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« Pointe taken | Main | Strait talking Matt Brown »

Jan 18, 2007

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The CA

From the linked story:

"Several members of the corps, he said, objected to my being granted credentials because I had started posting on BlueNC, which the membership felt was an advocacy site. People who write for the John Locke Foundation’s Carolina Journal have been turned down for the same reason."

Note the ridiculous statement "which the membership FELT was an advocacy site". Duh, it IS an advocacy site, just as the John Locke Foundation is.

Ed Cone

But it's a site that carries his content -- he doesn't write for BNC, they are part of his distribution network. That's the confusing part, the new media part...what if BNC, or Locke said they'd pay me to run my column?

The CA

I guess it depends on who else is carrying his columns. BNC is an advocacy site, which is different from a news organization (well, that's certainly debatable, but ostensibly speaking). I haven't read his pieces so I don't know what their contents are. If JLF paid you to write for them, and you only wrote for them, I would be curious as to why they are so interested in what you have to say and how it aligns with their agenda. However, if you are syndicated and they are part of the syndicate along with other non-advocacy groups then I think that is different because you have established your news credentials in straight news forums.

Of course, whether an opinion columnist is really a member of the press is another question.

I'm not really saying I approve of the restriction, but it was applied evenly and from other members of the press, not the administration. Could just be snobbery, but there is a colorable argument that could justify it. As long as it is applied evenly, he isn't being singled out.

kmr

According to what I was told, this isn't about content and, for the record, the print outlets that pick up my column are members in good standing of the NC Press Association.
What's interesting to me is the distinction being drawn here between my stuff on BlueNC and, say, someone broadcasting news during the break in Limbaugh or a reporter appearing on a Locke Foundation radio show. I decided to talk about this because I think the netroots, whatever that means, might be interested in how this plays out. There's definitely a judgement being made about mission and the line being drawn would seem to apply to Kos, MyDD and any other site deemed an advocacy site.
Evidently, to some folks I got off the boat. The way I see it, I just walked over to where the people are and joined the conversation.

Anglico

As I said here, Kirk Ross has been a respected reporter for decades and is one of the most reliable journalists in North Carolina when it comes to state politics. He has every right to be credentialed, just as Ed Cone or Binker himself does. Ross does not work for BlueNC in any way, shape or form.

I invited Kirk Ross to post whatever he's writing on our front-page because I love how he covers politics and I wanted to improve the amount and the quality of the reporting that appears on our site. His work at Exile on Jones Street has been steady and impressive. The irony that he is being denied press credentials because he cross-posts at BlueNC is truly breathtaking.

BlueNC is not an advocacy site, though there are plenty of people who come there to advocate. BlueNC is a forum, pure and simple. There is no official policy about content and anybody who visits our site is free to say whatever they want.

BlueNC is not the John Locke Foundation. We have no employees, no sugar daddy, no syndicated columns, no appearance on radio shows, no buddy-buddy relationships with the news media, and no Puppets. To compare a veteran reporter like Kirk who posts occasional stories at BlueNC to a JLF "expert" who carries water for Art Pope is absurd.

The CA

Anglico, what does the "Blue" symbolize?

Anglico

In retrospect, I wish that the site weren't named BlueNC because it gets totally conflated with the Democratic party - which I assume is the point you're trying to make. But if you've read BlueNC at all, you know we routinely take Democrats to task for being @$$holes and idiots.

I doubt you'll believe this, but for me, "blue" is a symbol of progressive public policy, just like "green" symbolizes the environmental movement. In my younger days, I actually wanted to start "The Blue Party" because I considered the Democratic party too far gone. (I also figured that no self-respecting reactionary would want to join a Red Party for fear of being labeled a commie.

I support Democratic candidates because I think they are generally less destructive and dangerous than Republicans. And for better or worse, we're stuck with two parties.

A

PS As an aside, I have been intrigued by Mike Munger, who is trying to get on the ballot for governor as a Libertarian. He's the only Libertarian I've ever run into (besides my father in law) who wasn't a total nut job - though even he has his moments. But a lot of what he stands for is very progressive, IMO, and I could see myself becoming a supporter.

I've gone on too long. Blue symbolizes progressive politics.

The CA

I appreciate your position, but it's still advocacy, is it not? Pushing an progressive agenda and all. I'm not suggesting that Ross should not get his credentials because of it, but I do think it's hard to make the argument that the purpose of BlueNC is to provide a forum for the advocacy of left-leaning/progressive policies.

The CA

Edit- "is NOT to provide a forum...."

Anglico

You're right. We created BlueNC with the hope of providing the forum you describe. I am a staunch advocate for progressive politics. I don't know if Kirk is or not, which is the main point I'm making. We asked him to post stories at BlueNC because we wanted to increase the amount and quality of news on our site, not because we wanted another pontificator. Denying him credentials seems an awful lot like a big old monopoly engaged in restraint of trade.

Ruby Sinreich

When is the MSM ever going to get it?

