Alabama Legislators Say You Must Be A Salaried Employee Of Old School Media To Get Approved For Press Credentials

from the enjoy-Alabama's-refreshingly-shallow-press-pool! dept

The only people who still feel they can clearly define who is and isn’t a journalist are legislators. They’re almost always wrong. Journalism isn’t a career. It’s an activity. Anyone can do it and, thanks to the internet, anyone can find a publishing platform and readers. But, according to many politicians, it ain’t the press unless it involves one.

If you want press credentials to cover Alabama’s legislative sessions, prepare to be disappointed. (via Jim Romenesko)

Raise your hand if you trust Alabama Republican legislative leaders to define “legitimate journalism” in Alabama. Well, they’re doing it anyway. Tuscaloosa Rep. Chris England took to Facebook to post a list of criteria that reporters will have to meet if they’re to receive press credentials & be allowed inside the press rooms at the State House.

No one’s raising their hands (except maybe the legislators) but that’s not going to stop the legislature from defining “journalist” to fit its narrow standards. Here’s Alabama’s proposed official press credential policy.

1. A media representative shall be admitted to the floors of the House or Senate or allowed press privileges if the person is a salaried staff correspondent, reporter, or photographer employed by any of the following:

a. The news department of a federally licensed television or radio station, or the news department of a network providing coverage to television and radio stations.
b. A newspaper of general circulation providing print or online editions for the dissemination of news of a general character, which has a bona fide subscription list of paying subscribers, and has been established, printed, and published at regular intervals.
c. A wire service providing news service to newspapers, television, or radio stations as referred to above.
d. Internet news services and bloggers associated with any of the previously listed categories.

2. Applicants seeking press credentials are required to submit documentation from their employer certifying that they are engaged primarily in reporting the sessions of the legislature.

The applicant must also certify that, with the exception of the Alabama Press Association and the Alabama Broadcasters Association, and the exception of receiving advertising revenue, they have no affiliation with any person, firm, corporation, association, or political party that attempts to influence legislative issues or lobby members of the Alabama Legislature.

3. Applicants unable to comply with the aforementioned certification requirement will not be issued legislative press credentials, but will still be free to cover sessions of the Alabama Legislature from the public galleries located on the sixth and eighth floors.

Any person who is discovered to have misrepresented themselves to obtain legislative press credentials will have their credentials denied or revoked.

Notice how much emphasis is placed on being paid and working for incumbent media outlets. This wording gives incumbent media preference over upstarts and quite possibly means those whose platforms aren’t instantly recognizable by legislators will be deemed “non-press” and denied access.

Also notice how much information journalists will need to provide in exchange for a press pass. If you want to cover the Alabama legislature, you’ll need to prove that you’re a salaried employee of one of the entities on the “approved” list. Maybe something on official letterhead will be good enough for the legislature. Or maybe it’s suggesting you bring a pay stub or two with you and a portfolio of your work (… and financial statements verifying your employer has subscribers, still in business, etc…). And God forbid you hold a part-time job with any “person, firm, corporation or association” that “attempts to influence legislative issues,” but still attempt to “certify” that you have no connection to myriad entities listed in the “forbidden connections” section. You can kiss your credentials goodbye. And this part of the list about forbidden connections — “or political party” — suggests journalists are better off not registering to vote.

Beyond that, there’s the weird stipulation that those receiving press credentials will need to be “engaged primarily in reporting the sessions of the legislature. (And be able to prove it.) Here’s Left in Alabama’s take on that:

Other than the Montgomery Advertiser, what news outlets have reporters who “primarily” report on the legislature? Staff is stretched so thin that a reporter might cover a legislative story in the morning, a car wreck over lunch, a heartwarming pet story in the afternoon, and then do a stand up about Mike Hubbard’s arrest on corruption charges for the evening news broadcast. Does that count?

Now, Alabama legislators can pretend that these restrictions are in place to prevent the press gallery from becoming bathrobe blogger central, but all it’s really there for is to ensure as many potential journalists as possible are locked out. It also locks out nonprofit organizations that perform journalism, as one commenter on England’s Facebook page points out.

While I seriously couldn’t care less about being in the press room or having “credentials”, it would certainly leave the Alabama School Connection out, as I am a nonprofit news organization, online only. I will not ever have “paying subscribers”. There is a huge world of nonprofit news organizations that wouldn’t meet any of those criteria…

England states on his page that he’s against these proposed rules. Good for him. Now, that all may change, thanks to certain members of the Alabama legislature. If it does, many journalists will be locked out, and the First Amendment will be worse off for it.

