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Behind the Scenes: Producing the 2012 RNC
August 31st, 2012
06:59 PM ET

Behind the Scenes: Producing the 2012 RNC

After more than 30 years covering politics for NBC News, Phil Alongi left the network and quickly found himself on the other side of the game. Speaking with CNN Friday, Alongi was wrapping up in Tampa, Florida, having just produced the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Alongi says his role as executive producer of the RNC was in the works for a long time. He was first approached for the position shortly after he left NBC in February of 2009.

He told CNN the convention planners expressed admiration for his work at NBC, where he had been covering political conventions since 1980, the year CNN was founded.

Conventions in the past were produced by individuals with experience in entertainment and special events, but Alongi says it was a change of pace to hire someone with a news background.

Yet, he approached the convention as if he was still a member of the press, “I wanted to make this an experience for all media platforms, because I believe that our role as journalists is giving the public the information they need to make a choice,” he told CNN.

His hiring by the RNC speaks to a change in the political landscape – one where we no longer find out about candidates solely from TV news. Many voters look to blogs, apps, streaming video, Twitter and many other media platforms to get to know a candidate and what he or she stands for.

Alongi was not involved in the content of the speeches or the political messaging of the convention. However, he was in charge of making sure delegates and media on the ground, as well as viewers at home, got a good show.

The aspect of the convention Alongi seems most proud of is the 13 screen back drop for the podium. The set allowed him to personalize the look of the stage for each speaker without physically moving anything.

When Jeb Bush made his speech Thursday night, Alongi and his team anticipated the former Florida Governor would talk about education – so they prepared elements that complimented his subject. Behind Bush stretched giant ruled notebook paper as he said “lets talk a little about our kids, and education.”

The RNC also played a 10 minute “Introduction” to Mitt Romney that played across the 13 different screens. Different aspects of the short film were highlighted in the different sizes and shapes of screens surrounding the podium.

Although some pundits have complained that the conventions are over-hyped and drawn out, Alongi told CNN he thinks they play an essential role. Alongi says he loves that for four days all the attention is on the candidates, and it’s not up to journalists to decide whether it’s worthwhile.

For Alongi the real challenge may have been that the stars of his show didn’t have the same draw. Sarah Palin drew 37.2 million viewers the night of her speech at the 2008 RNC, whereas Paul Ryan’s speech Wednesday drew 21.9 million. And John McCain’s acceptance of the Republican nomination in 2008 pulled 38.9 million viewers, while Romney’s speech Thursday got 25.3 million.

But, regardless of ratings, Alongi strived to create something that put the candidate, and his ideas, center stage.

He told CNN, “If you learn something about the candidates and what they stand for, you’ve learned something when you go to the voting booth and push the lever. It’s a chance for people to learn what these guys really stand for.”

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Filed under: 2012 Campaign • Media • Mitt Romney • Politics
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Missy Yemen

    CNN is becoming fox.

    September 2, 2012 at 11:58 am | Reply
  2. Missy Yemen

    Your female guest talks about MSNBC's Chris Mathews being out of control. She accuses MSNBC of being a liberal media. Unlike CNN, MSNBC is the only media outlet that exposes The republican lies and distortions. Shows like Chris Mathews, Rachel Maddow, Laurence O'Donnell just to name a few are reporters I would watch every day. CNN has become the Tea Party media. I was a CNN addict until 2008. Thanks to MSNBC, now I can watch intelligent, balanced and well rounded journalists. Unfortunately CNN is not that different from FOX.

    September 2, 2012 at 11:57 am | Reply
    • JD Droddy

      What a lot of baloeny, Ms. Yemen. The "female guest" is absolutely correct in her analysis. The deny that MSNBC is a liberal shill is ignoring the truth. The real problem on today's show was the jerk in the red shirt who would deny that the world is round if it would advance his obvious left-wing agenda.

      September 2, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Reply
      • Nuttapon

        Despite the amount of money spent on ungaudredrate and graduate degrees I still get confused by the legislative process. I thought both the senate and the house would need to vote on it but perhaps just the senate this time? From what I've read, the senate hasn't yet voted on the extension but the majority agree to extend the credit.

        October 12, 2012 at 12:44 am |
  3. Terri

    I just watched the debate about Chris Matthews and Reince Prebus. While I agree he may have been over the top, I wish reporters would not "politely" sit while the same old lame prases are repeated. What I dislike even more is a reporter decry fact checkers and defend lying. Jennifer Rubin condemned Matthews for his hyper-partisan behavior. Is this a case of a pot calling a kettle black?

    September 2, 2012 at 11:52 am | Reply
  4. C.Berger

    Would it kill you to say PRESIDENT OBAMA? And as to your Politico reporter (big surprise) saying he should talk about what he didn't accomplish....he has accomplished A LOT! How did she miss that?

    September 2, 2012 at 11:26 am | Reply
  5. wgf

    “It’s a chance for people to learn what these guys really stand for.”

    Yes, and what we learned is that "these guys" stand for lies and deceit. But I guess that's what you have to do when you know that you can't win an argument by honestly representing facts relative to your own political positions. It's said that the party of Reagan has descended to this.

    September 1, 2012 at 7:09 am | Reply
    • Hudson

      Thank you for sharing this. Your story is saiilmr to mine, only yours took place 3-4 years later. I couldn't care less about which party won until 2004. I actually liked Bush better than Gore before that. I thought Gore came across as arrogant and personality-less (actually I still do-though now I wish he would have won). I initially thought Bush was likeable, although I was always concerned about his ties to the religious right. But what turned me off was George W. Bush's and other Republican's absolute embrace of anti-intellectualism and their whole black and white view of morality and patriotism that turned me off and lead me to cast my first presidential vote for John Kerry.For example, some liberals may overly focus on the mistakes the US has made in the past, but so many conservatives seem to feel that merely acknowledging that our country isn't perfect means you hate it.Also, so many conservatives (and even more since Glenn Beck came around) seem to think that supporting any government involvement in the economy means you support Soviet-style Communism. I, like most American liberals, do not want the government to run the whole economy and don't think the government should make sure everyone has the same amount of money. I simply believe the opportunity to succeed financially should be as equal as possible. And let's face it, can anyone say that a child born in the inner city has the same opportunity for success that a child born in the southeast Connecticut gold coast has?

      October 10, 2012 at 3:14 am | Reply
  6. Tell it until they can smell it

    Let's tell the truth about last nigh RNC Convention . . . Romney did not make a dent in his overall persona last night. He even looked like he was reading from a teleprompter. No zeal, no passion, no substance . . . We know it was all a big fat act, a bad one at that. Paul Ryan, everyone knows is a lier, snot nose brat and in no time at all, he will start to wear on the American people nerve, much like Palin did. And has for good ole Clint Eastwood, the republican party, they can have him. His best years all long gone. I felt kind of sorry for him. Clint is a true sign of the republican party leadership, old, washed up and needs changing.

    September 1, 2012 at 1:09 am | Reply
  7. southernwonder

    romney threw our army under the bus as he tried to rescue israel from under the bus.

    September 1, 2012 at 12:41 am | Reply
  8. DENNA

    Loved your guest speaker! Old man yells at chair. I used to love Clint Eastwood's work and it is sad to see him come down to a doddering old man.

    August 31, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Reply

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