17:59 - 28 March, 2005
NEW YORK Jeff Gannon is back -- at the National Press Club?
Yes, the same day that the prestigious Washington, D.C., journalism organization plans to present a lunch talk by former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, it will also allow the former White House reporter/sex site operator to be on a panel discussing bloggers and online journalism.
Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert, resigned his job with the conservative Talon News last month after it was revealed he had used a pseudonym, had little journalism background, and had ties to male escort Web sites.
Still, Press Club leaders will include Gannon on the panel April 8 that includes Wonkette.com editor Ana Marie Cox, National Journal's John Stanton, and others.
Gannon told E&P today that he always considered himself a legitimate journalist, and "perhaps their invitation is recognition of that."
Press Club President Rick Dunham, who also covers the White House for BusinessWeek, called Gannon "a figure in the news" who is involved in an important journalistic issue.
"The panel came together because we wanted to discuss some issues that came about from the Gannon case," said Mike Madden, a Gannett News Service reporter and a member of the Press Club's Professional Affairs committee, which is organizing the free event. "So we thought, why not try to get him?"
Gannon's ability to gain access to regular daily White House briefings, despite not being able to obtain a permanent "hard pass" or a congressional press pass, sparked new discussions among reporters and White House staff about who should be granted regular access.
"The idea was talking about these issues and who should be allowed to set up shop [as a legitimate journalist]," Madden told E&P. "It is not intended to be a forum for [Gannon] to present his side unchallenged. It is going to be moderated and there will be others on the panel."
When asked if giving Gannon a spot on the panel wrongly legitimizes him as a journalist, Madden disagreed.
"It depends on how you look at it," he said. "He is there because the panel is presumably going to talk mostly about his case. He was, in large part, the central figure in the case that got us interested in the topic."
Dunham said "journalists should be given a chance to question him." Reminded that many reporters had interviewed Gannon in the past month, Dunham still believed his presence would be good for the event. "I want us to be on the news," he said. "I think it is better to have people ask any question they can ask."
The Press Club's Web site, however, does not tout the event as focusing on Gannon but rather the differences between "bloggers" and "journalists." John Aravosis at Americablog, which first reported the Press Club event, wrote: "What is GannonGuckert doing there at all? Like he's an expert on the difference between blogging and journalism? How so? He thinks journalism means parroting press releases and transcripts. As for blogging, again, he started a so-called blog 3 weeks ago and now he's representative of all bloggers?"
Gannon told E&P he "thinks it is a good opportunity for me to speak to issues related to bloggers." He also added that he was, "trying to stay out there where people can see me."
Dunham hopes to have the panel covered by C-SPAN, but said no final decision by the cable channel had been made.
"There has been a passing thunderstorm of interest in this," said Julie Schoo, who handles logistics for the press club, but she did not have details of how many people have signed up to attend.