Credentials

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.