- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 20, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — A few scribes publishing in a newer medium will join the thousands of newspaper, magazine and broadcast journalists at this summer’s political conventions.

They will be blogging, or posting their reports and observations directly to the Internet.

The Democrats are holding true to their “party of inclusion” billing vis-a-vis the online chroniclers, whose Web logs have leapt in popularity this year as political junkies increasingly get their fix with mouse clicks.

Democrats say they will offer press credentials to a few bloggers. Republicans say they have yet to decide what to do about them — credentialing deadlines passed with no announcement on whether bloggers could even apply.

Republican Party spokesman Leonardo Alcivar said details are still being worked out, but some analysts think the party is wary of bloggers, who tend to be less predictable than mainstream journalists.

Michele Catalano, 31, of the Command Post, a mostly news-as-it-happens blog, said she will cover the Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 convention at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan from outside if necessary.

“To compete with the regular media, it is important to be where the media is,” the East Meadow, N.Y., blogger said.

Scott Schmidt, 28, a Republican Party activist who blogs from Los Angeles, said Republicans were “late to the game” but now appear serious about granting some access.

He has traded e-mails informally with convention officials about getting inside. But Mr. Schmidt is not waiting. As a backup, he sought credentials as a guest of the California delegation.

More than 50 bloggers met last Tuesday’s deadline to apply for Democratic National Convention credentials, of which an undetermined number will be selected based on originality, readership level and professionalism, said convention spokeswoman Lina Garcia.

She said the Democrats consider blogs important for engaging younger voters and expanding journalism to the citizenry. But that won’t make the credentialing easy.

Colette D. Marine, a 35-year-old Chicago blogger trying to get credentialed for the July 26-29 gathering in Boston, fortified her application with a brief essay and samples of previous postings after the Democrats asked for more material.

“I get a sense they are making it up as they go along,” Miss Marine said. “It’s a new phenomenon. I’m sure they are just as confused as everybody is.”

For traditional press, both big parties generally rely on rules established by committees of journalists for getting passes to cover Congress. But no such procedure exists for blogs.

Bloggers with Democratic credentials will get the same access as any other journalists to most of the FleetCenter in Boston. If they need assigned spaces, they will be asked to pay for phone, furniture rental and other expenses just like mainstream journalists.

But bloggers will share proportionally fewer passes to get on the convention floor, where speeches are delivered.

As for the Republicans, Sree Sreenivasan, a new media professor at Columbia University, said the party ought to embrace at least a few sympathetic bloggers.

“Most bloggers who believe strongly in one party or another aren’t going to stray from the message,” Mr. Sreenivasan said. “They will give access to stories that may not be covered otherwise.”

Some of the bloggers seeking credentials say their coverage plans involve little more than going where the mood takes them. Their personal accounts are unfettered by editors — and most don’t pretend to be objective.

“We don’t have those constraints, which provides for more colorful coverage,” said Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, whose Daily Kos is among the most visited political blogs.

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