A year and a half ago, we wrote about some online/alternative journalists who sued the NYC Police Department
because of a refusal to give those journalists press passes. As we noted at the time, it was difficult to see the legal justification for the lawsuit. Just because you are a reporter (alternative, online or traditional) it doesn't mean that the city has to grant you press access. This upset some folks in the comments who thought I was supporting the idea that "bloggers aren't journalists" or that this was somehow a free speech issue. It was not. The reporters were absolutely free to report on whatever they wanted and say whatever they wanted, but that did not mean
that anyone had to grant them access
. Hell, I even thought that the NYC police were wrong
in not granting these journalists access -- but that didn't mean it was illegal
Soon after that lawsuit was filed, the police backed down anyway and granted those journalists access, making the lawsuit somewhat meaningless, though it continued. Separately, however, a lawsuit in California proved the point that being a journalist does not give you the right
to unfettered access, such as at crime scenes.
So, when one of the journalists involved in the original lawsuit, David Wallis
, sent in a submission this week declaring Masnick was wrong!!!!
, I thought I'd check it out -- since everything had indicated that I was not wrong. However, it appears that Wallis also seems confused about the difference between what the NYC Police should
do and what they're legally
required to do. The reason for the email is that NYC has smartly put in place rules and procedures for credentialing online journalists
as part of the agreement to settle the lawsuit.
I think this is an absolute good thing -- and a smart move. If anything, I'm sort of surprised that such a policy didn't already exist. But, unlike Wallis' claim, this does not change my stance on the original lawsuit. While it may have pressured NYC into putting in place a policy, that doesn't mean there was any legal leg to stand on in the lawsuit. As I said, I always thought that the police should
have given credentials to these journalists -- and should
have had a policy in place for giving credentials to journalists who meet certain criteria, even if they're not employed by the traditional media. But that does not mean that the police have to
give access to anyone who declares themselves a journalist. So I'm happy for Wallis and the other journalists that NY has changed its policy and made it more reasonable in response to the lawsuit, but that doesn't change the likelihood that the original lawsuit was not going anywhere on a legal basis.