Explaining Voting To PreSchoolers

And once you are finished deciding between Red or Blue, or Pink or Purple…come watch my interview with California Congresswoman Maxine Waters at BlogHer.com.By the way, I have pneumonia, and now that Super Tuesday is over I shall go to bed until November. Don’t look at me like that, it was SUPER DUPER TUESDAY in the most historic election in my lifetime, and I did most of my work from laptop at home in my pj’s.

Going to bed now. For real. Might leave election coverage on tv…but closing eyes….I swear…

Who wants to see my press pass?

full coverage over at BlogHer.com

BlogHer.com, the LAPD and YOUR Right to Cover News

**this is posted over at blogher.com where there is a great discussion-go join in!***

Are bloggers press?

That is the question we’re asking ourselves at BlogHer today as Morra Aarons will (wo)man the open thread discussion on tonight’s CNN/LA Times/Politico GOP debate in Simi Valley, California.

Stepping outside of my usual news-only posts, I am writing today as BlogHer’s Election ’08 Producer. You see, the coverage of the Los Angeles-area GOP debate was not supposed to be *just* an open thread by Morra. It was my job to secure credentials for BlogHer to attend tonight’s event. BlogHer’s Katy Chen and I planned on posting a video from the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley-much like you saw with BlogHer’s Mary Katharine Ham and Morra Aarons from New Hampshire.

Organizers of the event credentialed BlogHer.com to cover the GOP debate, but required all credentials be picked up with a “law enforcement issued press pass.”

However, the Los Angeles Police Department denied credentials to both Katy and I on the grounds we are “online media” and BlogHer.com was not throughly investigated by the LAPD. This decision came suddenly after weeks of talks with LAPD personnel and assurances that Katy and I, as former Los Angeles news reporters, would be applying for a press pass “renewal” as we were simply changing our media affiliation.

Normally any new reporter would have to go through a background check and fingerprinting before being issued credentials, but as Katy and I have already been through this process had been issued credentials for previous employers, we were told it was only a matter of “pulling us up in the system” and issuing stickers for 2008-2010.

BlogHer.com made all the necessary arrangements from passport photos to signed letters stating Katy and I were BlogHer employees and would indeed be covering events and news inside Los Angeles. We were told to contact LAPD on Monday morning, as the woman who issues the press passes would be in at 6:30am specifically to renew media for the next two days as “everyone is coming in getting them for the GOP debate, we’ll be doing it all day and night.”

Monday morning came, and I called as instructed and spoke with LAPD media relations in order to set my appointment time for renewal that day. It was then I was told “we’ve never heard of you or this blogher thing and you need a background check.”

I explained Katy and I had completed all the necessary steps, were instructed to bring our new employment letter to the police station, and that we can both be found in the LAPD “system.”

I was then told “…this is online, right? We’re not doing online. You have to submit the employer and show me three months of coverage in Los Angeles and I have to look at it before I can give you passes.”

To be honest, I was thrown. Here we had spoken to LAPD personnel, checking and double checking for weeks if we had prepared properly and were being told, two days before the event, we had to submit three months worth of coverage and find a way to show “via tape or print” BlogHer.com’s amazing coverage.

I offered to hand-deliver links, printed pages of the site and to assist in anyway possible in showing BlogHer.com as a legitimate source of information.

I was told there was no need, “submit it all by mail and I’ll review it and get back to you.” I asked if I could FedEx documents, given the rush and was again rebuffed with, “there is no need, I’m not going to get to it. It could take months.”

Frustrated and confused I hung up with LAPD, promising to send in our information via snail mail soon. Then I made a few more calls, and this is where the real story begins.

As luck would have it, Katy and I have had the good fortune of working for several news outlets in Los Angeles. We’ve gotten to know many news directors , anchors, and reporters over the years. Katy and I began calling and emailing past colleagues.

My first call was to the President of the Radio and Television News Directors Association or RTNDA. It was then I learned of the ongoing battle between the LAPD and media. I was told the RTNDA and LAPD agreed last year to come up with a system for issuing credentials to bloggers and failed to reach an agreement. In the meantime, RTNDA and LAPD agreed to put online media through the same background check and fingerprinting as main stream media and they would issue press passes on a case by case basis. I was told given Katy and my background in Los Angeles news media this should not have been an issue.

Furthermore, after talking to several local news directors, the LAPD personnel’s claim of “not knowing who we were” was contradicted. Each news director told me they had been approached by the LAPD and specifically asked about myself and Katy-if they knew us, when we worked for them, etc.

The confusion over the subject had Katy and I contacting the LA County Sheriff’s department and the California Highway Patrol to see if they would credential us in time for the debate. New background checks were needed for the LA Sheriff’s as they do not use the same system as the LAPD, and the turn-around time was months.

