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Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Story Outside the Republican Meeting

There was another story going on outside the Allen County Republican Convention.

Protesters of Bush Administration policies were carrying signs peacefully on the sidewalk outside the main entrance to the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.

Blogger Robert Rouse of Fort Wayne was photographing the people on the sidewalk for a report on his weblog Left of Centrist. According to Mr. Rouse' first-hand account, a security officer for the Coliseum approached him to have him stop taking photographs.

The rest of his report can be found here.

Indiana Parley and Fort Wayne Observed support Mr. Rouse's right as a citizen to take photographs on public property. Indiana Parley and Fort Wayne Observed further support the ability of weblog journalists to conduct reporting as any reporter for the traditional media.

Mr. Rouse has done original reporting on his weblog in addition to opinion and commentary.

There is an implication by some of those who have left comments on his site that the security officer's actions were tied to the fact that there was a Republican meeting at the Coliseum. Indiana Parley doubts that there was any more connection other than overzealous security staff. However, IP will be asking additional questions of the Memorial Coliseum.

If Mr. Rouse had wished to enter the Republican meeting I believe he would have been welcomed and offered a donut.

However, the actions of the Coliseum security personnel and of a Fort Wayne police officer (as reported by Mr. Rouse earlier in the week when he took photographs of a shooting in his Lakeside neighborhood) highlight an important issue. That is the right of citizens and of new media in a world where technology is rapidly changing the way news is reported.

Photo above: Coliseum sidewalk photo taken by Robert Rouse. Photo copyrighted by Robert Rouse.

Crowd's a bit sparse, don't you think?
The "Officers" that are hired by the private firm now in charge of security are, for the most part, Allen County Reserves.

The "Company" that handles security is interesting though- ESG Security. They handle event and venue security at places like Conseco.

But- they also were in charge of training Republican Precinct officials during the last election cycle. Why would you have SECURITY specialists train POLL WORKERS?

Oh, and they have BIG TIME ties to the Republican Party.
Um, what? Where did they train GOP precinct officials? Are you talking about the election boards, where the Dems and GOPers are trained at the same time or the actual precinct committeemen.

I can say that of the training opportunities that were available in Allen County in the last year for GOP Precinct Committeemen, I'm not aware of a single one that was conducted by anyone but county officials or state party officials.
Read the story yourself:
Wow- that is interesting.

Makes you wonder about the "no-bid" contract that ESG got for Coliseum Security.
I agree that anyone can take photographs anywhere they have a legal right to be but come on, get over yourself. Just because you can publish a blog doesn't make you a journalist. I'd like to see someone with a sports blog show up at the RCA dome and think they can waltz into the locker room and start interviewing a player. How far do you think they would get with that?
Omar, I hardly think that is a fair comparison, considering the level of celebrity you are using as your benchmark. A free event at the Coliseum...starring Steve Shine and some loopy protesters...?
Omar actually raises a good point that I explained a few days ago to a young blogger who thought it would be a good idea to have "press passes" printed up for bloggers.

Press passes are generally used where the 'newsmaker' controls a venue.

The example I gave was that the NFL was perfectly within its rights to limit access to the NFL Combine. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is perfectly within its right to restrict which photographers would be permitted to use a certain platform. The promotos of a trade show are perfectly within their rights to restrict which journalists are able to be on the trade show floor.

Of course, these were not examples of "enterprise journalism" either.

Most bloggers doing original reporting are going to be engaged in enterprise journalism. That is, journalism where the reporter initiates the story.

There the blogger journalist has the same rights as any citizen to take photographs, research documents and conduct interviews.

Not every blogger is a journalist just as not every person who owns a printing press is a journalist and just as not every person who owns a video camera is a documentarian.

The ability of a blogger to transcend mere blogging and enter journalism is not simply a matter of self-declaring one's self to be a journalist. (Although that is a necessary first step.)

One becomes a journalist by the nature of credibility that one's readers or viewers extend to you.

Fort Wayne Observed is a weblog that has been cited by The Rocky Mountain News and Romenesko in recent weeks. It clearly is engaged in journalism. Indiana Parley is engaged in journalism. And Robert Rouse is engaged in journalism as he does original reporting.

Yet, I think that Omar is implying something else - that no blogger can be a journalist or that bloggers wouldn't be admitted to controlled venues.

(I think that Andrew, by the nature of his reply endorsing a qualitative difference between the venues, may be missing the point, too.)

Of course, Omar, in his implication, is flat-out wrong.

The example he gives is of a closed venue. One doesn't have to go very far for a good example of blogger having such access to sports coverage as he describes. The example is that of Fort Wayne Observed founder Nathan Gotsch pursuing his other blog activity with InsideUSC.com in the run-up to the Rose Bowl. He and his partner had access to the field and to players that had their blog being cited by ESPN Sports.
Mitch, I wasn't implying at all that "no blogger can be a journalist". My point was that just because someone has a blog doesn't make them a journalist and having a blog certainly doesn't qualify them for some special access. Again, I think it's rediculous that someone was told they could not take photos outside the Coliseum. I am also surprised that the Ft. Wayne police told him to stop taking photos at the shooting scene. As long as he wasn't trespassing somewhere he shouldn't have been or getting in the way of the investigation why would the cops even care? Omar.
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