Dem Convention Giving Bloggers Press Credentials
NEW YORK – A handful of scribes publishing in a newer medium will join the thousands of newspaper, magazine and broadcast journalists at this summer's political conventions. They'll be blogging.
The Democrats are holding true to their "party of inclusion" billing vis-a-vis the online chroniclers, whose Web logs have leapt in popularity this year as political junkies increasingly get their fix with mouse clicks. Democrats say they'll offer media credentials to a handful of bloggers (search). The Republicans say they've yet to decide what to do about them — credentialing deadlines passed with no announcement on whether bloggers could even apply.
GOP spokesman Leonardo Alcivar said details are still being worked out, but some analysts believe the party is wary of bloggers, who tend to be less predictable than mainstream journalists.
Michele Catalano of The Command Post (search), a mostly news-as-it-happens blog, said she'll cover the Aug. 30-Sept. 2 convention at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan from outside if necessary.
"To compete with the regular media, it's important to be where the media is," the 31-year-old East Meadow, N.Y., blogger said.
Scott Schmidt, 28, a GOP activist who blogs from Los Angeles, said Republicans were "late to the game" but now appear serious about granting some access.
He has traded e-mails informally with convention officials about getting inside. But Schmidt is not waiting. As a backup, he sought credentials as a guest of the California delegation.
More than 50 bloggers met last Tuesday's deadline to apply for the Democratic National Convention (search) credentials, of which an undetermined number will be selected based on originality, readership level and professionalism, said convention spokeswoman Lina Garcia.
She said the Democrats consider blogs important for engaging younger voters and expanding journalism to the citizenry. But that won't make the credentialing easy.
Colette D. Marine, a 35-year-old Chicago blogger trying to get credentialed for the July 26-29 gathering in Boston, fortified her application with a brief essay and samples of previous postings after the Democrats asked for more material.
"I get a sense they are making it up as they go along," Marine said. "It's a new phenomenon. I'm sure they are just as confused as everybody is."
For traditional media, both big parties generally rely on rules established by committees of journalists for getting passes to cover Congress. But no such procedure exists for blogs.
Bloggers with Democratic credentials will get the same access as any other media to most of the FleetCenter in Boston. If they need assigned spaces, they'll be asked to pay for phone, furniture rental and other expenses just like mainstream journalists.
But bloggers will share proportionally fewer passes to get on the convention floor where speeches are delivered.
As for the Republicans, Sree Sreenivasan, a new media professor at Columbia University, said the party ought to embrace at least a few sympathetic bloggers.
"Most bloggers who believe strongly in one party or another aren't going to stray from the message," Sreenivasan said. "They will give access to stories that may not be covered otherwise."
Some of the bloggers seeking credentials say their coverage plans involve little more than going where the mood takes them. Their personal accounts are unfettered by editors — and most don't pretend to be objective.
"We don't have those constraints, which provides for more colorful coverage," said Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, whose Daily Kos is among the most visited political blogs. "If I want to use profanity in a post, I'll use profanity."
Moulitsas, a 32-year-old from Berkeley, Calif., who has applied for Democratic credentials, said he would "probe and pry and look in corners that the political press isn't looking."
Many bloggers will wade through the largely scripted events, looking for fresh ways to expose the "pandering and stupidity and ... unpredictable madness" on the sidelines, said Australian blogger Tim Blair, 39.
Blair is trying to attend both conventions through a freelancing magazine gig.
Phil Noble, a political consultant who runs PoliticsOnline, said bloggers, lacking the expenses of traditional media, can focus on "the small stories, the small voices, the things that are only interesting to a smaller audience."
Some bloggers, however, are skeptical of the value of the cash outlays involved in attending the conventions — even though some earn hundreds of dollars a month from advertisements on their Web sites.
They believe they can do as good a job or better monitoring the events on television or through other Web sites.
"It's like the Super Bowl," said Bob Somerby, 56, a Baltimore blogger. "You can see it better at home."
How much influence bloggers might have remains to be seen.
"This is a real landmark for the legitimacy of the blogger and a testament to their growing influence, said Jonathan Dube, who blogs about online journalism. "That doesn't necessarily make them mainstream, simply because not enough people are reading them right now."