Thursday, September 20, 2007

let bloggers be bloggers?

From the presidential campaigns to professional meetings and conferences, organizations continue to grapple with how, when and whether to issue press credentials to bloggers -- or create new policies just for them. In our ongoing coverage of the issue (see our previous posts here), we've found two recent examples of how the struggle's unfolding. The New York Observer suggests that political campaigns have begun reshaping their relationships with bloggers, now more numerous and diverse:
That’s why the smart campaigns are building a different model. George Allen’s “Macaca” moment last fall confirmed the power of the Internet to rapidly and widely spread breaking political news, whatever its source. So in the wake of Macaca, the presidential candidates have figured out that it makes more sense to treat blogs as news outlets—if partisan ones—to be used to disseminate a message, rather than as constituents to be courted. That strategy subtly puts them, not the bloggers, in the driver’s seat.
At the same time, campaigns have largely abandoned seeking bloggers as supporters and spokespeople for their cause. Blogger-only access to candidates and their breaking news means the campaigns have begun cutting out mainstream reporters on certain stories, the article notes:
“There might be times when I see something on a blog and wish that they had called me,” says Dan Balz, The Washington Post’s veteran political reporter. “I’ll call and say, ‘That’s something I’d like to have known.’” Still, he adds, “there’s too much else to worry about. There’s so many moving pieces in this campaign. There’s food for all.”
Not so fast, says a column in the September-October issue of Communication World, the magazine of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). (IABC members can access the full article here.) What about "live-blogging," in-the-moment reports from your conference or meeting? Should those bloggers get press credentials, or should you boot them out for videocasting your speech live? The column notes the issue didn't exist years ago, due to the inherent time lag in reporting from a conference site:
Today, the time lag has all but disappeared because of some nifty developments including speech-to-text (making it easy for a slow typist to dictate posts to a blog) and unobtrusive blogging via a smart phone with a QWERTY keypad. It is even possible for a blogger to train a high-resolution web cam at a presenter and stream a multimedia presentation to an outside web site.
To its credit, the article quotes the shocked and the savvy, reflecting views that range from angry to accommodating -- and indicating that the issue's far from settled in most organizations. We recommend you:
  • amend your current press credentialing to accommodate bloggers for what they are: bloggers with opinions, or journalist-bloggers. If you accommodated journalist columnists before, won't you accommodate opinionated bloggers today?
  • consider access you can offer bloggers that will make your communications efforts more efficient and reflect their needs -- and whether that changes what you offer mainstream reporters, many of whom also blog.
  • remain aware that any participant may register for your meeting at full price and blog while sitting in a session.
  • make clear your policies in advance of meeting registration, and brief your speakers and their organizations about any policy changes, particularly when it comes to live broadcasting from the meeting room.

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