Then the emails and calls TO us began. I received several offers from local and national media to help us out. They would write letters saying we were their employees. They would give us unused 2008-2010 stickers. They would even let us take their well-known anchor’s pass (a man) up to the check in point of the library, simply to make a statement.

I politely and with much gratitude decline their offers, and agreed with each offering party that we would tackle this together, formally, as media brethren.

We’re not the only ones who have faced this issue. Frank Russo tackled this with the California Legislature in March of last year.

I understand with every new medium there are some growing pains. There is debate to be had over which entities can call themselves “media” and which are not. Over what constitutes a “legitimate” news or information source and what is just one woman and her blog, with no readers. But there is something to be said about that one woman and her blog, utilizing the freedom of the press and the officials she elects and tax dollars she contributes.

I encourage you to engage in this debate online and with your local, city, and state officials. Katy and I will mail the necessary requirements to the LAPD and wait for the results.

Tomorrow we WILL be covering the Democratic debate at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, as they have credentialed us without law enforcement press passes. In comparison, before I even submitted our social security numbers to organizers for the event, I received a “we’d be pleased to have you” response almost overnight.

I’d like to thank the Ronald Reagan Library for welcoming BlogHer.com and apologize for our absence tonight. And I’d be remiss to not publicly thank the various Los Angeles news departments that offered us their support, help, and who even vouched for us with the LAPD. I’m encouraged to see the old guard embrace and encourage the new, proving to me, once again, it’s all about community-online or otherwise.

I’m Running Out of Energy

So yeah, I’m a little annoyed. That’s me using grown-up words because I’m on my best behavior here. But this one is personal (when aren’t they, you say…)
Many of you know I’ve been working on yet another mystery project for BlogHer. Well, cats out of the bag, as it were…and I’ve been busting my rather round buns on Election ’08.

BlogHer Co-Founder Lisa Stone has a very calm (something I don’t do well) and rational (something I do from time to time) post asking our community what they want/would like to see over at BlogHer for Election ’08. The part in her post that reads:

“Oct 2007:
-BlogHer invites Candidates Clinton, Edwards, Obama, (Democrats) and Giuliani, McCain, Romney and Thompson (Republicans) to answer Voter Manifesto questions on-camera, including an offer to fly to the U.S. location of the candidate’s choice and be interviewed for 15 minutes by a member of her or his own political party, by either Editor Morra Aarons or Editor Mary Katharine Ham (also of Townhall.com). No candidate accepts.
-BlogHer co-sponsors 10questions.com, a techpresident.com initiative co-sponsored by The New York Times and MSNBC.

Nov 2007:
BlogHer re-invites candidates to answer Voter Manifesto questions on-camera. No candidate accepts.
-BlogHer members submit questions to 10questions.

Dec 2007: BlogHer re-invites candidates.-Candidates John Edwards and Mike Huckabee submit answers to 10questions.com. Candidate Ron Paul also agrees to participate, according to the site.
– Sen. Obama tours Iowa with Oprah Winfrey and his campaign launches “Women for Obama”:

The parts I highlighted up there? “BlogHer invites, BlogHer re-invites, BlogHer re-invites…” yeah, that’s me. And by “re-invite” it was, Erin busting out her long-ago-used news reporter skills to annoy campaigns. Of course I did a bit more than that too (my technical term here is PRODUCER and Field Reporter) the gist of it is me being told over and over and over and over again how important women are in this election yet being denied over and over and over again by every single presidential candidate running’s email, phone, or email and phone aide type person.

Annoyed. Yes. Yes I am.

We were handing them 7.6 million blogher readers on a golden blogher platter (while using our Butterball potholders, of course) the majority of them the WOMEN THEY WANT TO VOTE FOR THEM and interest by the candidates has been, shall we say…less than enthusiastic. We even offered them hosts from their own parties (Morra Aarons-Mele and Mary Katharine Ham, why YES you DO see them on CNN).

And I wonder why I still have to write about feeling ignored as a woman voter. By being patronized because Obama and Oprah have teamed up. By once again feeling like I was patted on the ass and sent to go cook in the kitchen. They can market to us, sure…but can they just TALK to us? We’re women, we want you to sit down and chat along WITH your stats and stances. We’re WOMEN, we want you to answer the tough questions about healthcare and education AND Iraq. We’re not afraid to talk about the economy and choice. Hell, one of you running is even ONE OF US, and is well aware we are no longer just reading the Style section and worried about whatever it is our husband’s tell us to worry about.

