Follow Up on the SCOTUSblog Matter

Note: There will be a meeting of the Standing Committee today at 10:30 am to hear from SCOTUSblog regarding the renewal of Lyle Denniston’s credentials. From what I understand, it is open to the public.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 14 media outlets, including CNN, NPR and Politico, have written this letter to the Daily Press Gallery in support of SCOTUSblog’s position. The letter addresses some of the specific concerns regarding Denniston’s application, including a fairly cursory paragraph regarding his and the blog’s need for direct access to the Senate, but its primary focus is on the question of how the Standing Committee should approach non-traditional media.

The letter states: “The Reporters Committee’s interest in this matter stems in part from our role in assisting the Gallery in earlier years with fine-tuning the very rules that are at issue in the SCOTUSblog application.” I assume this refers to the 2005 revisions discussed in my prior post.

The RCFP urges the Standing Committee to focus on the function that a journalist serves—“providing news and commentary about pressing issues to the public”—rather than on how his or her organization is organized and financed. In construing its rules, the Standing Committee should consider “the changing finances of the media industry” and should not automatically reject non-traditional arrangements such as the Bloomberg sponsorship.

Moreover, it notes pointedly, “it does not seem workable for credentialing rules as applied to focus solely on a blog’s financial and organizational structure when many large media outlets are owned by corporate conglomerates or obtain substantial advertising revenue from individual companies.” It might have added that since the Standing Committee’s 2005 guidelines allow these media outlets and their corporate owners to continue lobbying as usual, it would be a tad unfair to exclude smaller or less established media outlets based on the mere possibility that they could engage in lobbying.