One of the things I found out when I was liveblogging the Libby trial for a day was that a few of the bloggers who were there legitimately (as opposed to smuggled-in contraband like me) were affiliated with something called the Media Bloggers Association, which had obtained credentials for a permanent place in the Prettyman courthouse's media room. Canadian bloggers may be more familiar with this concept than American ones---it is an aggregator similar to the Progblogs or the Non-Partisan Canadians, except it's primarily intended for American bloggers who comment on and participate in the media. Aggregators are less prominent in US bloggery than Canadian bloggery.
Naturally, a person like me is going to wonder, especially with its apparent ability to obtain credentials at national events, whether it's an effort to create a tier of bloggers with privileged connections and access. The group's founder, Robert Cox, naturally protests otherwise. Well, I am happy that he reconfirmed that opening rather than restricting access is part of his endeavour. But looking around elsewhere on the site, I am still bothered.
Most worrisome is the group's membership rules page:
Applicants must provide detailed contact information and complete all required fields in the application
[Note: As a general rule, the MBA does not accept anonymous bloggers as members. We are willing to make exceptions and have done so but this is done rarely and only when there is a clear and compelling reason for anonymity. Regardless, all member applicants must disclose their identity to the chairman of the membership review committee who will make a preliminary determination on whether to recommend the applicant to the board anonymously or under a pseudonym.]
The most recent posts should indicate whether the blogger is active. If the most recent post is weeks or months old that's a major problem. Also look for very long gaps between posts. We are looking for members who are committed to blogging and furthering the mission of the MBA. Members can't do that if they are not blogging or blogging only occasionally.
It should be obvious to my regular readership why I focused on these two issues, since they're the ones that apply to me most and hence raise my hackles the most. To me, the possibility of a weak pseudonymy is what protects the little people and enables them to speak freely in a capitalist society where our well-being partly depends on the whims of our employers. In my case, I also have multiple parts of my identity that make me feel somewhat vulnerable to blog in the open, even though it probably isn't very hard to dig deeply to figure out who I am (and I'm OK with that). But that rule pretty much restricts membership to those who are either prepared to be martyrs or have the ability to feel liberated and secure in their blogging---especially people whose employers agree with them. So I am deeply suspicious of the sentiments underlying the opposition to anonymity and pseudonymity, because to me it can't come other than from a place of perceived privilege.
The second one, well, I do go on long hiatuses from time to time, and I'm pretty sure that a lot of other "serious" (their word) bloggers do this too. I go for quality over quantity, myself, and I can't generate quality without a certain amount of time, thought, and confidence, and there are periods in my life where I lack some of these. Again, I'm pretty sure there are a lot of other people in the same boat as me. If it is required to be a very frequent writer to be a "serious" blogger and gain the intended benefits of the prominance to which the MBA aspires, that seems a little troubling to me, particularly if they succeed. (I am not, by the way, claiming that very frequent bloggers necessarily sacrifice quality. It just takes some of us more time to muster up the wherewithal.)
In any case, when it came to the Libby trial, the MBA fortunately did not have the status of blogger gatekeeper. Naturally, it was the court who was the gatekeeper, and the court staff have a sense of proportion and were very willing to accomodate me in the media room as a dilettante. I wasn't "contraband" to the court, but, I suspect, to many of the journalists who had to go through the "real" process. So in this case, it had a happy ending.
And I don't want to thoroughly impugn the good intentions of Mr. Cox. He promises an update to his article on these sorts of concerns, and I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. But I'm still finding it difficult to see how this isn't a putative attempt to subdivide the political/media blogosphere into tiers of access and prominance.