Garf to Graff: Take Press Room Blogging to the Next Level

Media | United States | Access/Network
Story in the Times: White House Approves Pass for Blogger


I suppose this is a nice conclusion of sorts to the Stuck at the Gates story about the breaking of the "Jeff Gannon" scandal (which I’ve promised to update). Garrett Graff of Media Bistro’s FishbowlDC has been testing the notion all week that "anybody can get a day pass," and it’s finally come through. Thanks to some assistance from the big media, Graff has got a day pass today, and launched into his West Wing Reportage. Graff blogs from the press room (otherwise distinguished as "liveblogging"), and writes afterwards as well.

One can call this a victory for Blogging– more so than bloggers being allowed to blog the conventions (which were really just PR affairs)– and maybe it will encourage "blogger passes" at other events. It’s certainly a victory for the MediaBistro brand. And for Graff, he’s not just a blogger, he’s also a technology consultant at EchoDitto.

But I would exhort Graff to use the medium to aspire upwards (which he seems to be doing in his first posts), above his site’s label of being a "gossip blog." There are bloggers who are act as stringers, and succeed because they keep to their beat. Graff’s beat is the White House press corps. It’s something that Dan Froomkin and Dana Milbank of the Washington Post have written about, but haven’t pressed fully, since their beat extends far beyond the press room.

So here’s a couple of things I’d like to see Graff do:

Who’s who in the White House press corps? I emailed the White House Correspondents Association. Ellen Shearer, Co-Director of the Medill News Service, responded and told me that they don’t release their list. Nor do they know who has a Day Pass on any given day. Consider one of the revealing statements President Bush: leveled at a reporter: "You’re assuming that you represent the public. I don’t accept that." We could judge for ourselves… if we only had a clearer picture of who’s who.

Who asks what and what is asked? The aforementioned Froomkin is the assistant editor of the Nieman Watchdog site, which aims to collect questions from the public, for the President and other public figures (so that they may represent us, of course…). I have gone one step further in proposing a question scoreboard, a system which will let users add their approval to other questions being proposed, and thus it would aim to reduce the redundancy of questions. A reporter in the interactive media should do the scorekeeping. That will set him apart from the stereotype of a gossip columnist– or that of a blogger.

Continue the push for reform. Eileen Smith was quite serious in publishing her Peoples’ Bill of Rights for White House Transparency a year ago– in the blog post which first exposed Gannon. Her work deserves attention and follow-up by people engaged in this on a daily basis.

Update, March 25th, 2007: Alas, none of these were implemented. The Republic still stands. And Graff left FishbowlDC in May 2006, and it appears that the White House blogger’s seat has been abandoned.

[I had misspelled Graff’s first name originally. It has two r’s: Garrett.]