Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

RNC welcome party lacks big names in national media

Former American Idol contestant Shannon Magrane of Tampa performs Open Arms, a 1982 hit by Journey, at the Republican National Convention’s official welcome party Sunday at Tropicana Field.


Former American Idol contestant Shannon Magrane of Tampa performs Open Arms, a 1982 hit by Journey, at the Republican National Convention’s official welcome party Sunday at Tropicana Field.

ST. PETERSBURG — Critics concerned about big-name reporters such as ABC's Diane Sawyer or NBC's Brian Williams having drinks and munching food with GOP delegates at a reception funded by the people they are supposed to be covering needn't have worried.

As it turns out, few big names in national media seemed to turn out for the Republican National Convention's opening night party Sunday at Tropicana Field, despite its billing as the first time that media and delegates would mingle at a combined celebration, paid for by the convention host committee. (Rain and storm warnings may have kept some people away.)

One of the exceptions was Jesse Watters, a producer for Fox News Channel star Bill O'Reilly, who was treated like a celebrity by delegates who crowded about, taking pictures and complimenting him on his work.

Watters specializes in field interviews for O'Reilly's conservative-friendly show, taking to the red carpet at the Oscars to grill stars such as George Clooney on their political views or lampoon Independence Day beachgoers who didn't know U.S. history.

"There's no stupid people here, so what are you gonna do?" shouted one admirer. "You're taller in real life," enthused another delegate, holding up a smartphone for a picture.

"I'm just here to do a sights and sounds package," said a tight-lipped Watters, who declined to speak further with the Tampa Bay Times, though he assured fans that O'Reilly would be coming to the RNC on Wednesday and Thursday.

Former American Idol contestant Shannon Magrane drew similar attention from local TV stations scrambling to find notable people to interview.

The reporters were hampered by rules from the host committee barring cameras from the floor of Tropicana Field, forcing them to set up in the stands. There, they made do with interviews with St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and Magrane, a Tampa native who reached 11th place in this year's American Idol competition.

"I can't vote, and I'm still learning about how all this works in my government class," said the singer, who made headlines on Idol as the 6-foot tall, 16-year-old daughter of former Major League Baseball pitcher and current MLB Network broadcaster Joe Magrane. "It's a moment in history that the RNC is here, and I'm just glad to be a part of it."

The ranks of media seemed to be filled mostly by local figures, including Dave McKay and Veronica Young from WQYK-FM (99.5), Mark Wilson from WTVT-Ch. 13 and Linda Hurtado from WFTS-Ch. 28; all conducting interviews for their respective programs.

The lack of big names left Miami radio host Edward Woodson disappointed. He was part of a media contingent only credentialed to cover the event from Tropicana Field's centerfield restaurant, watching the party from picture windows looking onto the field.

"It's horrible, because we didn't get access to anything," complained Woodson, who hosts a weekly show for WZAB-AM in Miami. "This isn't how we do things in Miami."

Eric Deggans can be reached at (727) 893-8521 or

RNC welcome party lacks big names in national media 08/26/12 [Last modified: Sunday, August 26, 2012 10:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For Fourth of July, an American feast inspired by founding father Alexander Hamilton


    Are there a million things you haven't done? Is one of them throwing a patriotic party inspired by one of the founding fathers?

    Caribbean Pork With Potato Salad makes for the perfect Fourth of July meal.
  2. 'Baby Driver' literally turns heist movie genre on its ear, set to slick soundtrack


    Buckle up for Baby Driver, a movie so full throttle cool that you want to fist bump the screen. Style is the substance of Edgar Wright's inventive heist flick, a fresh, masterful synching of music and getaway mayhem, as if La La Land's traffic jam was moving, armed and dangerous.

    Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a getaway driver for heist arranger Doc (Kevin Spacey). Plagued by tinnitus, Baby tunes out his distracting “hum in the drum” by listening to music while he drives.
Sony Pictures
  3. Former mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor
  4. Life after HB7069 to be discussed at Pinellas school district workshop


    The Pinellas County school district is still trying to navigate life after the controversial passage of HB7069.

  5. Sens. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, were among the highest-ranking local lawmakers on the Florida Society of News Editors' "Sunshine Scoreboard."