This just in: Bloggers are acting like real reporters

On Blogs

January 21, 2007|By Troy McCullough | Troy McCullough,Sun Columnist

Sometimes with blogging, the medium threatens to become the message.

Such was the case last week when bloggers showed up in Washington and took their place among the ranks of credentialed journalists at the I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial.

Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is charged with obstruction of justice and lying to FBI agents investigating how the name of a CIA employee whose husband had criticized the White House had become public. In the lead-up to his trial earlier this month, a group called the Media Bloggers Association announced that the U.S. District Court in Washington had offered press credentials for two bloggers.

The bloggers won't get a seat in the courtroom. Along with dozens of other members of the credentialed media pool, they will be relegated to one of two overflow rooms with a closed-circuit hookup to the courtroom as well as Internet access. Robert Cox, the founder of the Media Bloggers Association, said that the two reserved seats would be rotated among about 16 bloggers of varying political leanings over the four to six weeks the trial is expected to last.

"I have been working with the folks at the federal judiciary for over a year to create this opportunity," Cox wrote. "It has never been done before. Behind this may be many additional opportunities with the federal and state supreme courts so getting this one right opens up the door to many other cool things. Other institutions will surely be looking at this as well."

In terms of numbers, the bloggers will represent barely a fraction of the total press pool, and they will work alongside reporters from media outlets with far more influence, readership and reach.

But for most people, that hardly seemed to be the point. The credentials for a medium that has yet to firmly establish its place within journalism came as a surprise to many.

ABC News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and CNN all weighed in, as did many of the most prominent bloggers. The blog angle dominated pre-trial news coverage for several days. And depending on whom you listened to or read over the past couple of weeks, the credentialing represented an enlightened leap forward or a major defeat for civilized public discourse.

The truth, of course, was much more mundane. The trial got under way with the plodding minutiae that goes along with jury selection. The first blog post came from Cox on Tuesday: "The army of journalists covering the Lewis `Scooter' Libby trial showed up for work today," he wrote. "The E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse is still standing. The sun will set in the west. All this despite bloggers showing up today for the first time as credentialed members of the media covering a federal trial."

Cox described talking to an ABC News producer who was doing a piece on him. He wrote about the media room that he was assigned to. He mentioned his brief trouble getting through court security. He mused over the rules of writing about the jurors.

None of it was too enlightened. Nor was it uncivilized - which seemed to indicate that the trial testimony, not the bloggers covering it, would be making the biggest headlines this week.

And that's a message worth blogging about.

Listen to Troy McCullough's podcasts at baltimoresun.com/onblogs.

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