It's no secret that the Democratic National Convention in Boston is a big mess. Road closings are likely to shut down the city. The convention is so short on money that organizers had to cut costs by moving the media center two blocks from the FleetCenter, relying on corporate sponsors to handle much of the catering and party planning, and outsource work to out-of-state labor for things like construction and video production. Local unions are up in arms about the non-windfall of jobs, and several have threatened to picket the convention.
It's no surprise, then, that the much-ballyhooed introduction of press credentials for bloggers should go less-than-smoothly.
I'm not a full-time employee of TAS or any other publication, and the traditional rules for press credentials prohibit freelancers. Though I don't expect that this rule is enforced with very much rigor, I applied for press credentials under my blog anyway. What fun, I thought, to be part of the convention-blogging experiment, to play with various multimedia technology on my own site, and to have the freedom of working on my own behalf, thus not having to worry about the guilt of reporting for one publication with another publication's press pass.
So I was happy to receive a letter in the mail confirming that my credentials had been approved. I was quite a bit less happy to receive this email the next day:
Dear John Tabin:
Last week you were sent a credential allocation letter not properly authorized by the DNCC for press coverage of the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
Upon further review of the overall site capacity at the FleetCenter, we are no longer able to issue your organization a DNCC Press Gallery Credential. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Again, we thank you for your interest in covering the 2004 Democratic National Convention and wish you well in your endeavors.
Francesca Gage and Michael Hurlbut
Directors of the DNCC Press Gallery
I found it a bit strange that my letter could be deemed "not properly authorized," seeing as it was signed, by hand, by Ms. Gage herself.
Eric Schnure, one of the official DNCC bloggers, told Jay Rosen, plausibly enough, that the "vast majority of applications came from left-leaning or progressive bloggers. Therefore, the vast majority of credentialed bloggers are left-leaning and progressive. Likewise, the vast majority of bloggers who received a credential in error are also left-leaning and progressive." I've found at least one lefty blogger who indeed got his credentials canceled, the self-described "unpopular and nigh-unread blogger Justin Nawrocki."
When I called Francesca Gage to ask about the error, she referred me, after I began to probe, to a consultant for the DNCC Press Gallery, veteran Democratic flack Lorraine Boles. (She was Director of Communication for Al Gore back when he was Vice President.) Boles told me that over 200 bloggers had applied, and that the Press Gallery had been overwhelmed. ""We feel really badly about it," she said, calling the situation a "snafu." The word "snafu," of course, is derived from military acronym that is particularly apt to the Boston Convention.
Boles adamantly denied any ideological vetting, saying there were "conservative bloggers" approved. But all of the bloggers I could find touting their credentials were left-of-center, leading me to wonder just who these conservative bloggers were.
As it turns out, Patrick Bolton of the prominent rightish OxBlog posted yesterday that the OxBloggers had "just received a very nice call from the DNC, saying very kind words about our blog and inviting us to cover the Boston convention as an accredited blogger."
Interestingly enough, Belton posted that at 1:45 EDT. I spoke with Boles, according to my cell phone log (which usually runs a few minutes fast), between 12:13 and 12:25.
"CYA" was also, originally, a military acronym, for something that's obviously not quite as easy a trick in the digital age.
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