PHILADELPHIA — Three sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they feared professional repercussions, have told Gawker that ABC News is not allowing Fusion staffers attending the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week to eat the free snacks in the ABC News tent.
Fusion has access to the ABC News tent for two connected reasons: a quirk of scheduling and the rapid pace of change in the media business. The credentialing process for the conventions begins long before the gavels drop. For the media organizations—mainly television stations—that bring large crews, have many complex technical and logistical needs, and have the budget to pay for private workspace at the convention site, decisions about convention accommodations are made months in advance of the actual event.
Fusion, a millennial-focused digital news organization (and little-watched cable news channel), was formerly a joint venture of Disney, the parent company of ABC, and Univision. The Wall Street Journal reported last December that Disney was looking to end the partnership, which did eventually happen in April 2016, when Univision acquired Disney’s stake in Fusion and became the sole owner. (A brief disclosure: Univision has reportedly considered investing in or partnering with Gawker Media, the parent company of Gawker.com.)
The deadline for 2016 DNC credentials for large broadcast networks was back in January. So when Fusion applied for credentials to cover the DNC, it was still partially owned by ABC’s parent company, and they applied jointly with ABC News. At the time this would have seemed like a great deal: ABC News has the institutional experience, influence, and budget to give Fusion reporters a privileged position from which to cover the convention compared to other digital media startups. And indeed, ABC’s headquarters at the DNC is a large, well-appointed tent in the middle of the broadcast media compound, adjacent to the Wells Fargo Center.
While smaller shops—such as your pals here at Gawker—squeeze into a shared media tent with no available food or beverages, unreliable internet connections, and limited work space, broadcast networks such as ABC have their tents all to themselves, and they keep them stocked with free coffee and snacks to help their reporters make it through the grueling days and long nights of the DNC.
But all is not well in the ABC News tent. According to our sources, now that Fusion is an entirely separate entity, albeit one that still has access to ABC’s work facilities, ABC has been treating Fusion reporters like second-class citizens. Gallingly, Fusion staffers are now officially barred from the snack table in the ABC News tent.
The snacks available at that table include pretzels, Gatorade, “goldfish” crackers, and candy, including sour gummy worms.
An ABC insider, speaking to Gawker, downplayed the snack situation: “Everyone is responsible is for their own catering, and we’re sharing the space like everybody else.”
That sounds reasonable enough—after all, ABC no longer has anything to do with Fusion, and Univision could be feeding its employees out of its own pocket—but that’s little relief for Fusion’s parched, sour gummy worm-starved millennial content producers, camped out here in the shadow of the Wells Fargo Center.