Sunday, March 06, 2005

A Badge is not Security

Words of wisdom from Fred Brown at the Denver Post, a paper known for its Fox News-style version of "fair and balanced":

Compare that with Washington, D.C., where the credentialing of James Guckert, aka Jeff Gannon, has become an issue of great moment. Or at least some would like to make it an issue of great moment.


Come on, now. This flap is more amusing than threatening.

As a question of ethics and standards, it's hardly on a par with, say, the inaccuracies in Dan Rather's report on President Bush's National Guard record.

It seems that Mr. Brown may be jumping to conclusions. He knows that a situation in which a paid escort, owing $20K in evaded taxes and penalties, who was given access to classified documents, was instrumental in the Dan Rather take-down, and was the national-stage "seed" for right-wing talking points against members of congress and democrats in general couldn't involve a serious ethics issue?

Even though there hasn't been any investigation, he is certain. But beyond that, he equates any investigation with media self-absorption:
It's worse than inside politics; it's inside journalism. It lacks the relevance, usefulness and interest of a good news story. What could be more boring and insignificant? Thank goodness that journalism, which has been painfully self-absorbed recently, isn't consumed with this story, too.

Well, isn't he right? Not really.

See, in order for the media to be self-absorbed, Gannon/Guckert would have to be a member of the media, which he isn't. This man who couldn't possibly pass a basic FBI screen, who was allowed to sit within 20 feet of the President of the United States, was unable to get a press pass to cover the U.S. House and Senate, because he the vetting process for Congressional coverage determined that he was not a member of the media.

In this next paragraph from the article, see if you can find the right-wing framing [emphasis added]:
And it raises broader questions about credentialing, which is a dilemma for journalists, or at least should be. Reporters ought to resist the notion of licensing or regulation by the government, and yet we accept some laws that set us apart - such as shield laws to protect sources, or press parking spots or badges that allow us to go places the hoi polloi can't.

One of those places is the White House. Others include the press galleries of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives - and the press tables in the Colorado legislature.

There's an important issue being glossed over here: there is already a credentialing process for White House Press Pool access. With Mr. Gannon/Guckert, that process may not have been followed, or worse, the results may have been ignored. In the former case, work needs to be done to make sure it is followed in the future. The White House Press Pool allows people to get too close to the President for lax security to be excused. If the results were ignored, there may be reasons that are worth investigating.

If you read the full text of the article, you'll find that the reporter is trying to equate the presence of a press badge with security. Ordinarily, that should be true. But if the normal security protocols were not followed, or their results were ignored, then Mr. Gannon/Guckert's badge provided a false sense of security to those with whom he shared the Press Room for more than 2 years.

You may want contact Denver Post and Mr. Brown to help them understand the inaccurate assumptions in this article. Remember: politely worded letters will be read, nasty ones will be dismissed. Be nice, but firm.


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