Sunday, April 10, 2005

blogs: pseudo info?

Editor & Publisher features an article about an April 8th National Press Club panel discussion entitled “Who is a Journalist”? I actually watched this in its entirety on CSPAN. "Jeff Gannon" (aka James Guckert) was the designated whipping boy.
Sitting on the panel, Gannon joined a wide-ranging group, including bloggers Cox and Graff; John Stanton of Congress Daily, who also has written for National Journal; and Matthew Yglesias of The American Prospect.

Also on the panel: Julie Davis from The Sun of Baltimore, chair of the Standing Committee of Correspondents on Capitol Hill, which oversees congressional press credentials and denied Gannon a pass last year.

Almost immediately after the panel was scheduled, opposition to Gannon's appearance at the highly respected journalism center started. Critics from both mainstream and online news outlets contended that he should not appear before the club on a journalism panel, since his credentials in that field were weak and he had also apparently worked as a male escort. They claimed his appearance only boosted his credibility and hurt the club's.
I was struck by the ideological imbalance on the panel. It was essentially “Gannon” versus all the others, who were left-leaning and dripping with disdain for Guckert and his conservative (Bush supporting) point of view. I'm not a Republican cheer-leader, at least not to the degree he is. However, the media's lynching of Gannon/Guckert is ridiculous. Even worse, his personal life was made a public spectacle in an apparent attempt to shame this guy into silence (it seems not to have worked so well). Aren’t the lefties the ones who condemn “gay bashing” and the like? I suppose being conservative is so evil that it negates the virtue of an “alternative lifestyle”.

The reason for the panel was, ostensibly, to define Journalism and Journalists. The whole group, less one, spoke of gray areas and credentials, but was emphatic that Guckert is not a Journalist. In response, Guckert said:
"We operate under the illusion of an objective media, but we have all seen, at least in the last election, that the objective media is an ideal that we no longer reach. You see a whole new group of journalists, bloggers, who have been the source of a tremendous amount of information, correct or incorrect, that credentialed journalists and mainstream media have used. That phenomenon is going to have to be dealt with in the future."
The free flow of information, made possible by the internet, is already blurring the distinction between “us” and “them”. Even so, my blog is not now and never will be aimed at “serious” journalism. No, its just an outlet for my thoughts and perhaps will generate some discourse. That’s not to say that all blogs are as frivolous as mine. Some are quite adept at ferreting out da’ news. Who knows, some of those pajama-clad mavericks may even overtake the ”real journalists” as the preferred source of information.
The first three questions from the moderator went to Gannon. He asked Gannon (Guckert) why he thinks he got credentialed when others did not, especially since he operated under an alias. Gannon said he went through the process that anyone could have gone through. He said he has never been a political activist, and pointed to George Stephanopoulos, who had worked for President Clinton, as someone who is now treated as a journalist.
The delicious irony is: ...due to the heightened interest in the event, NPC officials allowed only club members, reporters with press credentials, and bloggers who can show proof of their online site to attend. Really? Having a blog was sufficient to enter an event that tried to dismiss bloggers as wanna-be journalists? Renewing my driver’s license was more difficult that “creating” this blog. Are we to assume that the true line of demarcation lies with ideology instead of craft?