The question of whether bloggers are included in the definitions of “press” arose at this year’s International Legal Technology (ILTA) Conference.

Historically, ILTA invited bloggers as part of the press, but this year put limits, seemingly arbitrary, on which bloggers received press passes.

Many bloggers (LexBlog had previously received press credentials) received a response akin to:

Bloggers seeking press credentials must be working journalists or be affiliated in an editorial capacity with a qualified news outlet as described above..

which read:

…credentialed journalists (i.e., professional reporters, editors, writers, news photographers, producers and online editors) who work for a publication, news service, broadcast outlet or news site that is regularly issued and published primarily for the dissemination of news, and operates independently from any commercial, political, government or special interest. Only media whose primary responsibility is the coverage of the legal, legal technology, technology industry, workforce tech issues, and related news will be considered for credentials.

Tom O’Connor rightfully called out ILTA for its denial of press passes to many bloggers, quite a few of whom had been long time supporters of the association.

During the conference, ILTA reached out to bloggers and other members of the press to formulate a more progressive policy when it came to bloggers.

My understanding is that ILTA attempted to work with bloggers who attended so they were included as press and is now looking to bloggers to help formulate a new policy going forward.

As part of those discussions and from what I have found out with regard to other association conferences, it turns out that legal conferences, in general. have a problem giving press passes to people who are members of the organization holding the conference or that are employed by a company.

Apparently the goal in declining press passes to the organization’s members is to force those members who blog to pay registration fees and to blog favorably of the conference and the association.

Declining press passes to those employed by companies (who isn’t?) apparently prevents an employee of a legal services company from reporting only things favorable to their company and motivates the company to buy exhibition space to hawk their services.

Nice to see that people in the legal profession think so little of the press, bloggers included, to think you may define the press to your favor.

How to define the press and who gets press passes for legal conferences? Easy, per veteran legal journalist, Bob Ambrogi.

Media registration shall be afforded to any individual who regularly gathers, prepares, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports or publishes news or information about matters of public interest for dissemination to the public in any medium, whether print or electronic.

The press is the press. The fact that the Internet democratized the press and put a pen in the hands of more people, many with niche knowledge of an industry and its goings on, didn’t change anything.

Conferences and associations should welcome bloggers with open arms. The number of trade publications and reporters working for them is a fraction of what it was 10 or 15 years ago.

Ask any public relations person trying to get client coverage at conferences how hard it is today. The press list at many conferences is a joke. No one is there to report.

Get bloggers there covering your exhibitors and speakers and you’re gold as a conference coordinator.

Many exhibitors have told me they have received more valuable business from LexBlog’s coverage of them at a conference than through their exhibit space.

Most speakers are not reimbursed travel expenses, let alone paid for their time. The benefit from speaking comes in building a name. Getting interviewed at or before a conference or your having talk covered is more valuable than talking itself.

Without bloggers, coverage of exhibitors and speakers will be scarce at best. There are not enough of what conferences may call “reporters” and the “reporters” there don’t have enough of an interest in niches to want to cover sessions.

Want to get more people coming to your conference and joining your association, create excitement. Coverage via blogging and other social media does this.

Blogs have a free and open RSS feed and email subscribers. Put 15 or 20 bloggers in your confernce and you’ll have their feeds displayed on LexBlog with more niche coverage on the confernce than you’ll ever get from “Traditonal” legal media. You’ll also reach the bloggers’ email and RSS subscribers.

Limiting coverage of your conference to those people you call a “reporter” is putting your naivety on display.

Look around, media has changed. People get their news and information from people they trust, often via blogs, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. “Traditional” legal media is wholefully behind on that front.

You benefit from bloggers. Be smart and show some leadership.

Recognize that you are part of the legal profession. A profession that stands for freedom of the press — a press that includes bloggers.