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Clubby Pro Journalism in Sacramento

Capitol Weekly: Out in cyberspace, looking in. For 60 years, the Capitol Correspondents Association has been charged with deciding which reporters should be sanctioned to cover the California Legislature. But a new set of bylaws aimed at restricting the access of partisan bloggers has set off a mini-firestorm within the Capitol, as California aims to become the first state in the nation to set out specific rules over how and whether bloggers should be credentialed.

The new rules — the final decision was reached Wednesday following a 34-3 vote by the Association’s members — require that reporters must get at least half of their earned income from media jobs, including self-employment, and that those employers be identified on the credentialing application. There are conflict-of-interest provisions, and a deliberate falsehood on the application is grounds for revoking the credential. The Association believes the new rules dealing with the electronic media will ease professional bloggers’ Capitol access.

This is a bogus way to “ease” access for bloggers; in fact, it virtually ensures that they’ll have none. If that’s not the design of the new rules, the people who made them created a dysfunctional process for making their decision.

The rules are designed “to separate hobbyists from professionals,” one member of the club is quoted as saying. That’s part of the problem, because it’s exclusionary in a way the pros can’t seem to grasp. And the income requirement — are they going to demand tax returns? — is just bizarre.

If the club members had been serious about finding a way to open up, it would have gone about its mission in a different way. What they’ve come up with tells me they’re more protective than ever of their privileges.

5 Comments on “Clubby Pro Journalism in Sacramento”

  1. #1 Seth Finkelstein
    on Mar 1st, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    Umm, what would they have done? I see this sort of set-piece all the time, almost the same words over and over again – the theme is the bad gatekeepers oppressing the brave revolutionaries.

    What should be done?

    Seriously. I’ve been through this myself in various forms. Do you propose a lottery for the slots? First-come, first-served? Something like the Media Blogger’s Association making the decision?

    There’s always going to be scarce resources somewhere.

  2. #2 Dan Gillmor
    on Mar 1st, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    What they did was counter-productive. It only reinforced the traditional folks’ standing and did nothing at all to open up the system.

    The gatekeeping would be a lot less troublesome, of course, if legislatures would just put cameras into the chambers and committee rooms — and made all of what they do in public places part of the public domain.

  3. #3 Seth Finkelstein
    on Mar 1st, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    With all due respect, that just repeated the original set-piece, i.e., didn’t answer the question.

    Q: In a situation of journalistic scarcity, how should the positions be allocated?

    not-A: Old media bad. New media good. Old media == gatekeepers, elitists, priests. New media == democratic, people, rebels. There should be no scarcity. The public interest for the interested public. Four legs good, two legs bad …

    But in a non-ideal world, if a decision has to be made under imperfect and rationed circumstances, what should it be?

  4. #4 Dan Gillmor
    on Mar 4th, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    OK, Seth — look for another posting on this topic soon. I’ll suggest in some detail how I see it.

  5. #5 Seth Finkelstein
    on Mar 5th, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    I look forward to it.

    I hope I’m not insulting your intelligence, but of course many of the trivial solutions have obvious problems:

    First-come first-served: The wealthy organizations will just buy up the slots using interns to stand in line (as they do now in some situations)

    Lottery: Seems overly ideological, and also easy to astroturf (start up hundreds of member blogs and enter them all as “citizens”).

    Media Blogger’s Association as intermediary: Lots of people don’t like that, say it’s a just another old-boys-club (disclaimer: I’m a member, and I know you are too).