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Capitol Press Corps Stonewalls Credentials for Online Peers

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The Colorado legislature started a new session this week. Some changes were made to the process of credentialing reporters. The rules are here. Online media has been frozen out, under the rubric that they are political activists, not journalists. Cara DeGette at Colorado Confidential explains:

This year a handful of traditionally-minded Capitol-based reporters have adopted an additional role of gatekeeper. They have formed a group designed to recommend to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate President which reporters and news organizations that cover the Capitol are legitimate — and which are not.The plan, ostensibly, is designed to keep political activists posing as journalists at bay. But the reality of such restrictions has drawn criticism and concerns that their efforts may actually hinder the ability for citizens to understand the inner working of their government.

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Bob Moore, executive editor of the Gannett-owned Fort Collins Coloradoan, wrote a letter to House Speaker Andrew Romanoff and newly elected Senate President Peter Groff, describing the new policy as “misguided and unfair.”

My key concern is the attempt to define a journalist in a changing media world, and some resulting inherent unfairness in the credential process,” Moore wrote to the lawmakers. “The most obvious example is a prohibition of credentials to nontraditional media if their organizations engage in lobbying or other attempts to influence the political process. There is no such prohibition for traditional media, which is fortunate, since all traditional media are involved in lobbying the Legislature through their trade organizations.

Applicants from Colorado Confidential, an organization of reporters that adheres to a journalistic code of ethics, were denied credentials. [Update and correction: A final review is underway, and the final decision is up to Speaker Romanoff and Senate President Groff.]

Don Knox, “a well-known and respected past business editor at both the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post” said the entire experience of applying for credentials this year was “demeaning.”

The Colorado legislature is setting bad policy. Transparency in government is good for everyone. This policy should be reversed as soon as possible.

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