Orlando Sentinel Live Blogs Stacked Deck 'Town Hall' Meeting

August 18th, 2009 10:21 AM

Your humble correspondent has had problems with the Orlando Sentinel in the past, especially when it published a silly global warming alarmism story which presented various map scenarios of Florida being flooded over. However, I must extend congratulations to that periodical for its excellent live blog coverage of a phony stacked deck "town hall" meeting conducted by Congressman Alan Grayson which could serve as a model for other newspapers on how to cover such events. First a description of the event as covered in the regular way via Orlando Sentinel article:

Grayson's hastily called meeting took place in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union hall, which limited attendance to about 120 members of the public. It also was scheduled just after a regular meeting of local Democrats, some of whom stayed behind for the town hall in the scarce seats.

Outside the building, hundreds of frustrated people who could not get inside waved signs and chanted for and against the proposals.

The article did a good job of covering the event but the live blog written by Scott Maxwell gave the readers a real flavor of what was happening when it was happening. Here are a few of Maxwell's live blog excerpts posted from his Blackberry:

Monday Night Live: The Grayson health care 'town hall'

Aug 17, 2009 5:47:31 PM

I'm guessing a lot more people will be interested in what goes on inside U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson's "town hall" meeting tonight than will actually be able to get it. So I'm going to try to feed you intel from the inside.

The plan is for me to blog the event live as it happens right here. I'll start with the scene outside and then try to give you a real-time feel of who's saying what inside -- and, as i mentioned below, try to get a feel for the breakdown of the crowd.

One word of warning: Since I'll be doing this with mobile technology,  Comment posts will likely be delayed until I can get back to a land-based computer. But they'll be there ASAP ... as long as they're not filled with profanity or slander.

Oh, who am i kidding? This is the internet! If it weren't for profanity and slander, this thing wouldn't even be up and running!

Be back with you soon....

At capacity? Probably just for now

7:22:44 PM 

Well, the fire marshall is on this thing like dirt on a pig. And word is that he just said that the meeting hall is at capacity with only Democrats at the monthly meeting of the Orange County Democratic Executive Committee in the hall -- which aint much of a town hall.
Fortunately, Democratic organizers - who didn't know Grayson was going to commandeer their 7 pm meeting for his 7:45 pm Town Hall until he sent out the press release last night - seem to realize this. (Shutting out oppnents aint very Democratic, after all.)
So word is that, after the Democrats finish their business portion of their meeting, many of them will leave, giving up their seats for those in line for the Town Hall, which is slated to start in about a half-hour.
They should.
And for what it's worth, the only people in here right now seem to be DEC members. The union members are outside as well.

The entries and the rules

Well, I'd say they let another 40 people. Maybe 50. But not nearly enough for my taste.
They shoulda cleared out the hall first - and had a bigger hall.

But a good number of apparent opponents came in - and Grayson's folks vowed to split the time evenly. We shall see.

Said Grayson press guy Todd Jurkowski: "All we're asking - quite frankly what we're demanding - is respect." (For speakers)

Grayson just introduced his kids. And now he's getting ready to start.

At capacity? Probably just for now    

The crowd outside is chanting "Read the bill! Read the bill!"

Grayson overheard and said he had - and held up his copy.

The very next questioner - another objector - then asked about a specific question about the bill, so Grayson's staff put the bill on a big screen, and the audience read it together.

The questioner (again very polite) then asked if he would be forced onto the public option. Grayson said no. Most clapped. But some seemed not to buy it - but via quiet rumblings.

The first boo's ...

.. Came in response to Grayson saying he had never seen any evidence that tort reform would significantly change the cost of health reform.

He said the studies he had seen show that malpractice accounts for no more than 1 percent of health care costs. A big chunk of the crowd booed. But then Grayson asked them if any of them could cite any study/evidence to back that up. None did. So Grayson asked his staffers to raise their hands - and suggested that anyone who has evidence of tort reform being effective should contact them, now or after the meeting, and he vowed to look at it.

A bigger hall?  

Stated Mella(sp?) Ioppollo: "Congressman, I can't believe that, in the 8th congressional district, you couldn't get a bigger hall."
Touche, Mella. 

So congrats to the Orlando Sentinel for live blogging this event. Newspapers have recently begun taking note of a technique first employed by members of the frequently derided (by "professional" journalists) blogosphere. Let us hope that we see more of this. However, it would have been nice if the Sentinel would have also incorporated videos into the story such as the video above.