As promised, Beat the Press tonight did a segment on NECN’s decision, at the Ogo campaign’s request, to evict us from the TV studio at the MA-05 debate last week. Here are my recollections from watching it —
I’ll post video when it’s available you can watch the video here.
The taped piece was fine (I can exhale now), and the discussion ended up being quite interesting. It was initially framed as the old “are they journalists” query, but Dan Kennedy reframed it — and he was exactly right to do so. Dan posited that the question shouldn’t be whether bloggers are journalists, but rather “whether they are doing journalism.” In this instance, he concluded, we were, so we should have been allowed to stay.
Joe Sciacca agreed, and pointed out that Dan added that it’s a slippery slope from excluding bloggers to excluding opinion columnists who have made their views clear. Joe Sciacca agreed, adding that, in his view, excluding people from events like political debates is generally a bad thing, and so to the extent practicable, the policy should be one of inclusion rather than exclusion. He also noticed that, now that Comedy Central routinely gets media credentials, the horse has left the barn as far as credentialing goes. [Having just reviewed the video, I realize I had misremembered who made the opinion columnist point — sorry about that.]
John Carroll and Callie Crossley took the opposing view, arguing that because we are fundraising (us? fundraising? by the way, it’s not too late to donate to Niki!) in addition to offering commentary, it was appropriate to exclude us. I’m not sure I see what’s so important about the fact that we try to raise money for candidates we like. How is that categorically different from the rest of what we do for those candidates, from arguments about why they deserve to win to criticizing their opponents to encouraging people to volunteer? It’s all in the service of helping them win an election — and when the Globe endorses a candidate, aren’t they also trying to get the candidate elected? Why is fundraising categorically different from that — after all, mightn’t a Globe endorsement encourage someone to donate to the endorsed candidate? We can talk more about that another time. At least Crossley didn’t trot out her well-worn “BUT THEY’RE NOT JOURNALISTS!” war cry.
Finally, Emily Rooney made the amusing observation that Jim Braude himself — the moderator of the now-famous debate — has wondered aloud whether he’s a “journalist.” And there can’t be much doubt about who he’d like to see win that race. Maybe the Ogo campaign should have asked to have him excluded too?
The biggest surprise (to me, anyway) was Phil Balboni, the head of NECN, in the taped piece. Balboni opined quite strenuously that bloggers are not journalists as he understands the term, and that they would be handling things differently from now on. I hope that doesn’t mean that NECN won’t be inviting bloggers (of whatever political stripe) to cover events occurring at their studios. NECN has been uniquely welcoming among Boston TV stations to bloggers up to this point, and it would be a shame to see that end.