DENVER — Even for members of the traditional media here in Denver, access to floor seating at the convention has been scarce, and talk time with politicians and celebrities at the Democratic National Convention is a game of persistence and luck. Some days you see all the newsmakers, other days you’re stuck on the outside with the gawkers, watching Anderson Cooper do your job.
But for the bloggers who followed all the DNC rules and took advantage of never-before-seen opportunities to cover the convention in Denver, access has been unprecedented, and relationships between the party and the bloggers who cover it are improving.
“We’re definitely being treated as press by the people that matter,” Pam Pohly of EverydayCitizen.com told me. “The DNC has been fabulous.”
Pohly added that the party even explained some journalism-lingo terms to her when they were unclear in memos to the press.
“They’ll write back and explain,” she said. “They’ve said they’re honored to have us.”
Floor Access Still Tricky
That said, like anything new, accessibility has not come without its challenges. State delegations control the floor access for the journalists that cover their local regions. So when a state isn’t on board with helping out new media, the party can do little to enforce the rules. Pohly said her Internet connection and charging station weren’t accessible at her embed with the Kansas delegation and that she had trouble getting information about delegate events outside the Pepsi Center.
“I’m a party person turned new media, not the other way around; that’s why it was shocking to me,” she said.
It takes about three tries to find the right place to go at the Pepsi Center to find the bloggers in their main filing space. It’s not well marked, and many have complained about having trouble knowing where to go. Few of the security officials I spoke with had any clue where there “bloggers lounge” even was.
But in the Big Tent, with familiar logos like Digg and Google, the bloggers have a respite to themselves, away from the traditional media facilities in the Pepsi Center parking lot, complete with smoothie bar and massage chairs at the Google retreat. Is all this fueling jealousy between new and old media?
The old media bloggers “get it,” said Sarah Burris, a blogger for Rock the Trail, Rock the Vote’s blog. Burris said she respects bloggers for publications like Talking Points Memo and the Huffington Post because “they allow the opportunity to take a story and really report on it without being in fear of a crazy editor.”
So who’s reading what? Has all the work the party and the bloggers are putting in been worth it? An informal poll from MediaBistro’s FishbowlDC found that most news junkies are following the conventions with C-SPAN on TV and Roll Call online.
Will the Republican National Convention be as responsive to the blog world as the DNC has been? We’ll find out next week.
Laura Hertzfeld is the producer for PBS’ elections sites online, including PBS Vote 2008. She is credentialed as media through PBS to cover the conventions and will be reporting for MediaShift from both confabs. All photos here were taken by her; you can see all of them via her Flickr stream.