The Quest for Real News - and a Great Fish Taco

CONVENTION NOTEBOOK

During the days leading to the GOP convention's opening, I spent some time doing research on the "Reporter Wave Effect" in the Marriot lobby.

I first documented this effect when I covered superpower summits in the mid-1980s. It occurs when reporters are stuffed in an enclosed space with little actual news to report. They begin walking to and fro, down the length of the hotel, searching for a press release or other thin bit of gruel. Eventually, hundreds of people with credentials dangling from their necks are sloshing in waves in front of you, looking morose.

The Marriott is a particularly fine Wave Effect spot, as the ground floor is long and narrow, with cafes at both ends. It's also the official journalists' hotel. Delegates who enter the lobby - instantly recognizable, as their clothing usually resembles an American flag - are immediately surrounded and forcibly interviewed.

Overall, the Republicans seem well organized. The Dole arrival on Sunday by boat at Embarcadero Park was something of a madhouse, though. A woman with a walkie-talkie was directing delegates out of the park, repeating, "The Dole party this way." She turned to a colleague. "A year of planning, down the drain!" she'd mutter. Then she kept directing the crowds.

The food is good. I went with a Monitor reporter to a Mexican restaurant reputed to be particularly authentic. But when we got there it was closed for a private party hosted by the West Virginia delegation. A big man at the door with a nametag that said "Ralph" asked us, suspiciously, if we were locals. No, we admitted, in fact we were yellow running dogs of the press.

"Oh, in that case, come on in," he said with a smile.

They didn't have fish tacos, though. They're supposed to be good here, and I can't find any.

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