Though the Democrats won't gather here for a year, Charlotte is already fielding national media attention.
Correspondent Tom Foreman profiled the city in CNN's "Building Up America" series and C-SPAN just finished taping for a series on the city airing later this month.
C-SPAN's series, on the weekend of Sept. 24-25, is part of a tour of eight Southern cities that included Tampa, host city for the GOP convention.
C-SPAN will be back next year in force for the convention, which it always covers gavel-to-gavel with minimal commentary. It's one of the network's biggest draws.
"Political conventions are our Super Bowl," says Debbie Lamb, coordinating producer for the C-SPAN series.
Since the convention site was announced in February, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx has been interviewed by Bloomberg, The Huffington Post, Politico and other national outlets.
"This has absolutely catapulted our city into one that's being covered by national reporters now," says Kim McMillan, who oversees communications for the city.
Huge media horde
In all, an estimated 15,000 news media representatives - pundits, reporters, technicians - will descend on the city, outnumbering delegates 3-1. Scott Pelley, Diane Sawyer and Brian Williams (a huge NASCAR fan, by the way) are expected to anchor their flagship network newscasts from Charlotte for the week.
NBC will probably bring the biggest contingent, about 500 staffers, because in addition to its network news shows, it also has two cable channels - CNBC and MSNBC.
About 30 workers from NBC News Channel, the network's national reporting pool for affiliates that is based off Charlotte's Billy Graham Parkway, will also be involved in coverage.
At Fox News Channel, planning for the conventions is ongoing, but the network says its key personalities - like Shepard Smith, Bret Baier, Sean Hannity and Neil Cavuto - are expected to be among those active in coverage.
CNN will bring hundreds to cover the convention, says Sam Feist, a 20-year CNN veteran and chief of its Washington bureau.
"It will dominate CNN's air during that week. Every hour, all day long beginning the weekend before - it will dominate everything."
Charlotte's made-for-Hollywood skyline - which usually lands on the national stage only for "Monday Night Football" in years when the Panthers are strong enough to land the premium game - can be expected to be part of the convention narrative on two points. It illustrates the banking crisis, part of the economic story, and North Carolina will be one of the key swing states in the general election.
"It's sort of an iconic skyline, and more Americans will see it that week than ever before," Feist says.
Talk radio's focus
Charlotte's economic symbolism should be inescapable, even for media beyond TV.
"They'll play it as a jewel of the New South, as it still is, but there's nowhere you could go in the country to escape the economic story," says Jason Lewis, former WBT-AM afternoon host now syndicated nationally from Minneapolis.
Lewis says he will probably bring his show to Charlotte during the convention along with scores of other talk radio commentators. Political conventions, he says, are kind of like covering the state fair.
"There's the ease of getting the big names," he says. "They'll make themselves available by walking down Radio Row."
Lewis has noticed a drop-off in the number of radio shows at recent conventions, probably a result of tighter news budgets.
Politics is one of the key ingredients of talk radio, which remains a potent force in national discourse, says Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers Magazine, a radio industry trade journal.
"Talk radio as a medium, as a genre, is a very active place where voters hang out - the audience has one of the highest per capita numbers of people who vote in elections and pay attention to the point it's almost a spectator sport."
Conventions always draw the radio shows, says Harrison, but they can be a mixed blessing.
"Sometimes the worst place to be is at a national political convention if you want to know what is going on there. You're in the back, you're in a room, you have a very limited view of the elephant. Whereas people at home watching it on television know everything that's going on. But where it's kind of cool is what it adds to the informational quality, the pizazz."
Political bloggers will probably be a major presence in the 2012 conventions, and their ranks are expected to be bigger than ever before.
Bloggers were first accredited as media representatives at the 2004 conventions. There were only about a dozen.
By 2008, the two parties accredited about 300. Next year's conventions may attract at least twice as many.
One major change is that mainstream media outlets, both publishers and online only, now hire specialists dedicated mainly to blogging. Bloggers have risen from the image of gadfly in pajamas in front of a computer grinding out opinions to stories reported elsewhere to nationally recognized personalities with broad followings.
"What is known as the blogosphere has changed in character," says Columbia University professor Tom Edsall, who worked 25 years at The Washington Post covering politics and national issues.
"A lot of people known as early bloggers now have institutional affiliations. They are big draws on the web. They can still be pretty caustic and critical, but have been integrated into the media system."
Edsall says he spends about 90 minutes each morning scanning various blogs, looking for information not reported elsewhere.
"I see more original reporting. I look for people adding value rather than people who are just derivative. There is a growing body of blogging that is quite original with very useful value-added material."
Among them, he says, are New York Times economics reporter Charlotte Rampell's Economix blog and Ezra Klein, who blogs for WashingtonPost.com on the economy and domestic policy.
Broad national attention
Television networks have broadcast national political conventions since 1948, but in recent years the prime-time coverage has contracted dramatically as the gatherings have turned into carefully scripted infomercials for the parties. About one hour a night, plus acceptance speeches, is all the big three networks give the conventions in prime time.
But there is a possibility that interest in the conventions may be on an upswing.
In 2008, the conventions saw a dramatic rise in ratings, drawing a larger slice of the audience than any since 1960. In nightly averages, the last GOP convention was watched in 25 million households and the Democratic convention in 23 million, according to Nielsen.
"I think people are more attuned to politics," says CNN's Feist. "We've already seen indications this race is garnering as much attention if not more this time around."
Ratings for the CNN Republican debate in New Hampshire in June exceeded those for the same event in 2007, he says. "There is a lot of interest in this election," says Feist. "I think that will generate a lot of interest for the conventions."