I know it’s good form to say where you’ve been when you disappear off the face of your blog for two weeks.

Answer: bilge-pumping.

That said, we’ll try to do better next time.

Now onto to other things.

A side project I do got some news coverage this past Sunday. And it was a pretty nice article in that they represent our political community site fairly well. (I wish sometimes they’d focus on how hard it is to do this with so little spare time, but oh well).

But the hook in these things is always so predictable I have to laugh. Here’s the final paragraphs:

“Bloggers are the new key influencers in the community. National bloggers are shaping opinions. They are engaged in the daily dialogue of national affairs and some voices are very influential,” Hynes said.

He said in New Hampshire for the 2008 election, three or four influential bloggers have emerged with “tier one” access to candidates – i.e. press credentials to cover events and interview the candidates – when many believed the blogging trend had plateaued.

“Bloggers will have a marginal effect, but a lot of races are decided in the margins,” he said.

I hate to pick on this article, because it got more stuff right than most. And they are just quoting Patrick Hynes a “blog outreach consultant” (Wow!) for John McCain. But much of the article follows the same philosophy, ticking off a list of types of access the campaigns give us, and saying isn’t it crazy? The world is upside down!

But it’s the press that has the battery wired backwards.

The reason blogging works is not because we’re so influential that we get access. The reason it works is that we don’t care about access. Frankly, we’re not corrupted by it. I receive so many invites to blogger conference calls I route them to a special folder. I hardly ever go. Why should I, when it’s just the candidate repeating the same talking points they just put out in a press release?

And I think it drives some campaigns crazy, but I don’t write stories off of press releases either. And although I get invited to “surrogate” events, for the most part I don’t go. I have no desire to see so and so’s daughter tell me how great their Dad is. Sorry. I just see that as another commercial.

Patrick Hynes, the blog outreach coordinator quoted, doesn’t know me, but I know his candidate. And that’s by design. I took a $119 video camera to an event of McCain’s last Sunday, and I sat in the back row, listening and filming.

I’ve been thinking about what I heard, and how he reacted to the audience questions. I’ve been thinking about which issues he dodged and which he didn’t, and how this might differ from his last spin through New Hampshire. I’ve been thinking about the reaction of people around me — people I might add that were the audience, not fellow reporters in some “press pen”.

All that “access”? Let’s be honest. The access beyond see the candidate in a Town Hall setting is spin control. It’s entry into the PR ecosystem.

And I have very little interest in it. Strip away credentials and access, and I’d argue what you get is better reporting.

2 thoughts on “Credentials

  1. Right on!

    Between you and Udell up there with man-in-town-hall/local-cable-public-access political videos, I’d be very afraid to campaign in New Hampshire. What an excellent reflection here. The idea of access and privilege as being more about ego and joining the ecosystem of media power than truly thinking about a candidates positions is exactly the issue as I see it. I think this really cuts through so much of the bull shit of A-list blogging that Downes often speaks to.

    We have built these absurd notions of relevance and credentials on such a shaky foundation. Here’s a quick example, out of John McCains XX million dollars “needed” to run for office how much is he paying his “blog outreach consultant”? What are he consultants credentials? Does he have a blog I can read? Moreover, why would you need such a position if your ideas were solid and you believed in your vision? I know this is all very naive (deal with me) but a large part of me thinks that part of all this arrogant and wasteful superstructure around politics erodes the very ideas at the heart of any healthy political system: aggressive and open debate about ideas.

    Without this all the spin in the world won’t save a ship from sinking. We need micro-politics, we need to move away from national stages and recapture our virtue as thinking citizens on a more local, contextualized level.

    If we do this, the change will be far easier. I’m sure this is exactly what your own political blogging community has been doing, and it ain’t that different from making change happen at an institution or a university. Leaders can lead all they want, but not until some relatively large and active group of people get tired of being exploited and start exploring alternatives will things start getting really interested. In fact, in is the current logic of the leaders we now have that have helped put us into a situation wherein being an A-list political blogger means getting the “scarola” to make you credentialed and effectively irrelevant.

  2. Here’s a quick example, out of John McCains XX million dollars “needed” to run for office how much is he paying his “blog outreach consultant”?

    Probably a good amount. But let me say this — it’s well spent. Because what most online outreach people do is try to coddle and flatter you, make you feel part of the press crowd. And if that means you maybe don’t put out that damaging video or deadly screed — if even a couple heavily read bloggers don’t put out one unique negative story that had real legs — then what is $60,000?
    I mean it’s cheap, right? Because you’d pay substantially more than that to kill that story or that analysis once it’s out.
    That said, since I don’t like “clash of civilizations” McCain, my piece will likely be a semi satiric take on how the “maverick” (who truly was one in 2000) is now so swallowed by the base…
    I’m thinking of calling it “John McCain: Now with More!”

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