Frank Russo, publisher of Californiaprogressreport.com, might be the first blogger to get media credentials to cover both chambers in a state that scutinizes applicants. (In Tennessee, economics professor Martin Kennedy qualified in January simply by renting space in the Capitol. And in Georgia, Andre Walker, who blogs at Georgia Politics Unfiltered, was credentialed by the Senate in January.)
Russo had a temporary credential through the speaker's office last year, but when he applied for a full credential, he was initially denied. The Capitol Correspondents Association of California (CCAC) has been working with the speaker's office for the past few months to refine the policy and let some bloggers in. Russo found out yesterday that he qualifies.
"It is my pleasure to inform you that you have become the first blogger credentialed with the blessing of the Capitol Correspondents Association of California," CCAC president Steve Geissinger wrote to Russo in an email last night.
To be fair, I should tell you that Russo doesn't consider himself a "blogger," though others like to call him one.
"The distinction between a blogger and a journalist is becoming pretty difficult to sort out. I don't think what I'm doing is any different from any number of magazines and columnists," he said.
Anyway, he can now have credentials because he earns more than half of his income from media jobs. In his case, that's researching and writing for his website. The new policy requires applicants to name the sources of their earned income, explained Laura Mahoney, secretary-treasurer of the CCAC. Under the old rules, you had to work full time as a reporter covering the Capitol to qualify.
"We're trying to really make sure that we're finding a way to accommodate bloggers, and at the same time we're making sure we're giving credentials to the people who need the access to do their jobs," Mahoney said.
California is ahead of the curve on this issue. It was one of only a few states where people were giving blogger credentialing some serious thought late last year when I was working on a State Legislatures article about bloggers. The income test was not something any of the experts suggested when asked where to draw the line. Mahoney, of the CCAC, said her organization got that idea from the rules Congress follows. And the Media Bloggers Association and the Poynter Institute also gave guidance about transparency.