I also know one thing, deep down to my Queenly toes…these candidates will get possibly the fairest interview and most diplomatic handling that is currently on their agendas. Bar None. BlogHer has made sure of it, BlogHer is alllll about it, BlogHer tends to roll this way with EVERYTHING. So not only is this a great opportunity to reach their target demo, it’s one of the safest interviews they’ll ever have. Will we pitch softballs? No, but they’ve seen our Voter Manifesto, they know what we’re asking.

One thing keeps sticking with me throughout this whole, frustrating process-Oprah has 8 million viewers, BlogHer has 7.6 million readers.

We’re a nonpartisan dot com.

Yes, I’m annoyed. And quickly losing faith in this election process. I really want my faith back. I really want to believe.

I’m annoyed. And I’m waiting.

Go take the BlogHer survey. Make your voice heard.

Demand they pay attention. Our questions will NOT be ignored.

I TRIED to Tell You: Why OPRAH Matters

Back in October of last year I posted a piece here on HuffPo after I had watched a then, undeclared, Senator Obama sit with Oprah.

“Oprah is talking to Obama about the possibility of him running for President in 2008. And I’m ignoring the cries of ‘WHERE IS SPONGEBOB!’ to hear the answer.

A daytime talk show host is pushing politics on her show…and this mother is not only listening intently, but sitting on the edge of her seat to hear the banter.

Welcome to the new spin on campaigning, and the new breed of Mom voter. Get used to politicians and their wives on Oprah being watched by educated homemakers with tattoos and outspoken opinions. Get used to this making many people uncomfortable.”

Now we see Ms. Winfrey and the candidate stumping and it’s working.

Go ahead and shake your head that some talk show host is making a difference in the ’08 election. Go ahead and roll your eyes that these mothers and women care.

Fellow BlogHer Morra Aarons-Mele writes, “If you follow politics, you’ve no doubt heard that unmarried women represent a holy grail of voters: 50 million or so likely Democrats that year after year, flirt with voting and political activism, but don’t commit. This cycle, they’re dubbed the ‘Sex and the City voters.’ To woo these women, the establishment provides celebrities, and catchy spots laced with sexual innuendo–ooh, winking about their first time! Voting, that is.

My friend and Democratic pollster Margie Omero sent me the post about the Single Anxious Female frame. She noted to me, ‘Women, across marital status groups, vote at a higher rate than do men. But the coverage stemming from concern about ‘Single Anxious Women’ (even called the ‘Sex in the City Voter’) not only doesn’t reflect the data, it trivializes women.’ Even in 2007, women are pitched civics lessons as if we can only relate to global affairs if the issues are dressed in sexy shoes, just folks style dishing, or are at lunch with Samantha, Carrie and the girls.”

I suppose there is an argument to be make about gimmicks and celebrities being busted out for votes. I also think there is an argument to be made that Oprah is trusted and speaks to most women.

Marty Kaplan writes, “…Oprah may actually be the twenty-first century’s de facto national anchor. She really does channel — and change — Middle America.”

A national anchor that has the ear of just about every American woman I know.

Go ahead and laugh if you want, or be disgusted by “some celebrity” making a difference. Maybe you don’t care for her charity work or maybe you don’t like that she is wealthy and powerful. Maybe you don’t like that she does it with women top of mind. Whatever the reason, I suggest you take notice. As I mentioned in October,

“According to Women’s Voices. Women Vote. 20 million women did not vote in the last election. That’s 20 million women.

I’m guessing Oprah can reach a few of those 20 million women. I’m guessing Mommybloggers can reach a few of those 20 million women. I’m guessing the honesty and hopefulness of a young Senator can reach a few of those 20 million women.

I’m guessing YOU had better redefine that tiny box of yours to include 20 million different kinds of woman. We’re not clear cut. We’re not all Donna Reed. We’re not all what you think a woman should be. What a mother should be. What a sister should be. What a daughter, aunt, girlfriend, or Oprah watcher should be.

But we sure as hell can vote.”

I caution you to realize this does not only apply to Obama. As BlogHer’s Catherine Morgan points out, there are over 300 women discussing politics in blogs. Even my much-ridiculed Mommyblogger circle is educated and in on the act.

I’m tired of the snickering from those who find this less-than-serious politics. I’m tired of the feeling women voters are “cute” and entranced by Oprah or Hillary’s new hair-do.

I suggest the main stream media and other writers, political campaigns, and candidates themselves learn a lesson from the Oprah effect. As I’ve heard BlogHer Co-founder Lisa Stone say many times about many different things, “ignore us at your own peril.”

*cross posted at the Huffington Post, Erin Kotecki Vest also blogs at Queen of Spain blog and BlogHer.com

There’s So Much That We Share That Its Time We’re Aware…

…it’s a small world after all.

Now, once you’re done cursing me for sticking that song in your head…last night something amazing happened, and it hit me how big this whole “web 2.0, social media, blah blah blah” stuff is.

