Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Dinosaurs guarding the gate


Jack Craver in the Capital Times wrote about an effort to replace the old gatekeeping system of who gets Capitol press credentials with a new gatekeeping system. If that sounds ridiculous to you, you’re not one of the gate keepers.

The Wisconsin Capitol Correspondents Board, which is in the process of being set up to replace the recently dissolved Wisconsin Capitol Correspondents Association, will consist of a representative (named by the Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists) from each of the five following news arenas:

Television stations.

Radio stations or radio networks.

Newspapers of general circulation.

Wire services that routinely have material published in print news outlets of general interest (such as the Associated Press).

Paid, subscription-based online-only news services published on a regular basis (such as the Wheeler Report or WisPolitics).

In the past, those seeking Capitol credentials were expected to fit into one of these categories, which naturally excluded a number of new media groups. In fact, even Wisconsin Reporter, a primarily online conservative news operation, received its credentials as a “wire service,” based on the publication of its articles in some local newspapers.

If we were to apply any conflict of interest rules to this arrangement, it would surely fail the test. Having “journalists” decide who gets access, even if it’s just defining the criteria, is a tool of self-preservation against competition.

Some argue there is little reason to have any credentialing process at all.

“The whole idea of credentialing sort of sticks in my craw,” says Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive. “In this era of citizen journalism, the lines (between media and regular folks) are becoming grayer and grayer.”

James Wigderson, a conservative blogger who writes a column for the Waukesha Freeman, thinks the Capitol Police or the sergeant at arms represent fairer judges than competing reporters, as long as credentials are offered on a “shall issue” basis.

“Trusting ‘journalists’ to decide who gets access is a leftover of the 20th century,” he wrote in an email to me. “Their presumption of a gatekeeper role is what drives many bloggers to write in the first place.”

I also pointed out to Craver that, regardless of the criteria, I could easily qualify for credentials if I wanted to apply, or I could ignore the system entirely if I needed to. But other independent writers could be unfairly blocked from access. At least my solution would remove the conflict of interest entirely.

Seriously, should someone like Bruce Murphy be kept from getting Capitol press credentials just because they don’t fit in the above categories?

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