On May 6th, 2009, Senator Kerry convened a Senate hearing on the future of journalism and ended his closing remarks with a strong promise to work on the credentialing issue.
“While we’re searching for answers to these questions, there’s one thing we can do today to recognize the contributions of online journalists who shoulder the responsibility that comes with covering congress: we can make sure that the rules for credentialing congressional reporters are modernized. I will be working with Senate Rules Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer and the Standing Committee of Correspondents to make sure that is done.
The Standing Committee of Correspondents was created in 1877 as a way to organize and regulate media access to the halls of Congress. It was created to rid the press galleries of lobbyists, or “claims agents,” as they were once called. It was created to replace a system of questionable journalism practices. Before the committee was created, in fact, Mark Twain worked as a secretary to Senator William Stewart of Nevada at the same time he was also a “letter writer” to two newspapers – the Alta Californian of San Francisco and the Chicago Republican.
The congressional credentialing system has worked well for more than 130 years, so we should be careful about how we change it. The rules have undergone some changes over the years, and in the last three years, the Standing Committee has struggled with how to address the digital information age. Now is the time to make sure these rules treat online reporters fairly."