Brian Clarey

Man, I was gonna post this knee-jerk response defending my man Ross and demanding that he be given creds. Typed it out and everything. But hold the phone -- this is actually pretty complicated.
I don't know if BlueNC is just aggregating (is that the right word?) his existing blog or if he's writing stuff exclusively for them.
And I don't know if it matters.
I don't consider Ross to be in the least an advocacy journalist -- he's a freeelancer savvy enough not to turn down a paycheck. But even if he was, advocacy journalists are still journalists.
Aren't they?
And what is advocacy journalism, anyway?
What about Drudge? What about the crew over at HuffPo? Fox News?
Jeez, Jeff fucking Gannon got into the White House Press Corps.
For selfish reasons I want him to be credentialed. But the whole thing raises some issues that surely must be dealt with.

Bubba

"I doubt you'll believe this, but for me, "blue" is a symbol of progressive public policy, just like "green" symbolizes the environmental movement."

Hence the opinion that BNC is an advocacy site.

It's pretty clearcut.

Brian Clarey

Whoa.
I came in through Greensboro101 and missed a bunch of comments.
Okay:
Ross writes what he writes and BlueNC picks it up.
My bad.
But I still have questions about advocacy journalism and who gets to play in the big sandbox.
Should the Rhino be eligible for credentials? The Independent Weekly is also a strong progressive voice -- can you keep them out of the party on that basis?


The CA

Somewhere there is a line. Where it is and how to define it, I don't know.

Roch101

Brian raises some good questions. Why doesn't the advocating that happens on the N&R editorial pages disqualfy Mark Binker? (Not picking on Mark, he's just a convenient and involved example.)

Anglico

Roch is right . . .

When the demonstrators try to deny that freedom to others, the police have an obligation to step in and restore order. That's just what happened Thursday. If there's another war protest in Greensboro, participants should show more respect for the public and for the freedoms that belong to everyone.

Check out that last sentence. Sounds a lot like advocacy to me. I guess Mr. Ed and all the other "journalists" at the N&R will have to have their credentials revoked since they work for an organization that publicly "advocates" for law and order. I've even heard they've been known to endorse candidates. Gasp!

Connie Mack Jr

I've even heard they've been known to endorse candidates. Gasp!* Anglico

Good Grief! Clearly the first amendment at work! What's next? Turning down candiates Ads next if they do not fit the editorial board profile or the blog site agenda?

Roch101

The N&R promotes ballot referenda, argues for or against tax incentives, for or against pending legislation and it endorses candidates for public office. They try to affect all sorts of public policy and private behavior. Heck, they clearly do more advocacy than BlueNC.

The more I think about this, the more it seems like the rejection of Kirk, for the reasons given, is ill advised and unsupportable. I think Anglico may be right with his estimation that it amounts to restraint of trade.

BrianR

All humans have bias. Complete objectivity does not exist. Since newspaper owners, editors, and writers are humans they have bias too. No matter how cleverly they try to hide their bias it still exists. (Duh?)

So... What is wrong with advocacy? State your bias at the start and people will respect and vilify you for it. Denying that you're an advocate for something is just an attempt to keep people happy so they'll continue doing business with you. When a group of people advocate for the same thing we call it community values.

My statements may or may not have anything to-do with Kirk. But I think they deal with the underlying issues being discussed in this thread.

Ed Cone

In Kirk's specific case, the fact that his material is distributed by (not created for) an advocacy site makes a real difference, and should not keep him from getting a pass.

All sorts of places to go with the larger arguments, including this one: why shouldn't advocacy sites and publications have access?

And of course the web makes it all much more complicated.

John Hood

Pardon me for the lengthy post, but these are interesting and important issues, and my organization has been referenced in several posts. (I feel no need to respond to the hateful, uninformed invective of the usual kooks, however, for as usual their foolishness serves only to demonstrate what I would otherwise have to state explicitly. It's a real time-saver. I mean the substantive issue.)

First, let me clarify that my Carolina Journal folks have not recently applied to be members of the Capitol Press Corps, as Kirk Ross has. The relevant controversy happened nearly a decade ago, when a then-employee of mine — now an editor at the Union Leader in Manchester — was spending an increasing amount of time reporting from the General Assembly for CJ and sought press credentials. He received them, and later a lawmaker complained when he was on the floor doing an interview. Eventually, after much private and some public debate, the press corps decided that his credential was inappropriate. I didn't agree with the decision, but I also perceived the stakes to be low and the press folks in question to have decided it in good faith. No big deal.

Now we are at a point where Ross has been excluded based on a stated test of advocacy vs. journalism. As I have remarked to some of the reporters involved, I don't think this test can withstand challenge. There is a limited amount of space to allocate for journalists at the GA, yes. And yes, the privileges available to the press corps, such as access to the floor during session, may be of limited value but they are still of value, and can’t physically be granted to every blogger or newsletter editor who might desire them.

The problem is, an advocacy test must logically exclude opinion journalists. It is journalism, rather than just P.R., to write editorials and columns expressing a personal view and informed by fair-minded reporting and analysis. But it is also undeniably a role of advocating a particular position and/or a general approach to public-policy problems. Arguably, such an advocacy test excludes representation from any media organization that includes editorialists, commentators, or opinionated bloggers, even if the reporter is not himself involved in such work.

