“In 2016, the line between ‘blogger’ and ‘journalist’ is no longer meaningful”

“In 2016, the line between ‘blogger’ and ‘journalist’ is no longer meaningful”


by Lowell

I couldn’t agree more with that quote by Waldo Jaquith in this new Style Weekly article by Peter Galuszka. Here’s an excerpt, followed by a few thoughts by yours truly.

For years, a small group of political reporters operating through the association has kept bloggers, part-time correspondents and freelance journalists out of choice spots with access to legislators…

The whole concept is outdated, says Charlottesville blogger Waldo Jaquith, who serves as director of U.S. Open Data and is adviser to the Sunlight Foundation….

“In 2016, the line between ‘blogger’ and ‘journalist’ is no longer meaningful,” Jaquith says. “The Capitol press corps has withered to almost nothing over the past decade. They’re a pale imitation of what they once.”…

…Jim Hoeft, editor in chief of the conservative blog Bearing Drift, says he worked to get bloggers credentialed for years. “We feel that we’re treated like second-class citizens by the press,” he says, “but we’re actually citizens who give a shit.”

…“Protecting their membership from new media might have made sense 10 years ago,” Jaquith says, “but at this point the Capitol press corps is a club so exclusive that there’s a plausible future in which it has no members.”…

…Lowell Feld, editor of the progressive Blue Virginia blog, says that many bloggers are political veterans with just as keen of an understanding of the issues as anyone else.

To elaborate just a bit on my comment, I’d say that since I started covering Virginia politics in 2005, if I’ve seen any difference in quality between “the bloggers” and the “corporate media,” it’s mostly just a matter of style, with “the bloggers” much more honest about their opinions, snarkier, etc. But as far as raw knowledge of the subject material, depth and breadth of coverage of Virginia politics, insights into what’s really going on, etc., I’d actually give the edge to “the bloggers,” both progressive and conservative, with a few exceptions in the corporate media like the incomparable Jeff Schapiro and top-notch reporters like Jenna Portnoy of the Washington Post (and former Virginian-Pilot reporter Julian Walker).

For instance, as I wrote back in June 2014, if journalists didn’t want to be blindsided by Eric Cantor’s loss to Dave Brat, they should have read political blogs like The Bull Elephant, JH Politics, Blue Virginia, etc. If they had, they would have seen that story growing over several months at Republican conventions, meetings, straw polls, etc, etc.. But the corporate media folks apparently didn’t read the political blogs (or take them seriously if they did), which partly explains why they were so shocked by the Brat upset victory over Cantor.

Another example of how blogs actually provide far deeper, better coverage than the corporate media is this blog’s coverage of the 8th CD Democratic primary in 2014. I personally attended numerous debates and forums at which there were no other reporters present. Even when they WERE present, their coverage didn’t even come close to what Blue Virginia provided – video, analysis, transcripts, etc, etc. Same thing with the right-wing blogs’ coverage of innumerable Virginia GOP conventions and other gatherings. I’d further argue that the best coverage of the 2013 Virginia GOP convention was not by the corporate media, but by folks like John Fredericks, Norm Leahy, Ben Tribbett, etc. And let’s not even get into the 2006 Virginia race for U.S. Senate, first the “Draft James Webb” movement, which Raising Kaine was all over, then the Webb-Miller primary, which the Virginia blogs provided extremely detailed coverage of, then the Webb-Allen race, including the “macaca” incident (story broken by…yep, the Not Larry Sabato blog, with continued intensive coverage by the Virginia blogosphere – both right and left – in the weeks and months that followed).

Note that none of those bloggers I just mentioned are part of the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association. Why not? Who the hell knows. Also note that the Virginia political blogs are NOT included in the morning news headlines provided by the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), for absolutely no good or defensible reason. And yes, I’ve gone back and forth with the VPAP folks on this. To date, I haven’t gotten an answer that makes any sense whatsoever. I’ve also discussed the VPAP situation with my fellow Virginia bloggers, and so far the best explanation I’ve received (from one of them) is that VPAP is in thrall to its corporate sponsors — the folks (Altria, Dominion, etc.) who keep VPAP in business. Those folks have, as one of my fellow bloggers points out, figured out how to “work” the corporate media, but are not at all confident that they can influence and/or control non-corporate political bloggers. And that scares them.

Clearly, “the blogs” have always scared the corporate media as well, who see them as both economic competition and also a threat to their status (since if any citizen can also be a journalist, even do a better job than the corporate media does, then what makes the corporate media anything special?). No wonder why many corporate media outlets won’t even do the most basic thing and credit/link to blogs that break stories. It’s Journalistic Ethics 101, of course; yet much of the corporate media flunks miserably (note: Virginia political bloggers, from what I’ve seen since 2005, overwhelmingly DO properly credit and link to original sources). Anyway, we’ll see if this situation ever changes, but for my part, I’m not counting on it.

P.S. In many ways, this situation reminds me of other industries other siege, like the government-protected-monopoly electric utilities. Those guys have had a cozy thing going for decades and want to keep the gravy train rolling, even as many of them espouse their love for the “free market.” It would be laughable if it didn’t have such serious, negative implications…

  • Larisa T

    Terrific piece! We see the same issues in Alabama.

    • http://www.bluevirginia.us/ lowkell

      What specifically goes on in Alabama re: treatment of bloggers? Thanks.

      • Larisa T

        There was THIS last year:

        The GOP supermajority didn’t like the scrutiny that they were getting from “non-traditional” news outlets, so they tried to deny access.

        Alabama’s newspapers were, by and large, silent on this.

        Also, we’ve had several instances where Left In Alabama broke stories by staying at an event the entire time (not getting a few quotes and leaving). In later news stories, “journalists” referred to the quotes & video we posted without offering us a link back.

        To be fair, we have a couple of “friendly” reporters who do give credit. But it’s a few of many.

        • http://www.bluevirginia.us/ lowkell

          Yep, sounds like par for the course sad to say: bloggers providing better coverage of events than the corporate media but getting no credit or links, etc. Meanwhile, do you know any bloggers who don’t link and/or give proper credit to the corporate media? I don’t. In sum, it seems that at least some bloggers – certainly most progressive ones I’ve seen – have better “journalistic ethics” than many in the corporate media do.