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DNC 2012: You’re entitled to know only what we tell you

It must be Opposite Month.

Opposite Month is where you say the opposite of what you mean.

So when somebody proclaims, “Charlotte will be open for business during the DNC!” what they mean is the ramparts of uptown will be so tightly clamped you won’t even be allowed to drive on part of the interstate.

My problem is, I just can’t figure out how long Opposite Month has been going on.

For some time now, the Democrats have been advertising this get-together in September as “the most open and accessible convention in history.” Maybe it is by Kremlin standards, but I keep bumping into these peculiar domes of secrecy.

Latest example came Tuesday when the Charlotte host committee held a meeting for about 300 vendors and hospitality industry people at the Charlotte Convention Center. Susan Stabley, who has been covering convention news aggressively for the Charlotte Business Journal, called ahead to see whether she could sit in.

Nope. She was told the meeting was closed to the press. Stabley showed up anyway to get someone to explain to her why the meeting was off-limits. She was turned away from the meeting, but Suzi Emmerling, the host committee spokeswoman, called her later to say they wanted those attending from the business community to feel like they could speak freely, “and that dynamic changes when press is in the room.”

Silly me just walked into the room without asking and started taking notes.

I didn’t hear a single thing that was worth hiding from the public. Caterers were reminded that food safety was a priority. Bars were told to stock up because ABC stores would be closed on Labor Day. Business owners were told by the fire department to ensure their fire exits were in order.

Then people got up to ask questions, good ones. What about access to my building? How long will it take to get through checkpoints?

Emmerling says this is the fifth informational session they’ve had with providers leading up to the DNC. All have been no-press zones.

“We’re trying to be as open as we can to these businesses,” she says. “A lot of these business owners ask very specific questions about their businesses, and we’re trying to be sensitive to their needs.”

In defense of the host committee, I must acknowledge they don’t have to hold these briefings. And Tuesday’s was well-organized and useful.

But I don’t see the point in denying access to the local business newspaper, which directly serves the very crowd represented in the room.

I’ve found the business community of Charlotte to be largely run by big boys and girls. They really don’t strike me as the type of people who shrink from asking direct questions because there are some cameras in the room.

It’s condescending to them to assume they need to be protected from their hometown media. There are security details that the public or the press don’t need to know. But asking caterers to ensure the food they deliver isn’t spoiled doesn’t fall in that category.

When the DNC held the first media walk-through of the arena back in January, it was announced as an off-the-record event. Again and again, organizers have hoarded details of the convention from the public.

When the national media arrives in September, some of the more adventuresome among them might be looking for examples to paint us as a bunch of small-town rubes bungling the biggest show to ever come to town.

I only hope Opposite Month is over by then.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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