A version of this test would be to apply a “stated ideology” screen, but that won’t work, either. You'd be screening out the Independent, Rhino Times, etc. I don’t think that is sensible or defensible. Again, the net could be so wide as to catch major newspapers with clearly articulated editorial philosophies (The News & Observer of Raleigh and the Freedom Newspapers chain being good examples).

A partisanship screen is easier to defend. Just because party or campaign folks have a blog, that doesn’t make them journalists. But a partisanship screen won’t get you very far. It has to be explicit — you can’t say that an officially nonpartisan applicant is partisan because their opinions often coincide with those of a party, because again that would seem to exclude most of NC’s newspaper editorial boards.

A media-company screen won’t work. You can’t exclude journalists working for an entity that is not a profit-seeking, advertiser-driven media firm. That would exclude public radio and TV, not to mention bloggers who may have substantial audiences.

So what are you left with? I think that given limited slots to allocate, you must reasonably allocate according to audience and timeliness. In other words, regardless of medium or business arrangement, an applicant should be going to be judged according to how important the press-corps privileges are to doing their job, and how many North Carolina readers, listeners, or viewers are involved. If the total circulation of Ross’s writings is substantial, which I assume is true, and he writes or posts frequently in a way that requires timely access to lawmakers, he should be eligible for membership. In practice, most such applicants (don’t know about Ross specifically) will have a smaller audience than a traditional newspaper or broadcast reporter. If it came down to it, the press corps could reasonably allocate the last desk available to a reporter from, say, the Salisbury Post (they used to have a Raleigh reporter) instead of Kirk Ross. But if you have slots available and no print or broadcast reporters have claimed them, you either need to set a circulation/viewership threshold or let em in. There could be an argument for a threshold — if Ross is let in, will a dozen similarly situated freelancers or bloggers apply? — but you'd rather have to make a convincing case.

All this being said, I have CJ staffers who have been members of press corps and those, according to the test articulated above, could be legitimate applicants here. But we have no intention of applying, regardless of the decision in the Ross case.

Roch101

"the fact that his material is distributed by (not created for) an advocacy site makes a real difference, and should not keep him from getting a pass." -- Ed

Accepting the label of "advocacy site" for the sake of argument, Ed makes an important point. The distribution of media has changed and continues to evolve. I'll continue to use Mark Binker as a convenient example, nothing personal as this could apply to a number of people. Mark writes a blog. The content of that blog is easily available for syndication through an RSS feed. If BlueNC started featuring posts from Mark's blog, would that disqualify Mark from keeping his press credentials?

This would be an interesting little test, if BlueNC is up to it. Create a section on BlueNC where all available reports from Capital reporters are featured. That would put them in the same boat as Kirk (or Kirk in the same boat as them, depending on how the press corps decides to look at it.)

Connie Mack Jr

There is a limited amount of space to allocate for journalists at the GA, yes. And yes, the privileges available to the press corps, such as access to the floor during session, may be of limited value but they are still of value, and can’t physically be granted to every blogger or newsletter editor who might desire them.* Hood


Right and to solved this Batshit establishment media problem.

Simply have a media pool and let those who sign up for access to the floor that day have a lottary drawing. The State Fire Mashall stands at the doors to make sure nobody hollers fire to shut down the political process while the intense interviews are being conducted for the interest of the State and the peoples business. Of course the political right would oppose this simple solution on the grounds that another evil lottary has corrupted the peoples business.

The political Left would simply counter this issue by opening a lottary ticket booth at the doors to cover the expense of the State Fire Mashall salary and make Mr Hood and his co-horts happy that private markets do work in politics.

Today's lucky media numbers are 15339883, 1122020,9992202, 2889111!

Congrats 15339883! I am sure the Boy Scouts of America on "my space" editorial blog board will be thrilled to see your report on the State business.

Mitch Kokai

There is a scarcity question involved, when you're considering desks in the legislative press room and access to the House and Senate floor during the session.

If the Capitol Press Corps has no policy now for determining who gets credentials and who doesn't, members probably ought to devise a policy.

There's one compromise position that could benefit those who do not get the official credentials: access to the Capitol Press Corps e-mail list.

The freelancer, blogger, or advocacy writer might not get his own chair or the ability to watch debates at floor level (he can always sit in the balcony or listen through his computer), but he would have timely access to press statements and notices of press conferences.

As a person who has operated with and without Capitol Press Corps credentials, I would find inclusion within the Capiol Press Corps' e-mail distribution list much more valuable than a chance to stand on the floor (though I do admit that I miss the days when a particular legislator would volunteer to pose for my video camera so the folks back home could see that he was working hard).

kmr

Mitch,
You're exactly right about the list.

kmr

Anglico

I like the list idea too.

The Capital Press already has two forms of credentialing - temporary and permanent. They could easily add a third category to provide some benefits while still dealing with the scarcity issue.

Or they could just do musical chairs.

Roch101: We're going to work on your feed/syndication idea and see what happens.

gregflynn

I'll ask this question out loud here as I have at BlueNC and Mark Binker's blog. The issue seems to hinge on Kirk's syndication at BlueNC.

If Kirk simply stops syndication at BlueNC will he get credentials?

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