Only reporters for print, television and radio outlets, as well as wire services like the Associated Press, can secure credentials to report from the House floor.
Texas Watchdog was denied access during this summer's special session because the outlet publishes exclusively on the Internet. Texas Watchdog was founded last summer and is staffed by professional journalists, all former newspaper reporters, and overseen by a board of directors who are experienced editors and reporters.
And more and more online publications are popping up in the Lone Star State with an eye on the capitol. The most prominent example is the Texas Tribune, which has announced a launch later this year and has hired prominent editors and reporters from Texas Monthly, the Houston Chronicle, Texas Weekly, the Dallas Morning News and KVUE-TV.
From the House rules:
When the house is in session, no media representative shall be admitted to the floor of the house or allowed its privileges unless the person is a salaried staff correspondent, reporter or photographer regularly employed by a newspaper, a press association or news service serving newspapers, a publication requiring telegraphic coverage, or a duly licensed radio or television station or network.
For the Burnt Orange Report's editor-in-chief Matt Glazer, the story is familiar. Glazer says the Burnt Orange Report, a well-read Web site that covers capitol goings-on, must rely largely on video footage from the House Web site.
"There's also a certain level of respect and buy-in from elected officials when they see that you've got credentials that you can't purchase, and you can't write your way to that kind of esteem," Glazer said.
Meanwhile, the number of people finding their news on the Internet grows.
Last year the The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reported that for the first time, more people cited the Internet rather than newspapers as their source of news. The center reported that 40 percent of survey respondents got most of their national and international news from the Internet, up from 24 percent in 2007. The center said 35 percent of respondents still relied on newspapers.
In a separate study, the center found that about 31 percent of respondents got their local news regularly from the Internet; from TV and TV Web sites, 68 percent; and from newspapers, 48 percent.
Journalism schools including the one at the University of Texas at Austin have shifted to emphasize multimedia education.
Multimedia journalism professor Ronsental Alves says media is making a transition.
"I think in the last 15 years online journalism has gained maturity and has gained critical mass in terms of audience in the United States and around the world," Alves said.
Alves said governments have historically limited media access by handing credentials only to approved sources, but he said he had not heard of governments denying credentials based on the type of media. Alves suggested that audience reach might be one standard for determining whether to issue credentials.
"If it is an established news organization that has a considerable amount of people following it, there is no reason why not to give accreditation," Alves said. "On the other hand, we have to understand their position because everybody can open a Web site and and say, 'I'm a journalist.'"
House speaker Joe Straus' office did not respond to a request for an interview.