My Sister-in-law had a baby. On the surface, not such an earth shattering thing. I mean, yes a miracle and all that, but not exactly unheard of in this day and age. The thing is, she’s in Germany. Her husband, my brother-in-law, is stationed in Iraq. My father-in-law and mother-in-law were en route from West Virginia to Germany and my family and I are in California.

I might need a diagram for that.

Somewhere around lunchtime the West Virginia contingent landed in Germany and somewhere around dinnertime they were off to the hospital. Somewhere around desert time my phone rang and a baby had been born. Relatives needed to be alerted and a father needed to be found in Iraq. Mind you I was online with a Canadian and on the phone with a Bostonian.

So emails were sent, calls were made, skypes were attempted, and twitters were pushed out into the universe because I was too excited to remember what the time difference was in Iraq or, apparently, how to google.

By bedtime, I was congratulating Dad the soldier via webcam and getting a tour of his room in the Middle East.

I had spoken to people all over the globe over one tiny little girl.

I wasn’t doing business. I wasn’t blogginig. I wasn’t connecting with old friends or reading techie news. I was simply celebrating life.

So I’m done with talk of ‘what is web 2.0?’ and ‘what is social media?’

It’s life.

The end.

Update: UnBarQueenConPodBlogTwit CampUpStartWeekend

Due to a new project with BlogHer, it’s very possible I will not be HOME for my birthday on December 10th. If I randomly announce a city…I’m hoping you’ll be able to help me celebrate the dirty pee birthday. I could go on about how I will be alone and sad and cold and maybe forlorn or something…but I know you guys will help me out…right? And we’re not talking turkey this time around…or are we???

Thankful I am NOT a Jets Fan this Thanksgiving

I really don’t think it’s too much to ask that if I take my daughter to a football game, we walk to get a pretzel and some nachos without being harassed by a drunken mob. Call me crazy, but I’d love to actually sit near Gate D at a New York Jets game and not be groped or screamed at or if, heaven forbid I’m feeling prudish that day, have to duck spit and flying bottles from hundreds of angry men.

Of course my daughter and I could just sit somewhere else. We could go get Mommy a beer and kiddo a hot dog near some other, non infamous gate, and avoid the whole thing- and then I remember this is 2007 and women do have the right to walk in public.

I suppose if I were to take my daughter and I on over that way, I would have been asking for it, right?

And people wonder why I still yell and scream and write about women and gender equality.

Many sports fans (my entire house included…yes, the girls too) are discussing the New York Times article by David Picker describing what happens at Jets home games on pedestrian ramps near Gate D.

Huffington Post contributor Leora Tanenbaum says, “I hate to sound like a broken record, but the sexual double standard is alive and well. Boys will be boys, and girls will be sluts. And across the land, people continue to believe that this is the way it’s supposed to be.” Tanenbaum drew attention and questioned the behavior while commentors asked for proof.

Let’s watch some YouTube, shall we???

As the NYT reports, this whole Gate D party is a tradition at Jets homegames. Meaning, Joe Jetsfan brings Joe Jr. Jetsfan, they share a beer, and join the mob out in the concourse to see how many women they can get to lift their shirts. Tradition. Happy Thanksgiving.

Some women comply. Some women walk away clothed and get heckled. Some women are spit on. Some women have bottles thrown at them. Some women are groped. More importantly…

hundreds of men think this is ok.

I attend sporting events. I am used to the one or two drunken idiots who scream four letter words and spill their beer. Security usually hovers near them and if they get out of hand they are escorted out. There is an entire mob getting out of hand at Jets games, and it’s tradition.

It’s Free Speech! We’re just having fun! Don’t come near Gate D if you don’t like it!

Let me speak in words you Gate D Jets fans understand, “Fuck you.”

Free speech is not harassment. Fun isn’t intimidating. And I’ll go anywhere I damn please, despite the fact I’m a woman. In fact, how about I come with a few thousand of your mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, and girlfriends? We’ll exercise our free speech to teach you all about mob mentality, harassment, sexual abuse, intimidation, and gender equality issues.

I called Jets’ media relations to float my idea of taking Gate D back for the women. The nice PR phone-answering person took a message and I told them I was working on a deadline. “Yes, the HUFFINGTON POST, no, no…not Hubbington, HuFFington…and yes, BlogHER dot com. H-E-R, yes, BlogHER, yes, a network of over 13-thousand WOMEN…yes, I’d like to talk about the NY Times article, yes, the one about Gate D…yes, Blog H-E-R…”

…I’m still waiting for a call back. In the meantime, I’m going to really mess up Thanksgiving tradition and NOT spend it in the kitchen.

The Detroit Lions kick-off in an hour and my daughter and I have a game to watch.