The Liberal Party of Canada's plan to deny bloggers media accreditation to their upcoming January 2012 convention contradicts the party's plans to engage Canadians in rebuilding efforts.
The decision demonstrates a lack of recognition of the impact bloggers have on social media and by extension, public opinion. The Liberals have said that bloggers who are affiliated with recognized media outlets will be given media accreditation, while volunteer bloggers who are not Liberal party members (and therefore ineligible to be elected as a delegate) will be expected to pay $1,100 to register to attend the convention. The Liberal Party is choosing to financially disadvantage the little guy in favour of big corporations that own media outlets, who can send representatives for free.
Liberal bloggers appear to be the most incensed by the decision, leaving the Liberal Party's blogging allies, some of whom likely would have sought to attend the convention to sing the party's praises, instead condemning the Liberal decision to discourage bloggers.
What the Liberal Party seems to have missed is that bloggers and traditional journalists cover stories very differently. Blogging has advanced considerably over the years, with many bloggers conducting original research, providing more detailed analysis, and being able to operate without the time and space constraints traditional media has to struggle with.
In 2008, I began blogging on my personal website and as an active Liberal at the time was fairly partisan. In early 2009, when the Ontario NDP held their leadership race and received scant coverage from mainstream media outlets, a friend and I decided to launch a website called Current on the Wire. Our goal was to develop non-partisan, in-depth, new media content for New Democratic bloggers and campaigns to use to help Ontario NDP members learn about their candidates. We were able to get each of the four candidates to sit down with us for 15 minutes for on-camera interviews, and were given media accreditation to the NDP convention without any hassles.
When the PCs held their leadership race in June 2009, my friend and I decided to once again provide non-partisan new media coverage to that campaign and once again found a political party and candidates more than willing to engage with bloggers to share their story.
In many ways blogging and coverage of political events go hand in hand as party members make such a small percentage of the general population that really detailed coverage is most viable when designed for online communities.
The concept of micro-targeting isn't totally lost on the Liberal Party. They did just finish a successful fundraising effort to have a million conversations with Canadians the Liberals believe will support them in 2015. In the video to launch the fundraising drive, the announcer proudly boasts that membership is up, engagement is underway and states: "'but one of the big lessons we learned May 2 is that we need to start reaching out today to the Canadians who support us in 2015. Politics isn't rocket science. It's about people talking to people about the issues they care about."
The Liberal Party of Canada has an opportunity to embrace technology as a tool for rebuilding their damaged brand and engage their supporters. Bloggers provide a valuable avenue to build online support for the party and encourage Liberals to participate in conversations with each other about the issues they care about.
The January 2012 convention is supposed to be about rebuilding the Liberal Party. In that spirit, the Liberals should allow bloggers to be part of the process on a level playing field with other media.