PBS’ MediaShift Story on Bloggers, Journalists Features OhioNews Bureau Credential Rejection Case

OhioNews Bureau

ONB COLUMBUS: Mark Glaser, host of MediaShift, a Public Broadcasting System Weblog devoted to tracking how new media are changing society and culture, posted an informative story Thursday about the blurring of the distinction between bloggers and journalists.

Glaser, a self-described journalist, critic, facilitator and new media expert, said that the “time-worn debate of Bloggers vs. Journalists has finally run its course.” He made his case that while “the extremists in this argument have had the stage shouting at each other,” the reality of this range war is that “mainstream media reporters have started blogging in droves, while larger blog operations have hired seasoned reporters and focused on doing traditional journalism."

Highlighting arguments and perspectives made by well-known bloggers that help explain the tussle between new online media and established print groups over turf, respectability, trustworthiness, honesty and other issues that have previously been used to distinguish the new kids on the block from the people who thought they owned the block, Glaser comes to the important issue of securing press credentials from organizations who, for one reason or another, have a built-in bias against bloggers or new-media journalists.

With a helpful assist from Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association, a group he formed to defend First Amendment rights of bloggers, Glaser included two cases on credentialing agencies denying established reporters credentials to cover an event like a presidential debate or have access to legislative floor sessions.

Glaser led off with the case of a of Erin Kotecki, a California reporter turned blogger who couldn’t cover the GOP debate because the credentialing agency for the debate, the L.A. Police Department, stonewalled her on her request.

He then featured the story about ePluribus Media’s unsuccessful attempt to secure Ohio Statehouse press credentials from the group created by the Ohio General Assembly to credential established groups and their reporters.

John Spinelli was a reporter at the Ohio statehouse but now that he is online he is getting the cold shoulder. In his case the credentialing is determined by a cadre of traditional media types. No surprise then that they have been less than welcoming. [Glaser, MediaShift]

Cox contacted me in the days following the pick up my story of the Ohio Legislative Correspondent’s Association rejection of OhioNews Bureau reporters by Jill Miller Zimon at Writes Like She Talks and Jerid Kertz at Buckeye State Blog, two top-notch, leading Ohio bloggers.

Glaser makes a declarative statement that reflects what we tried to tell OLCA, namely that if anyone believes that "bloggers are one breed and journalists are another has been living in a cave since roughly 2002."

He quotes Jim Brady, executive editor of Washingtonpost.com, saying the twain are coming closer each day.

“I think the argument about bloggers vs. journalists has been over for years. We’ve all co-existed just fine for a while now, and the truth is, the distinction is less relevant every day. There are thousands of journalists who now blog, and there are lots of bloggers who are trained journalists.” [Jim Brady of Washingtonpost.com, MediaShift]

As further evidence that bloggers can not only hold their own with legacy reporters but win awards as well, Glaser notes the accomplishment of Blogger/journalist Josh Marshall at Talkingpointsmemo, who won a Polk Award for investigative journalism. Marshall, says Glaser, helped piece together the U.S. attorney-firing scandal, which led to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigning.

"Not only was it a first for a blogger to win this award, but it showed that a new type of hybrid online journalism — combining original reporting, aggregation and audience involvement — could produce top-notch investigative work." [Glaser, MediaShift]

Brandy said Marshall winning a Polk Award "is a sign that the distinctions are becoming less relevant" and that "readers (don't) care whether what they’re reading is in a blog or not...What they care about is whether they trust the source of that information, whether it’s a mainstream site or a pure blog.”

The Polk Award Marshall won may hit home with some here at ePluribus Media who made significant contributions of their own in posting news worthy articles related to the political bias under both US Attorney Generals John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales.

John Michael Spinelli is a former Ohio Statehouse government and political reporter and business columnist. He now serves as the OhioNews Bureau Chief for ePluribus Media Journal. Find ONB archives here.

If readers have a news tip or story idea about Ohio politics or government, contact the OhioNews Bureau at: ohionews@epluribusmedia.org

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Do you think the attention the rejection received will help to turn things around the next time you apply for credentials?

Good blogging is in everyone's best interest. And truly great blogging comes out of an almost obsessive compulsive attention to a limited range of topics that eventually makes the blogger an expert in their field of study.

It takes time to develop, time that the corporate media is very rarely willing to pay a staff journalist for. But in the long run, the investment in learning everything there is to know on a subject pays off. Well, not necessarily in a financial sense, but you know what I mean...

I half-jokingly call it the "JuanCole" factor.

As a member of the media, I attended both the Clinton and Obama rallies today in Westerville, an affluent, Republican leaning suburb of Columbus.

I ran into two reporter colleagues of mine who are members of OLCA. When they saw me, both jokingly said, "Hey, how'd you get in here?"

I responded, saying I got in because the media coordinators of both the Obama and Clinton campaigns weren't as discriminatory or biased as the OLCA board showed itself to be, and will continue to be unless other factors change their mindset. (Stay tuned)

One reporter who arrived late to the rank and file meeting the OLCA board members held to announce their decision (not to take in put or vote on my request for membership) to those who showed up, told me the board members had represented as one of their reasons for my rejection that it was their conclusion that I wasn't "regularly assigned to cover the legislature" and therefore didn't meet one of their criteria.

I told him that was interesting because that had not been conveyed to me as a reason for my rejection. I said if they had wanted a letter from ePluribus Media stating that covering the legislature was part of my beat, I thought I could produce such a letter.

This reporter told me the OLCA board has been totally flummoxed with my request, coming as it was from a "blogging" site. I then directed his attention to the MediaShift article, and told him OLCA decision shows just how out of step or out of touch these "reporters" are with the changing tides in journalism, as articulated in Glaser's piece.

Even more interesting, were conversations I've had with two former OLCA presidents. One told me the way I was treated was an insult; the other said the board's actions and decisions are exactly upside down, a total misreading and interpretation of their own foundation documents. Amusing, eh?

Anyway, I found it quite interesting to hear more behind-the-scenes views of a process that was clearly haphazard and shoddy, according to these former OLCA leaders.

They may have won this skirmish, but the real battle has yet to take place. More news later.

Thanks John for keeping us abreast of the situation. Staying tuned ...

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