sets up shop in their hometown.

“We’ll show the flag at The Q,” WOIO news director Fred D’Ambrosi told Crain’s. “But our primary coverage will be on the effects on the people of Cleveland, and how (the city is) being seen by the rest of the country and how it’s perceived by the rest of the world.”

The news directors at the other stations, ABC affiliate WEWS, NBC affiliate WKYC and Fox affiliate WJW told Crain’s they’ve been planning their coverage for more than a year. Some went so far to ask stations in cities that had previously hosted the convention what to expect.

The other news directors, like D’Ambrosi, were reluctant for competitive reasons to say too much about their stations’ plans. They described strategies similar to D’Ambrosi’s, though most would not even say how large a news team and how much equipment they will have available.

“We are constantly reminding ourselves that we are the news source for the people who live here in Northeast Ohio and we want to be here for the audience that’s going to be here long after the RNC is gone so we want to cover everything from a local perspective,” said Brennan Donnelan, news director of WKYC.

Andy Fishman, WJW’s news director, said he will have reporters and crews scattered around downtown covering the city and its people. But, he said, his station will be using its space at The Q extensively.

“We’ll broadcast every day from the suite,” he said. “We won’t be covering the podium. It will be in the newscast but our emphasis needs to be on Cleveland, how the people here are affected by this thing being in our town, whether its protests or traffic or highway shutdowns or how businesses are affected. Our overall theme is flexibility. I think we have a system in place that will allow us to react and be flexible.”

Jeff Harris, news director of WEWS, described his station’s coverage plan similarly.

“The main thrust of our coverage is the ripple effect out The Q and into the city and the neighborhoods.” He said. “We’ll have crews stationed all over the city.”

One wild card for the stations is communication, given cell phone technology covers more than just phones now.

“If we get into a situation where there are a lot of protests and crowds, we’ve known that the hardest thing will be to communicate with our crews,” said WJW news director Andy Fishman. “There is a lot of technology that is cellular-based and you’re surrounded by thousands of cell phones so we can’t be sure we’ll be able to keep in touch with our reporters.”