School District Capitulates to Blogger
Schools Backtrack to Allow Bloggers at News Conferences
Seattle Public Schools (SPS) says it will allow bloggers and citizen journalists to ask questions at press conferences, following a blowup when it barred one of the city's leading school bloggers from speaking up at a recent event.
The problem arose on September 15, when Melissa Westbrook, who writes for the blog Save Seattle Schools, was barred from asking questions during a news conference with the Seattle School Board. According to Westbrook, officials refused to give her press credentials because she was not a "real journalist."
Reached by phone, district spokeswoman Teresa Wippel said asking questions at press conferences was reserved for media organizations that "provide unbiased coverage and subscribe to journalistic ethics." She added, "It is our opinion that Ms. Westbrook's blog does not fit into that category."
But on September 17—following complaints from Westbrook and scorning coverage on local blogs—SPS spokeswoman Patti Spencer sent an e-mail announcing that bloggers could ask questions at future press conferences. "Our practice is to include bloggers in news releases and media roundtables, and now in press conferences," Spencer said.
Specifically, Spencer said that in the past, Westbrook and the general public were allowed to ask questions after news conferences—but only to approach individual speakers, after reporters were done with questions. Now Westbrook and other bloggers may raise questions during the formal Q&A period with reporters. The district changed its policy, Spencer said in her e-mail, due to "changes in the media industry and the ways in which our community accesses information."
Welcome to 2010, Seattle Public Schools.
Not all news outlets and blogs strive to provide opinion-neutral coverage (neither do the editorial pages of traditional media outlets). And while The Stranger often disagrees with Westbrook, who opposed last year's school levy, the more critical discussion about our school district, the better.