A change in how State House credentials are issued has not resulted in the rejection of applications from bloggers and other non-traditional media sources. Only about 2 percent of the 335 applications for press credentials were from bloggers and other non-traditional media organizations, according to a list obtained as part of a public information act request made by The Daily Record.
Included among them are representatives from one of the most well-known conservative blogs in Maryland, a Second Amendment advocate, an Eastern Shore blogger and an organization that bills itself as a watchdog on judicial issues and lists a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor among its contributors.
Duane Frank Keenan was previously credentialed to cover the State House through a radio station he worked for and later MarylandReporter.com. This year, Keenan was credentialed as a contributor to Red Maryland, a conservative blog.
Keenan said the process for receiving a credential, which included a criminal background check, was exactly like that of traditional media.
“It was very fair and I think it went well,” said Keenan, who produces radio-style interviews and covers news conferences for a program he produces the site.
Jonathan Taylor, owner and editor of Lower Eastern Shore News, said his process was also fairly simple.
“They knew I ran a blog and didn’t seem to care,” Taylor said.
Taylor hasn’t used or even picked up his credentials.
He said he applied for them because “I saw someone I know that I didn’t like got them and I thought I’d get one, too.” “I don’t cover a lot of stuff in Annapolis,” Taylor said.
“I live in Salisbury. It’s a two-and-a- half hour drive to Annapolis.”
The Daily Record filed the request in order to see how the new credentialing procedures affected access.
In October, The Daily Record reported that the state intended to issue new rules on the credentials that allow members of the press access to the buildings in the State House complex and the areas reserved for the press on the floor of the House of Delegates and Senate.
At the time, the state estimated there were 673 media credentials in circulation — nearly all of which would expire in 2014 or 2015.
The new rules as discussed in the fall would have severely restricted who could get a credential by limiting it to reporters who work in the complex on a year-round basis — fewer than six reporters. Everyone else would be required to submit to a daily temporary credentialing and searches before entering each building in the complex.
The changes being considered at the time were an attempt to create a government litmus test that would define who a journalist was in Maryland and was intended to limit access to partisan bloggers like Maryland Juice and Red State Maryland (as two examples).
The state ultimately decided not to invoke a more restrictive procedure and instead required that all credentialed reporters reapply and submit to a criminal background check.
Since the new rules were instituted in December, the state has received 335 requests for credentials.
Of those, 257 background checks have been processed and another 78 are in the process.
The state has issued 113 credentials and has denied none.
Another blogger that received credentials was Thomas Locastro, who is associated with a site called Maryland Minutemen. The site bills itself as “exercising the First Amendment to protect the Second.”
Locastro, who did not respond to a request for an interview, focuses almost exclusively on gun-related issues in Annapolis and posts videos to a YouTube channel.
Maryland Court Watch also applied for four credentials.
So far, only one has been picked up. One of the site’s contributors is Duane G. “Shorty” Davis Sr., a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.
Davis is also known for his 2011 arrest in the so-called “toilet bomb” incident in front of the Historic Courthouse in Towson. Davis was ultimately acquitted of charges related to the newspaper decorated porcelain commode protest art piece.
Davis did not apply for credentials, according to the lists released by the governor’s office.