Dear Mr. Cox:
I don't know about you. But with all the Mad Cow and e. coli running around our food supply, I try to steer clear of any meat produced or slaughtered in factory conditions. I'm happy to pay the extra money to sustain smaller farms and local production with better standards of care, thank you very much. And I gotta say, your bid to "bring [me] into the MBA feed" makes it sound an awful like you're offering me a place in line as a beef cow, plodding her way dumbly to slaughter.
There are other bloggers at the trial from FireDogLake and they too were offered expedited membership in the MBA so they could be part of our feed and the AP deal. The woman who runs FDL has been in the hospital and so our efforts to sort that out was held up but I am going to DC tomorrow and hope to meet with her and try again to bring them into the MBA Feed.
See, here's what this sounds like to me. An attempt to make sure you brand the blogger content coming out of this trial, rather than Jane at FireDogLake. Or worse--an attempt to dilute the power of the (IMO) best source of reporting on this trial, the FireDogLake blog, by giving away what FDL's readers have invested in, to give it away for free, to the AP.
Here's why this bugs me so much. First of all, Jane and Christy and Arianna worked hard--independent of your efforts--to get their own passes for this trial. They did so appealing not to your system of credentialing, but by talking about reach and--this is important--expertise. You know, the two years of top reporting Jane has dedicated to this story.
And while I'm sure it was a lot easier for me to get a pass, applying as I did the day of the deadline, given that several other bloggers had already had these discussions about gettting a pass, my credentials for receiving one are quite different from those you require of your bloggers: The pass actually belongs to DailyKos, so it partly depends on a community of 700,000 readers, rivaling what the MSM brings to the table. Moreover, I've got a whole lot of expertise on this story. Byron York teases me that I've written more on this story than anyone and he may well be right. I've beaten the media with a number of scoops on this story. And, oh by the way, I wrote a book on it. Those are the elements that got me a pass in my own name to this trial, not any rules of credentialing that you've put into place.
Now perhaps you'd accuse me of being churlish, bitching like an "elite" blogger (though trust me, the readership of The Next Hurrah definitely qualifies it as a consonant-level blog). But really, there are two concrete things about your project that offend me as much as factory farming.
First is your cavalier attitude about this story in particular:
I am not particularly concerned with who exactly is coming to cover THIS trial; my aim is to make sure folks in the media, in the courts and elsewhere understand that whatever interest those other blogs might have in the Libby trial - and that while our members may have their own reasons for wanting to cover the trial - the MBA, as an organization, has no particular interest in the Libby Trial per se except that it serves as a model for how the courts (and other institutions) might credential bloggers in the future.
Because you see, I (and Jane, I'm sure) am concerned with who exactly is coming to cover this trial. Jane has brought together the best team covering this trial, period. She has had a prosecutor and a defense lawyer, her own amazing voice, a blogger who has been covering this story from Day One, someone who wrote a book on this topic (me!), and the person who has done the best work on the wider context--the Niger intelligence--all reporting from one blog. That's an amazing team, the match of anything the mainstream media is offering. Plus, we're liveblogging, which the mainstream media has expressed gratitude for. This is the kind of production designed to treat this story with the attention it deserves.
And then there's the importance of having this story be told from a blogger's perspective, which you don't seem to appreciate. The reason I, for one, have been following this story is because there is so much about it the mainstream media cannot comfortably report. This story strikes at the core reasons why there are bloggers, why so many readers and writers have decided to invest their time in citizen driven media. Without a real awareness of that, why tell the story?
But you, apparently, are treating this as a stunt, credentialing for credentialing's sake, with no eye toward the product you can deliver or the expertise you bring to the table. Don't get me wrong--I'm thrilled Clarice Feldman is reporting on this case (please, please, get Tom Maguire, too!), and will be thrilled to see Jeralyn back on your pass. But by putting forward anything less than the best the blogosphere has to offer, what message are we sending to other courts and institutions who might consider credentialing bloggers? We'll be seen as trial tourists, not the real experts many of us are. (And it's not that the MBA blogging has been BAD, some of it has been excellent. It's just that not all of the bloggers who have come through seem to have their heart in it.)
I'm here because I've worked long and hard to be here. The same is true for Christy and Jane. Your cavalier attitude about that work really diminishes the work of bloggers who work so hard.
And there's one more thing. It's this:
[Note: As a general rule, the MBA does not accept anonymous bloggers as members. We are willing to make exceptions and have done so but this is done rarely and only when there is a clear and compelling reason for anonymity. Regardless, all member applicants must disclose their identity to the chairman of the membership review committee who will make a preliminary determination on whether to recommend the applicant to the board anonymously or under a pseudonym.]
You know what? Someone who mistakes pseudonymity for anonymity is missing just a few critical things about blogging that go right to the core of its importance. Pseudonymity is the maintenance of a consistent identity, one to which credibility--or lack thereof--attaches just like it does to the name Bob Cox or Marcy Wheeler. Anonymity is something different, one that doesn't exist in any fully formed blog.
I'm sure you and I would disagree about this. But frankly, pseudonymity is one of the most important aspects to retaining the vitality of the blogosphere. Pseudonymity guarantees that citizens whose jobs or other life circumstances would not permit them to speak politically, to do so, using a consistent identity, but one that does not endanger their livelihood. This country was built on the importance of citizen speech--built by a bunch of guys writing as Publius. In this day and age, that critical aspect of our democracy is getting harder and harder to sustain. Blogging has brought it back, to a degree. And I, for one, don't want to belong to any organization that discards such an important tool of democratic speech without even understanding the difference between pseudonymity and anonymity.
Well, it's up to Jane whether FDL's great coverage will be "brought into the feed." But I, for one, will continue to report on this story as I have been doing, at DKos and here at TNH. You see, even writing under the pseudonym emptywheel I was able to build up my reputation for this coverage. And I owe it to the community whose trust earned me the credential into the courtroom to keep doing what I've been doing.