You know that HBO special where actor Robert Wuhl knocks down popular misconceptions about American history in a classroom setting? Well, that’s what we’re doing here, because of an assertion contained in this morning’s techPresdent Daily Digest. All right, hit the lights:
tP guest blogger Garrett M. Graff (the first blogger to get officially credentialed to cover the White House, by the way) argues that,
That’s enough, you can turn them back on.
I’m not surprised tP’s Micah Sifry believes that Graff was the first blogger credentialed to attend briefings at the White House. After all, Graff announced at the time that he’d been approved, got leading lights of the political and tech blogospheres to help write the legend, and subsequently proclaimed himself a figure of historical interest. Today, it’s the first thing he mentions in his speakers bureau listing.
It’s a good line. I can see why he ran with it.
The problem is, Graff was not the first accredited blogger at the White House. I know this because the real first blogger is my good friend and former colleague Eric Pfeiffer, then employed as a blogger by National Review Online. Pfeiffer sought and obtained credentials to cover the White House press briefings, and on March 1 he covered that morning’s gaggle with Scott McClellan in a post appropriately titled “Notes from the Gaggle.” Graff’s credentials weren’t approved until three days later.
This isn’t the first time I’ve brought this up — in fact, at the time I pointed it out to WashingtonPost.com’s Dan Froomkin, who followed up in a column some weeks later:
It has come to my attention that Garrett M. Graff, the much-celebrated “first blogger in the White House,” was, technically speaking, the “second blogger in the White House.” …
Eric Pfeiffer, who writes the Beltway Buzz blog for National Review Online, blogged from the briefing room on March 1 … almost a full week before Graff made it in.
Pfeiffer just didn’t make a big deal out of it.
That’s true enough — squeaky wheels get the grease, and self-promoters get the column inches. Yet others called foul at the time, arguing that professional status and a corporate-designed website disqualified one from being “a blogger”:
The “blogger” is Garrett M. Graff, a 23-year-old employee of a company called Mediabistro.com. His official title is “editor.” The “blog” is FishbowlDC, a site decorated with all the little corporate features sites like Yahoo have. A contact email address which doesn’t go to the “blogger.” A disclaimer. A copyright notice. A site map.
The “blog” has no comments, and there are no trackbacks.
Froomkin also tried to draw a distinction between Pfeiffer working for a magazine vs. Graff working for a media site. I’m not sure I go in for these careful distinctions. They did the same kind of work for websites more alike than different, neither of which allowed for comments. So it makes for an interesting debate, but not too interesting, because that “credentialed” condition actually matters — neither were the first to report from the White House in blog format.
That distinction goes to non-journalist and non-Washingtonian Rex Hammock, a veteran of the technology and business blogosphere, who wrote about a private meeting with President Bush in February 2004 — more than a year before Pfeiffer. He wasn’t credentialed, but obviously some would say that qualifies him all the more.
I have no illusions that this post will retire the myth of Garrett Graff as the first blogger credentialed to the White House; it’s been repeated too many times in too many outlets in the past two years. I don’t know him personally and don’t wish him a lot of trouble over this. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s fair to keep crediting him with a milestone he didn’t reach first.
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