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Comments on “Alabama Legislators Say You Must Be A Salaried Employee Of Old School Media To Get Approved For Press Credentials”

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50 Comments
Jake says:

You know, I’m all in favour of not setting a precedent that might let every yahoo with a WordPress account and an axe to grind describe themselves as a journalist, partly because it gives ammunition to opponents of things like shield laws but mostly because people who think words should mean whatever the fuck they want them to mean make my piss boil.

But good grief, this is so not the way to go about that. Not a single person involved in drawing up that list of credentials has had a new idea since the Reagan administration!

Anonymous Coward says:

“Applicants unable to comply with the aforementioned certification requirement will not be issued legislative press credentials, but will still be free to cover sessions of the Alabama Legislature from the public galleries located on the sixth and eighth floors.”

Attention everyone… the folks in the public galleries located on the sixth and eight floors are the only “potentially honest” reports present.

the ones with the press passes are the corrupt bastards that have sold their souls and are not worth listening to!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

If you want to get technical, a representative democracy is a misnomer given the fact that ‘you’ give up your right to vote in the legislative process to someone else who may or may not have your best interests in mind…

Our so-called Democracy has been broken since the start otherwise corporations wouldn’t be people and our currency wouldn’t be privately owned.

Not to mention, 95% of the policies passed by Congress over the past 20 years have been to no benefit to the public….

In other words, we don’t live a democratic republic but rather a corporate oligarchy posing as one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well there is a difference between a direct democracy and a representative democracy. Petitions that cause legislation to make it on ballots allowing for direct votes are sill a form of direct democracy. Representative democracy means we delegate our right to directly vote on bills to someone we vote for that represents the public. Unfortunately most politicians seem to represent themselves a lot more than the public which makes our democracy not really a democracy at all.

Name says:

Except Lobbyists

“The applicant must also certify that, with the exception of the Alabama Press Association and the Alabama Broadcasters Association, and the exception of receiving advertising revenue, they have no affiliation with any person, firm, corporation, association, or political party that attempts to influence legislative issues or lobby members of the Alabama Legislature.”

Except Lobbyists

Anonymous Coward says:

So Alabama is butt chapped over things written that put them in bad light uh?

Well what is the real purpose of news, not what we have today in the lamescream media but what it was for back before they merged all these various media places into fewer owners. It was at one time the way they kept politicians honest. No politician wanted to be exposed to the public by investigative reporting that revealed corruption, bribe taking, nepotism, or any of a thousand other ways they’ve figured out to screw the taxpayer.

So what they are really saying with this attempt at limiting who is press, is they are attempting to remove the last vestiges of investigative reporting.

That’s called accountability gentlemen and if you can’t stand it, you can’t stand the light of day on your dealings. So I suspect there are some real doozies attempting to be hidden here with worst to come in the future should this stand.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Our reps don't care.

I get the feeling the people running this country don’t give a dam about the rights of the people and are trying to set themselves up as royalty to all extent and purposes

As has been and always will be the case.

Hence the checks and balances system.

Hence the electorate system.

The problem is (as was also predicted and inevitable) both of these have been hacked.

Anonymous Coward says:

bama is behind the times.  might as well be 1957 in several hard-case parts of the country, and bama is front and center in that list.

in 1957 the nation was partitioned into people running things and the rest of uspeople running things controlled the news the rest of us could learn about.  it let the prts do anything they wanted to do and rou would never even know about it.  a compliant press was critical to that environment.

flash forward to today and there are so many ways people get information that it is impossible to ordain mouthpieces and leave it at that.  bama is having trouble with that concept and is trying to turn back the clock.

[side note: i don’t know if all computers display what mine displays, but there is an ampersand in that first italicized quote that displays on my computer as a version of the old-style character.  truly it is a capital e and a lower-case t mushed together into a single character.  some here may not know that the ampersand originated from the latin word et, meaning and.  several of the old-style typefaces (particularly in italic) retain enough of the original letter shapes that you can still discern the e and t.]

res (profile) says:

why tell the truth

when a lie will do as well. Seems to me that it is about time that the journalists start making up the news themselves since they cannot report on what is actually happening. In no time the legislature will let them in since they really wouldn’t want ridiculous articles about how the legislature wants to sterilize people who make less than $150,000 (or whatever their salary is).

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

The old guard is going insane

The old guard is truly going insane, isn’t it? Oh, yes, they love the internet for all the surveillance it gives them of every waking second of the citizens.

