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Pundits report for duty under big tents

Industry News | October 1, 2008 | By:

At the end of the summer, in the heat of a high-stakes battle for the U.S. presidency, the national branches of the Democratic and Republican parties rallied at their respective conventions in Denver and St. Paul to officially announce their nominees and to generally issue a war cry against each other.

Covering the official kick-off to the battle were journalists of every type — from network mainstays to anti-establishment bloggers. At both conventions, these journalists gathered under tents of various types, most of which were set atop a carefully concealed mass of cables and wiring.

Mahaffey Fabric Structures, Memphis, Tenn., provided additional space for Fox News oustide the site of the Republican Convention in St. Paul. During the setup, project manager Willie Pond said the project was progressing smoothly, except that the complicated raised floor took longer than he expected. The large, sturdy clearspan (132 by 164 feet) was set next to a smaller dining structure.

Mahaffey’s vice president of sales, George Smith, said the event team used insulated hard sides, lighting options and a professional flooring system to create an atmosphere usually reserved for studio space. “Fox opted for a structure rather than the average trailer, as it gave them the design flexibility they were going for,” Smith said. “It allowed them to expand and create multiple offices and studio areas within, while giving them the ability to customize every inch of the structure.”

In addition to the studio-like office space, broadcasters had a 20-by-20-foot raised structure with the Xcel Energy Center as a backdrop. Mahaffey was also hired by ABC to provide two 66-by-66-foot structures — one in St. Paul and the other in Denver for the Democratic National Convention.

Smith said that ABC brought trailers for auxiliary office space at the conventions, but the main offices in the tents were used for Charles Gibson, Good Morning America, ABC Radio and other ABC affiliates. Each structure was split into office spaces using partitions.

In Denver, journalists of all loyalties gathered under the “Big Tent” outside the Pepsi Center, where bloggers could pay $100 for a place to work during the convention. Google offered free smoothies and massages in the tent. There were a handful of other media tents outside the Pepsi Center, including the tent for ABC set up by Mahaffey Fabric Structures.

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