I got off work a few minutes early to wander down to Portland's Living Room That Only Resembles a Living Room if Yours Has a Powell's, a Starbuck's, and a Large Fountain. I got word yesterday that John Kerry would be rallying the faithful at 6pm, with "doors to open at 4:30." Still pondering how Pioneer Square suddenly developed doors, much less ones that were open, I hopped off a random bus (32 to Oatfield, I think) down by Taylor and had to walk back up to the square because of stop closures. Quite a few stops have been closed or moved the last few weeks due to work on the Courthouse and other areas of the transit mall, so I wasn't sure whether it was for the rally or just more of the recent snarl. More on that later.
Along 5th Avenue headed south from Morrison, folks were lined up in front of the boarded-up Courthouse, wrapped around Morrison and moving slowly along Yamhill up to the square. These people were standing in line like they were waiting for a movie premiere, and the movie wasn't going to start for another hour, and they were a block and a half back in line. They stood there, rather silently for a political rally I thought, and I moved on up to 6th. The MAX trains were both still running at the time (more on that later too), but all vehicle traffic was halted up 6th Ave. for at least a block north and south. Police tape created a cops-and-trains only lane, from which I assume the assembled Johnny Law figured they could take the crowd if it sought blood or perhaps bumper stickers without paying. (I could have made a fortune in Bush/Cheney: You're Fired bumper stickers if I'd thought ahead).
Unfortunately I had to return home before the rally started, but I did catch the live reports at six pm from both KGW and KOIN. KGW led with the story, had at least two reporters covering the event live, and stayed with it for the first 15 minutes exclusively. They ran about 4 minutes or so of Kerry's actual speech, I felt like, and then cut to their first commercial. KOIN ran longer than KGW and thus caught somewhat more of Kerry's speech, but appeared to have less overall coverage. KATU (ABC) was running the national news in that slot as usual while KPTV (Fox) was showing its normal afternoon lineup, as was OPB television.
Once 10 o'clock hit, I was curious to see the reaction given by the Fox anchors as they waded through their evening diet of carjackings, fires, gang shootings and bank robberies. I do admit I arrived to the broadcast perhaps two minutes late, but if it led, it led for precious few seconds. Otherwise the above litany ensued for a full 15 minutes, teased to several boilerplate "news of the weird" stories from around the country, and at this point it appeared that whatever news value Kerry's visit commanded, it did not command it for very long at all.
Out of curiosity I ran through the websites to see which of the local TV stations gave it any play. Once again, local leaders KGW provided the most thorough coverage of the event, and were nearly glowing in their features on the multiple thousands gathered, including a sidebar on the Deaniacs won over. From there it was all downhill. KATU made it the top story, referring to hundreds who appeared, and that was about it. KOIN mentioned the rally, but in the future tense--apparently web updating is another place where poor KOIN seems to lag behind the competition. Since it was still a yet-to-happen piece at the time, it makes more sense, but the article was headed "Kerry Visit Disrupts Bus, MAX Service." They probably won't be passing that URL around at the campaign very soon.
KPTV also ran the story as their lead on the website, but the article also quoted the "hundreds" figure, was about four paragraphs long, and contained no sidebar. Wheher by omission or commission, I'm not entirely sure anybody from KPTV showed up. Too many cabjackings and teen runaway confession videos to air, I guess. And there may have been hundreds in the proper square, but there were clearly thousands thronged around it, even at 5pm. OPB had the most hard to find coverage of all; linked from another Kerry story, both of which ran out of Reuters' service. They too had the phrase "thousands" rather than "hundreds," and in fact put a number on it--4,000.
If nothing else, dispatching a camera crew to catch a Vietnam vet, a hobbit, Bowtie Blumenauer, and a new rock dinosaur standing together on a stage behind John Kerry would have been magical footage for any network. When again would these titans' paths cross? History is fickle, so fickle. Carpe dais!
From what I heard of Kerry's speech, it was somewhat low-key, earnest and appealing although still lacking some kind of electoral fervency that makes you sit up and say, "Damn STRAIGHT, Holmes!" I think he's doing a pretty good job campaigning and a dynamite job fundraising, and he is smart to ride the wave while Bush flounders to historic lows.