Who’s a reporter when it comes to press credentials?

May 29, 2009

One of my esteemed colleagues sent me a question about policy relating to press credentials today. A very relevant issue for many. The old rules don’t apply in the era of new media. But it certainly doesn’t mean you give equal access to anyone who happens to know how to turn on wordpress. Below is the answer I provided. What’s yours?

That’s a tough one. The advice I give to clients is that while there may be 300 million citizen journalists out there (anyone with a cell camera can quickly send images to any major news outlet) that doesn’t mean that you need to treat all of them the same. The same basic criteria should apply to reporters–the stringer from a wild and crazy sometime newspaper with four readers should not necessarily receive the same focus as the reporter from the New York Times. Of course, if we are talking about adding to a list to send out updates, that is different–include everyone. But press credentials is more difficult. The truth is blogs are media. There are now 400,000 bloggers who make their livings with their blogs. Many have thousands of readers (my daughter is one of the top food bloggers in the country according to Financial Times anyway). And some have influence far beyond their limited readership.

My suggestion is to start with the understanding that bloggers are journalists and some far more reputable than others. Your group may have to come up with some criteria to decide if a blogger should be treated as a legitimate journalist some of which could be objective–how many visitors per month, how many commenters, etc., and part subjective: does this “journalist” have any credibility, is he/she responsible in the way information is treated, etc. Arianna Huffington of Huffington Post is one of the keynote speakers at the fall PRSA conference. She is hardly unbiased but her blog is considered one of the most influential in the nation–and most heavily visited. It would be insane not to grant her press credentials because she doesn’t write for newsprint.

I don’t know if that helps but my suggestion is work on a criteria for admission that is based on credibility and reach and include bloggers.

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