Accuracy in Media

When it came to “buzz” power, blogs played a role similar to that of mainstream media and the candidates’ campaigns themselves during the last presidential campaign. A new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found blogs sometimes created the buzz and sometimes amplified the buzz which originated elsewhere. It’s also not surprising that it found bloggers act as something of a reference point for mainstream media when it comes to getting the pulse of the rest of the Internet. They’re the outposts on the edge of the electronic frontier, and journalists are likely to check in there first.

Meanwhile, the Indian government is making friendly with bloggers by working to set up rules for granting accreditation to Internet journalists and bloggers. It’s a first and it comes on the heels of a White House press pass granted to Garret Graff of FishBowlDC. In addition, bloggers reported live on the presidential campaign trail and at the party campaign conventions. And who can forget Jeff Gannon’s fight for his right to question the President?

In India, the rise of blogger influence is thought to have coincided with citizen reporting during the tsunami crisis. Government Information Officer Shakuntala Mahawal told the Times of India “We are framing the rules for giving accreditation to dotcom journalists, including bloggers. We want an inclusive policy and we want to complete the process as early as possible.”

The deal is for “serious” bloggers only, though. “The idea is to sequester the genuine from the fraud and acknowledge those who really want to make a difference, ” he says. “They will be given facilities and better access through accreditation.”

The idea of government deciding which bloggers are “genuine” is problematic. The current move comes after tough battles cyber journalists and bloggers have had in trying to gain access to government offices and press conferences due to mandatory Press Information Bureau (PIB) accreditation.  Things only got rougher when the government was left red-faced over corruption expos?s posted on the tehelka.com website. The Times reports the site showed top politicians accepting kickbacks. Apparently Tehelka (the “Peoples’ Paper”) was able to accomplish reporting that eluded the mainstream press.

Now a new Congress is enabling reform. It’s too early to say what effect accreditation will have, although it is an artifact of the recognition by government of the increasing political influence of blogs and cyber journalists.

Blogger Amit Varma of India Uncut finds humor in the idea of government deciding to gives its bureaucratic stamp of approval to blogging: “Knowing how government works in India, they’ll ask me for a traffic certificate, and there’ll be a panel of babus to evaluate my blog and see if my content is ‘serious.’ Hazaar questions will be asked.”

Varma points out that most reporting, like that which he did after the tsunami, doesn’t need government accreditation. “[W]hile I may need it to enter a press conference by the prime minister, what will I have to do to get it?”  So, um, thanks for the kind words, but I don’t think we’ll be applying to you anytime soon.”

And while government accreditation may open some doors, it remains to be seen as to whether it will give any advantage to blogs like Mediaah! which was pressured into shutting down by big India media. In a recent turn of events, the “brutally unbiased” Mediaah! reports the media bigwigs have reconsidered and decided to pass the peace pipe around. It would seem some blogs are more in need of lawyers and peace pipes than government accreditation.




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