The sort-of open Liberal Party
The Liberal party has decided, for some reason, to put strict limits on bloggers covering the January convention. Here's how it's been transmitted (this one from OpenFile.ca)
Thank you for your interest in attending the Ottawa 2012 - Liberal Biennial Convention.
There are many ways to attend the Convention. We are encouraging everyone to attend as a delegate or an observer, and hope you will join us in that capacity. To learn more about how to become an observer, please visit our Convention website: https://www.liberal.ca/register-convention/.
As well, freelance and social media representatives who are sponsored by a recognized news organization can complete the Media Accreditation form, that will be posted to our site closer to the Convention date, and attach a letter of assignment.
Not surprisingly, the controversy has been lighting up on social-media sites, with some particularly sharp words from my friend and colleague Kady O'Malley. Basically, unless you get the blessing of the mainstream media, even if you're a freelancer, you're shut out of the Ottawa convention. Oh -- you could pay $1,100 to be an observer.
After some consideration, I've come to the view that Kady and other critics are correct -- this is a ludicrous idea. While I see that the Liberal party may have some concerns about mischief-making, just as every party fears before a large gathering, context is everything here.
Just last month, the Liberal Party unveiled a huge "roadmap to renewal" document, in which the party brass proposes to open up the leader-selection process to non-members. Here's the wording, emphasis mine.
That the Constitution be amended to create a new opportunity for engagement with the Party for individuals who do not wish to become full Members of the Party, leading to a new, more open and more flexible framework for active engagement as a Liberal partisan.
That same renewal document, by the way, also flatly declares:
The future health of the Party will be dictated by how well it uses technology.
So, in the spirit of being bold and modern and risky, the Liberal party is saying it's willing to shape its old rules for a new time -- on a matter as important as choosing a new leader. When some of us sat down with party president Alf Apps in November to talk over the proposals for change, we asked whether he was worried that this measure would leave the party vulnerable to hostile interests or mischief makers. No, Apps reasssured us, this is worth the risk. Apps' sweeping state-of-the-party document also makes several compelling cases for risk-taking in the interests of Liberal party survival too. Apps also told us that there were several steps they could take, by way of screening, to weed out people who might be trying to take advantage of the looser rules.
Yet now, figuratively in the same breath, the Liberal Party is also saying that coverage of its convention will be limited to the old media rules and the usual suspects. Hello, Liberals? Your decline has come in part because you're seen as a closed (dysfunctional) society, too tied to the Ottawa/Toronto establishment to see how the world has changed.
Those of us in the old media can attest that the rules and the game are changing. You're reading this on a blog, right? I simply don't understand why the Liberals would fear the presence of bloggers, of any stripe, at the convention. And I don't see why you would put in place a media policy that stands in direct contradiction to the modernizing, open-up aims of the convention. If you're worried about people trying to use the "blogger" designation to get around other rules/fees, just set up a screening system or filter.
I'd urge the party to reconsider this decision before it becomes a symbol of a party getting dragged into the future, or just simply getting left behind.