Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Online media: no respect

I don't get no respect. I played hide-and-seek, and they wouldn't even look for me. &mdash Rodney Dangerfield

When Rep. Steve Smith (R-Mound) attempted to amend the rules of the Minnesota House to include online journalists, Rep. Tony Sertich (DFL-Chisholm) simply ruled it out of order. According to the web site of KFAI-FM:
On Tuesday, Feb. 24, DFL Rep. Sertich refused to allow "his" Rules and Legislative Administration Committee to consider an amendment (HRA 007) to House Rule 2.42, authored by Republican Committee member Steve Smith who was not present at today's Rules Committee meeting. Thus did Rep. Sertich declare consideration of Smith's amendment to insert online journalism into House Rule 2.40/2.42 out of order, lacking the presence of its author.

KFAI hosted a roundtable discussion today about online media access to Legislative proceedings. Guests included Paul Schmelzer, Editor, Minnesota Independent; Shawn Towle, Editor/Publisher, Checks&; and Chuck Olsen, Principal, Reporter/Editor, The Noticeably absent were representatives from True North and Politics in Minnesota, but regardless I suspect that there would have been more agreement than not on this topic.

The panel raised some significant questions about freedom of the press, who should be credentialed and by what organization, and the validity of even using the term "online" media (in other words, why even draw the distinction?). The House seems to have no problem with anyone attending public meetings at the Capitol and taking notes, but there are security and possibly political issues as soon as the video cameras come out.

To paraphrase Dangerfield, if I quit blogging tomorrow, I might be the only person who knew that I quit. But other online outlets have gained the respect of educated and engaged folks across the political spectrum, while some of their olde media counterparts suffer from cutbacks and bankruptcies. As Thomas Jefferson said, "Information is the currency of democracy." We citizens should compel our elected representatives to recognize legitimate online news outlets, to serve as an additional tool to help us oversee our ongoing experiment in self-government.

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