Bloggers for 'Scooter' Wheel Into Town

The trial of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, will be historic because Cheney is expected to testify.

Historians believe it will be the first time that a sitting vice president testifies in a criminal case.

Libby faces charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in the leaking of the identity of a former CIA operative.

Another factor will make the trial historic, however, and that's the presence of bloggers.

For the first time in history, bloggers are credentialed media for district court cases. The Libby trial is one of the most blogged political stories, and now bloggers will see firsthand what is going on behind closed doors.

"The idea of citizen journalists, of people coming in from everyday walks of life to start reporting on, or talking about, or discussing what's going on in the country, is something that is fundamentally good for our society and our democracy," said Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association and media credential holder for the trial.

Many courtrooms can't accommodate more that 100 people, so media credentials can be a tough find for anyone not working at a major publication or network. Cox worked with court officials for two years and advocated for two passes for his 1,000-member group.

"I've been talking to folks from the federal judiciary system about what might get them to consider credentialing bloggers to cover high-profile trials," Cox said. "And pitching them on the idea that the Media Bloggers Association has set up to vet its members and could give them a reliable reasonable [group] of people who could actually be credentialed and do a good job covering a trial."

Cox now has access to the courtroom and a filing center with closed-circuit recordings of the trial. The filing center also has WiFi so bloggers can "live blog" breaking news and thoughts from the courthouse.

Irresponsible Blogging?

Because the Web is a free forum for all who wish to write, a small number of the millions of bloggers misrepresent stories.

This occurred in May when one blogger from Truthout.org reported that Bush adviser Karl Rove had been indicted when in fact he had been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Cox said that the Truthout.org blogger was not a member of his organization and that bloggers in the association had been taught journalistic standards before joining the association.

"The goal here really is to do a good job, make sure the courts are happy with having agreed to allow bloggers in to cover this trial, and set the stage for more opportunities in the future," he said.

Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz believes the bloggers will add an extra dimension to the coverage and believes the Truthout.org mishap was an exception.

"There are some bad apples among the bloggers, but just as fabricators such as Jayson Blair and Jack Kelley aren't typical of newspaper reporters, we shouldn't allow a few reckless bloggers to darken the reputation of all the honest ones," Kurtz told ABC News.

Will the Bloggers Last?

Many bloggers don't profit from their work but do it as a way to express their thoughts on a big story. Bloggers come from all walks of life, and most bloggers have full-time jobs -- from psychologists and lawyers to housewives and students.

Former Mediabistro.com blogger Garrett Graff is skeptical that bloggers will be able to spend their whole day covering one event.

"I think there will be a flood of initial interest in covering this trial," Graff said. "But most bloggers don't blog full time. They don't have [the] ability as reporters do to sit in the courtroom for 10 hours a day -- or weeks or months at a time."

Graff was the first blogger to get a White House credential in March 2005. He now works at Washingtonian magazine and believes Libby bloggers will give a new outlook that the day-in and day-out reporters don't notice.

"Bloggers, when they enter into [a] situation for [the] first time, can bring interesting perspective that journalists who are there for months don't notice," he said.

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