July 19, 2010 at 5:12 pm #105892
This morning, I noticed a great question on Twitter posed by Kety Esquivel (VP at Ogilvy PR). I sent her a quick follow-up reply and asked for more details. Her broader questions:1 – What is the official practice of the White House and key government departments as it relates to online media, internet radio, bloggers and other media organizations vis-a-is traditional journalists, news.com
2 – Do these organizations receive the same treatment as legacy media as it relates to press releases, web casts, etc.?3 – How does the White House/ key government depts decide which new media folks are allowed into the White House/government press conferences?4 – Is there any definition that the government has for “bona fide digital news media” i.e., the orgs’ web site must reach a certain hit rate/ # of page views before they are recognized as a news organization (and therefore given the privileges enjoyed by such)?
July 19, 2010 at 6:38 pm #105908
Andrew – Great questions and if there is any government organization (fed, state or local) that has created a news media policy around this, it would be definitely be cutting edge. I listed to a debate about whether bloggers should be considered one equal footing to reporters when it came to admittance to news conferences or securing media credentials to planned news event (budget presentation, state of the state, etc.) This was a few years ago, but it is still debated today. I am looking forward to responses here.
My $.02 would address issues that Ms. Esquivel mentions, including “traditional,” and “legacy.” She also presents possible criteria for qualifying. I used to separate the two (traditional vs. new media) broadcasting mediums using the words “institution” and “standards.” That is, traditional print and electronic news media that employed reporters were, in effect, institutions whose members subscribed to standards clearly defined over the years by their industry.
Of course that is now blurred, but still, bloggers do not have to subscribe to any industry reporting standard. Still they can be highly effective at times by not doing so. And so, we rely on a totally subjective form of approval of who gets in, who gets what. The challenge here is criteria. It may not be about size of the organization or the number of subscribers or hits. It may merely be an issue of ideology. Remember the issue a year ago about the Whitehouse shutting out FOX news from some events.
I don’t know if Ms. Esquivel will get here answer here. But what a great topic that needs to be discussed. Wonder what type of positions NCSL, NLC, USCM or NASGC have developed on this topic. As for criteria, perhaps there are some institutional standards that can be developed and defined and both traditional and new media journalists (using that word to define them all) would have to agree to abide by those, but that is just the tip of the iceberg albeit an important one.
July 20, 2010 at 12:24 am #105906
I will give you my take on what we’ve been doing at DoD since we began with the development of the New Media Directorate in 2006. I must caveat this with the disclaimer that these are my opinions based on my observations and the work I’ve been doing in New Media for DoD since 2006.
1 – What is the official practice of the White House and key government departments as it relates to online media, internet radio, bloggers and other media organizations vis-a-is traditional journalists, news.com
A1. As it stands right now at DoD there is no “official” practice and the lines have been blurring ever more quickly as traditional journalists are now blogging. What has been the traditional practice is that a journalist would need a letter from their editor or publisher to obtain a Pentagon press pass. But these are for entering the building when the Pentagon or DoD would have to expend resources in order to facilitate access for the press conference. With limited resources it is necessary to use some discriminating factors by which you allocate resources. By using verification from an editor or publisher, there is a determination made that this person understands the proper decorum surrounding the event and will conduct him/herself appropriately for the benefit of all. The procedure for requesting a Pentagon Press Pass are posted here: http://www.defense.gov/news/press_passes.html
We started the DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable to facilitate other discussions that the traditional journalists were not interested in or had no space to publish. We were talking to a smaller, interested audience about things that were adding context to the headlines. These were discussions with people the traditional journalists had access to if they would ask, but on topics that were not necessarily “news.” By having these smaller discussions with bloggers we added contextual information into the public debate and thereby added more information to a reporter’s information pool when doing research on stories that were “news.”
2- Do these organizations receive the same treatment as legacy media as it relates to press releases, web casts, etc.?
