Friday, June 15, 2007

Are we journalists? We strive to be.

Crossposted unedited from WTWC

While everyone frets over whether or not bloggers are journalists, I know that my Republican Senator’s staff regards our enterprise here as such.

Today Senator Kit Bond’s office sent a letter to his colleagues asking them to add their signatures to another letter, this one to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, demanding that the issue of the 5-13 discharge be investigated and obvious abuses set right. (apologies to the senators office. I had problems with the .pdf and the google docs are not nearly as pretty.)

The abuse of the 5-13 Discharge is an issue because bloggers made it such (examples here and here) after a piece in The Nation, How Specialist Towne Lost His Benefits. We seized on the issue, as we had the larger mental health issues for returning GI’s and the understaffing of Vet Centers. (See here, here, here, here, here, and here). We kept bringing it up until it gained traction, even though the mainstream media largely ignored the issue, and continues to do so.

“Bloggers have helped bring the necessary scrutiny to this important issue.” Said Shana Marchio, Communications Director for Senator Kit Bond (R-MO). “Bloggers offer folks a new medium to get their information and news. Their importance in the debating and sharing of ideas should not be discounted. At the same time, the relationship between bloggers and members of Congress and their spokespeople is an evolving one. Both sides are learning who to trust and how to interact. As a part of the Fourth Estate, it is essential that professional bloggers adhere to the ethics and professional conduct standards that traditional members of the media follow as their role in information sharing continues to grow. Also, I do believe that bloggers will only be come more important in coming elections and it’s important to start a dialogue.”

This is all new territory for everyone. But I think I know why the best source I have in Washington is the Communications Director for my Republican Senator. She is 30 years old. Where blogs and the internet are concerned, she instinctively “gets” it because she grew up with technology. I may have policy disagreements with my Republican Senator – but credit where credit is due. He was smart enough to hire a young person with that innate sense for press second six years ago, and promote to communications director from within.

On the trust issue, everyone has to be prepared to get burned once or twice. But getting burned is part of the bargain when you blaze a trail. So we move forward cautiously. The importance of the free exchange of information is only going to gain in importance. As it does, the issues will work themselves out.

Bloggers do not have the immediate access that reporters working the Washington bureaus have, nor do we have the resources to do a lot of original reporting. All we really have are our wits and our words...and our word. Because that is the irrefutable dynamic, the blogs represent a truly new, and meretricious, form of media, and we will earn exactly the amount of credibility and respect that we deserve.

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