But beyond that, the internet is just tearing down everything the old guard stood for. Controlled news, controlled music distribution, controlled publication, and controlled national secrets; controlled knowledge. That knowledge they just can’t control anymore.

…and that fact is driving them utterly insane.

Unanimous Cow Herd says:

Really?

How the fuck old are these legislators?

“A newspaper of general circulation providing print or online editions for the dissemination of news of a general character, which has a bona fide subscription list of paying subscribers, and has been established, printed, and published at regular intervals.”

Most courts won’t accept service by publication because no one subscribes to newspapers anymore. I haven’t read paper news in over 10 years and most of my current news comes from sites that ONLY have online versions now (assuming they ever had a paper run).

Alabama is trying to literally turn back time. There I thought all the rumors about Alabama being a “backwards” place were simply inter-collegiate trash talk.

Ayn Rand says:

reality deniers

Although some people have million of followers of their blogs/ videoblogs/ podcasts etc. And many are also re-transmited by important internet “radio stations”. And even on press “on paper”…

We like “the secret” and we are going to wish they are not journalists, and deny it
so if we say they are not journalists… then they are not!

Kim du Toit (user link) says:

Make It Up

I think that bloggers affected by this nonsense should report on the Alabama legislature’s activities… but if denied access, they should just make it up. Don’t make it like The Onion — keep it plausible, but invent stuff. Here’s an example:

“Rep. Louise Alexander (D) has proposed that Alabama drivers should have to reapply for their licenses on an annual basis, to increase the state’s income stream from the fees. Rep. George Bandy (D) concurred, but promised to add a rider which would double the fee amount.”

Send the link to the Drudge Report and to InstaPundit, to get maximum coverage for your inventions, and do it daily, nonstop for as long as it takes. Be sure to include ALL the legislators, even the ones who didn’t support this nonsense, but give the preponderance of the fabrications to those who did.

When challenged, ask the challenger to prove that the legislators did NOT say anything of the sort, and further ask the challenger if there’s any truth to the rumor that Rep. Jim Carns (R) is about to be censured for campaign irregulariaties. (Don’t worry about libel or slander; there are ALWAYS campaign irregularities.)

Keep it up for a few months; see who buckles first.

AlecRawls (profile) says:

AL redefinition of "press" mimics orthodox Islam's attempted redefinition of murder

Alabama is setting up a nice test case for the Supreme Court:

“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom … of the press.”

1. Is The AL restriction on press credentials a law? Yes. The power to make restrictions is established by law, and this particular restriction is a manifestation of that law.

2. Applies to the states under the well-established doctrine of incorporation.

3. Can the legislature define “press” as it wishes for purposes of compliance with the First Amendment, or is this concept independently established as part of the meaning and requirements of the Constitution? Clearly the latter, again according to well established constitutional jurisprudence.

[Note that 3 is where orthodox Islam made its violently enforced escape from the Ten Commandments. Any killing not in defense of self or others is murder and is barred by the 6th Commandment. Killing over insult, or killing those who want out of the religion, is not killing in self-defense and is hence murder. Orthodox Islam pretends it can escape this restriction simply by defining killing over insult as lawful, but no, they can’t change the definition of murder under the 6th Commandment so logically this fails and, if the God of the Jews (who Muhammad claimed to speak for) actually exists, then all orthodox Muslims are going to burn in hell forever.]

4. Is the concept of “the press” referenced by the Constitution abridged by limiting it to salaried news organization employees dedicated primarily to covering the state legislature? Oh yeah.

Please do pitch this softball to SCOTUS, while the nation prays that they are not AWOL again.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Murder for purposes of self defense or warfare is interpretation.

That whole bit about you will not kill having exceptions is purely an issue of interpretation, though because of the contradictory nature of the Old Testament, interpretation becomes rapidly necessary.

That whole Go forth and wipe out all these tribes down to the last man and child and cattle, but keep the prepubescent girls as your sex-slaves bit completely contradicts no kill until your biblical scholars and rules lawyers come in to set things right.

Really, everybody has to by necessity play fast and loose with scripture and most assume that the passages with which they personally agree are the ones that are right. Regardless of whether we’re talking the Torah, the Bible or the Koran.

And this is why we said “to Hell with that noise” and created the constitution and later the UN charter on Human Rights (that no-one regards).

Of course, then we still have lawyers specifying that our protection against illegal searches and seizure only applies to specific kinds of search or seizure. And our right to bear arms is limited to certain kinds of arms.

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