A2. Yes, we’ve always treated bloggers, online journalists, new media journalists, et. al. the same as traditional journalists. On the Bloggers Roundtables, the intent was not to exclude traditional journalists, but to include non-traditional journalists. We were giving the non-traditional journalists access that they were denied previously. In my early discussions with bloggers in 2006 I asked them what I could do to help them, what did they need from me; and unanimously they told me “give us access and make information linkable.” They operated by the basic rules of debate: 1) what is the authority of your source? 2) what is the strength of your argument? 3) what is the power of your ideas? I noticed that they were linking to and discussing what was in the traditional press and linking to traditional outlet websites and other blogs but NOT to our website or using any of our information. This was due in part to the fact that the CMS we, and most other government websites, were using was not search engine optimized. Search engines like MSN, Yahoo, and Google could not read and therefore did not see our information. It is a digital economy and links are the currency. For bloggers, if there is no link, it did not happen. We changed our CMS and started developing avenues of engagement, like the Bloggers Roundtable, where we could allow access to bloggers and online journalists.
3 – How does the White House/ key government depts decide which new media folks are allowed into the White House/government press conferences?
A3. While I cannot speak for the DoD Press Operations it is my opinion and observations that at DoD we’re still working this out but our Pentagon Press Pass requirements still stand. We still don’t have a good answer for this question, as far as I know. One of the things I noticed from our DoDLive Bloggers Roundatbles was that the bloggers were not so much interested in “breaking news” as they were in “breaking understanding.” Most did not really want to be at the traditional press conference because they didn’t want to be “part of the herd” as one blogger told me. Many bloggers made names for themselves on our roundtables by listening to the questions asked of the participants at the traditional press conferences and then asking the questions that were not asked when they had their chance. Many times this added the lacking context to the story.
4 – Is there any definition that the government has for “bona fide digital news media” i.e., the orgs’ web site must reach a certain hit rate/ # of page views before they are recognized as a news organization (and therefore given the privileges enjoyed by such)?
A4. In the beginning of our New Media effort, and even still today, there is no “bone fides” defined. What I did for our roundtables was search for who was writing about us, read what they were writing and if they wrote well, cited sources, and appeared to be doing “source” reporting, I invited them to join us. We started with a few dozen this way and then grew from the community we were engaging as they started suggesting others to invite. And many times they wanted to invite other bloggers who were arguing the other side of the question. I heard many times from many different bloggers: “can we invite so-and-so? I don’t agree with him/her most of the time but they always make for a great discussion.”
July 20, 2010 at 12:56 am #105904
Wow, Jack – Thanks so much for such a thorough and thoughtful response!
Any thoughts on people from other agencies that would be excellent respondents as well?
This is a huge issue…
July 20, 2010 at 4:16 am #105902
Andy et al.,
Coincidentally, I just blogged that this was the main thing that I learned after six months of approaching federal agencies for people to come on my OpenGovRadio show:
Most Public Affairs offices that I contacted have no formal procedures — of any kind — that they care to share with the public.
Retweet it, if you want, from http://www.twitter.com/opengovradio
July 20, 2010 at 8:01 pm #105900
Intriguing that only publications with editor-reporter arrangements are eligible for Pentagon passes, despite what you write about bloggers. What about the person who writes a political blog with 50,000 readers but has no such editor being a sole proprietor?
And, out of curiosity, how many people view the information in the letter? I’d be extremely paranoid sharing my social security number in such an open manner.
July 21, 2010 at 9:29 pm #105898
Jay S. Daughtry, ChatterBachsParticipant
Jack, there’s so much to what you’ve written here, but what stands out to me most from your insights is how bloggers are interested in “breaking understanding” and how they’re looking to engage with other bloggers for the sake of good discussions. Thanks much for posting a response.
July 22, 2010 at 6:17 pm #105896
July 24, 2010 at 3:44 am #105894
I know that Congress and the White House issue “credentials” to certain journalists, but I’m curious which of the federal agencies do the same. Apparently, some do and some don’t. Is there a blogger association that might already be keeping tabs on that?
And does anyone know of any links to any federal “credentialing” criteria, i.e., for judging which citizens are sufficiently worthy (to be rewarded with special access)?
Thanks, in advance, for anyone’s help in that.
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