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Without newspapers … who gets credentialed?

November 10, 2008

Let’s just pretend for a second that it’s 100 percent certain — newspapers are going to die. In the new media landscape, who gets access to political candidates, celebrities, etc.? Does anybody?

To be honest, I’m a little confused as to some of the current “systems” of handing out press credentials. I covered the Seattle Seahawks occasionally for the Daily Record, a small-ish paper in Ellensburg, Wash. Each year, we put in a “bid” (not monetary in value) to the team for a press pass. We usually ended up with the lowest level press pass, which was a once-per-game little piece of construction paper. Big dailies like the Seattle Times and P-I got laminated press passes with the reporters’ photographs on them. (Obviously they didn’t have to put in bids, either.)

So the “system” was basically that whoever had the most prominence got the highest level of access (or so it seemed). Makes sense, really: The Seahawks would obviously want to be covered by the more visible media outlets.

How does that shake out, though, assuming as we are that newspapers will die? Do sports clubs, agencies, etc. — I’m assuming the system of being credentialed is similar elsewhere — just start dolling out press passes to whoever’s most popular? Or does some other system emerge? Surely coverage of the White House wouldn’t fall to a popularity contest … or would it? Or would that depend from administration to administration?

These are a lot of rhetorical questions, but before long they’ll need to be asked by the movers and shakers of the industry. For example, Spot.Us‘s Dave Cohn wonders in a conversation with Jason Preston whether or not Spot.Us journalists will be hampered by not having the level of access that “mainstream” news outlets do:

Jason: Do you think that journalists working on Spot Us projects will find it harder to work on their stories than a journalist with the full resources of an established newspaper at their backs?
Dave: That is very possible, but ideally the reporter would ask for as much money as they need to do the story right. One thing that I think reporters will have to deal with is the credibility factor when making a phone call or going out to be a reporter.

Ah! He mentions “credibility” — perhaps that will be the measure of who gets what. But even then, who’s to say? (The general public, probably and as usual, but then does one credential reporters based on the general feeling of which sources people tend to trust?)

Steve Yelvington points out that we’re lucky to have such variety right now, but it probably won’t last. More big media giants will topple and when they do, someone — or more likely someones — will be there to fill the gap. What’s confusing is how we’ll ever be able to sort everything out.

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