Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bloggers and the Lobby

After initially taking the view that political bloggers had little to gain, and much to lose in terms of their independence by joining the parliamentary lobby, my thinking has changed on this point over the past couple of years. The gradual convergence of the blogosphere and the mainstream media which I wrote about in the Guide to Political Blogging earlier this year has rendered the old dividing lines obsolete.

As I have pointed out before, what we must now call the Big Five political blogs are, by virtue of their size, influence, and networks, practically part of the mainstream media already. They are, in no particular order, Iain Dale's Diary, Guido Fawkes, Political Betting, Conservative Home and the most recent newcomer to the elite, Liberal Conspiracy. In my view, all should be in the lobby.

I wrote in the 2008 Guide: "I always thought the day political blogging really entered the mainstream would be when one of the big four blogs managed to obtain a lobby pass. If they haven’t yet given one to the new co-editor of Con Home, I have a feeling they soon will do."

This was a reference to Jonathan Isaby, who had just proved my point about convergence by moving from being a Daily Telegraph lobby hack to editing the site which used to be, rather unfairly, known in some circles as Continuity IDS.

But according to this report in a well-known journalism trade publication yesterday, I was apparently premature in my forecast. In a speech at the London School of Economics, lobby chair Ben Brogan said the issue of whether to admit bloggers to the lobby was in fact causing "a huge headache."

Asked by a member of the audience whether the Commons authorities would consider the move, Brogan replied: "They've been very reluctant to start issuing passes to new media outlets. There's an ongoing conversation whether the House of Commons authorities start issuing media passes to bloggers. That remains unresolved."

Now I am all too aware of the limitation on desk space in the Press Gallery, having been involved in the very early planning stages of the refurbishment that eventually took place in summer 2007, but in the era of wireless broadband, bloggers hardly need a permanent desk in the Gallery in order to update their sites. This is essentially an argument about access, not desks.

Ben's comment doesn't make it entirely clear whether it's the lobby or the Serjeant-at-Arms Office - or both - which is resisting the move. But as a blogger himself - and a very fine one in my view - I would hope that Mr Brogan is quietly making the case for reform.

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Matt Wardman said...

Hmmm. What formal criteria would you suggest, Paul?

I'd be tempted to suggest a "must have full time staff" criteria and a UK Press Pass (which should be easy to get) - rather than simply giving them to individuals or groups of individuals.


Letters From A Tory said...

Brogan can do whatever he likes, but he will be met with a brick wall of resistance from his colleagues who have shown their distaste and loating for 'the blogopshere on many occasions'.

Anonymous said...

Point of information:

Jonathan was never a "lobby hack" while at the Telegraph, he was a diarist with a press gallery pass. The gallery and the lobby are two different creatures, as I'm sure you know.
I understand that he has already been turned down for a ConHome pass by the men in tights.
I'm not totally sure of their reasoning. But it may have something to do with the fact that CH is an avowedly partisan organisation. But then why does Tribune have one?

Anonymous said...

What about Nick Robinson etc. etc. They all have passes yet blog?

Jonathan Calder said...

I have a Press Gallery pass, though for Liberal Democrat News rather than my blog.

MorrisOx said...

Why sup with the devil, Paul. Show me how being sucked into the maw would do anything other than dilute the fundamental independence of bloggers who go and talk to sources rather than sit and wait to have political drivel poured down their gilded throats

Anonymous said...

Wireless access in Parliament? Don't make me laugh or weep, rather.